On Swaps and Resets

The Kremlin is upset—but not exceedingly so—at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for pointing out the obvious: Russian troops are occupying Abkhazia and South Ossetia in violation of the ceasefire agreement that ended its brief war with Georgia. The deal, brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, required the Soviet military to withdraw to prewar boundaries. Instead, it is has built permanent bases in the breakaway republics.

"I want to say publicly what I have said privately," Clinton said in Tbilisi. “I came to Georgia with a clear message from President Obama and myself. The United States is steadfast in its commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The United States does not recognise spheres of influence.” Andrei Klimov, deputy chair of the State Duma's foreign affairs committee, shrugged his shoulders, telling reporters that the administration was just satiating American conservatives: "We understand that the Obama administration has to save face [in the former Soviet Union] and head off its domestic critics on the right.”

Vladamir Putin’s response was noticeably restrained: “While some think South Ossetia is occupied, others think it is liberated." The message from Moscow is, more of less, this: The Obama administration’s “reset” is paying dividends for us—NATO membership for Georgia is unlikely in the near future, missile defense is a dead issue, the START treaty was but a minor concession—so why respond to Clinton’s empty assurances to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili?

And now that the administration has agreed to a spy swap with Moscow, The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder says the transfer of Russian agents for a Russian national accused of spying for the U.S. is “a sign of a healthy relationship,” a sign that “the reset is working.” He argues further that “Ties between the CIA and the SVR are actually solid; the two recently shared intelligence about Iran's nuclear program.”

I’m not willing to take Ambinder’s word on the flourishing relationship between the CIA and SVR (nor am I willing to take the CIA’s word on, well, anything), and it is unclear if the shared intelligence is accurate or worth the paper it’s printed on. Nor is it clear that any unspecified “intelligence sharing” on Iran justifies a "solid relationship” verdict. But to suggest that spy swaps indicate a “healthy relationship” between two rival superpowers is to suggest that United States had a healthy relationship with the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s. In the past, it meant quite the opposite.

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  • hmm||

    Clinton said in Tbilisi. “I came to Georgia with a clear message from President Obama and myself.

    That is a pretty telling little line. I've noticed a lot of "myself" following her speaking for the President. Such little comments make me wonder what the Clinton machine is up to.

  • bohica||

    "The deal. . . required the Soviet military to withdraw to prewar boundaries."

    Freudian slip? :)

  • Sean||

    "The United States does not recognise spheres of influence.”

    Has she never heard of the Monroe Doctrine?

  • ||

    I'm not sure. Your linking it to spheres of influence is evidence you don't know what it is either.

  • Sean||

    If we are both referring to the U.S. policy that "... stated that further efforts by European countries to colonize land or interfere with states in the Americas would be viewed by the United States of America as acts of aggression requiring US intervention", then I fail to see how that could fail to be described as a "sphere of influence."

  • TallDave||

    Let's just hope we "overcharge" for their spies.

  • TallDave||

    But to suggest that spy swaps indicate a “healthy relationship” between two rival superpowers is to suggest that United States had a healthy relationship with the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s. In the past, it meant quite the opposite.

    Yeah, but remember: this crowd thinks that was OUR fault.

  • DJF||

    “”””Russian troops are occupying Abkhazia and South Ossetia in violation of the ceasefire agreement that ended its brief war with Georgia. The deal, brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, required the Soviet military to withdraw to prewar boundaries. Instead, it is has built permanent bases in the breakaway republics.”””

    Not actually, it said that “Russian military forces must withdraw to the lines prior to the start of hostilities. While waiting an international mechanism, Russian peacekeeping forces will implement additional security measures.” Then hand written in it says (six months).

    So like many international agreements it does not cover what is actually happening on the ground. It does not say that Russian peacekeepers must withdraw, nor even that Russian military forces must withdraw except in the case of some other “international mechanism” whatever that means, but it certainly has not taken place.

    http://graphics8.nytimes.com/p.....ACCORD.pdf

  • ||

    “While some think South Ossetia Iraq is occupied, others think it is liberated."

    Are we sure this quote didn't come from the White House?

  • ||

    Iraq=nation that is freer now than before US invasion.

    SO=integral part of Georgia occupied by Russia that not freer than before invasion.

  • RyanXXX||

    Except most South Ossetians would much rather be under Russian rule than Georgian, so...FAIL!!!!

  • ||

    It just goes to show that although there are relatively few ways to do things right, there are a million ways to be incompetent.

    There's the Bush Way, The Obama Way,...

  • ||

    You think she knows that this Georgia isn't the one in the American Southeast? My impression of her intelligence has dropped dramatically since she ran for president (even more so during her tenure as SoS, which just goes to show that even experience doesn't count when it's incompetent experience).

  • Jersey Patriot||

    Out of curiosity, who pays Moynihan's salary at Reason? I can't ever remember a post on him about Russia that wasn't rabidly, one-sided and anti-Russian. It's almost like he serves someone with a grudge against Russia, probably someone who wants a stake in Russia's mineral wealth and wants to encircle it with military bases. Like Bailey and agribusiness, everything that comes out of Moynihan's pen about Russia reads like a press release.

    Fess up, Reason, who endowed the Anti-Russia Chair at the Reason Foundation?

  • Mikhail Khodorkovsky||

    I did you asshole.

  • ||

    Amazing that they keep inviting him back to Russia Today.

  • ||

    What's anti-Russian in the post? In fact I can barely sense even the anti-Putin sentiment.

  • -||

    “While some think South Ossetia is occupied, others think it is liberated."

    Hey, it worked in Poland.

  • ||

    O will have to prove he was adopted and the mother and dad needed to for legal reason like citizenship is falling through. Maybe we should go with orphan in the Kennedy airlift. CIA agrees this is not excessive.

  • Jeffersonian||

    I might point out that, while the button Hillary gave her counterpart may have read "Reset," it was in fact an emergency stop pushbutton. I'm certain there is a deeper meaning in this.

  • jtuf||

    Hmmm. Where are Fluffy,Joe, et al to speak out against Russia's occupation?

  • dr kill||

    Tell the truth, does Teh Atlantic pay bloggers to include their ruminations in an occasional post?

  • ElamBend||

    I think that the spy swap is kind of genius. When they were first arrested, I wasn't sure why 'now.' It sounded like they weren't really doing immediate harm and all the better to watch and learn some more. Now, though, we're trading 10 worthless spies for 4 real spies/dissidents. I think the swap was under consideration (by the U.S.) from the get-go.

  • RyanXXX||

    From what I had read, I thought for sure that the FBI had fucked up with this one. What exactly were these boobs spying ON? But apparently I should eat my foot

  • ||

    Can we trade Anita Dunn for some Chinese democracy activists? How about Berwick for a British NHS opponent?

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Now you're talking. You just need to think a little bigger.

    Can we trade our whole congress for a herd of endangered African gazelles? There must be some kind of gazelles in Africa that are endangered, and in serious need of saving.

    I'm sure it would be a hell of lot cheaper feeding gazelles. Even a lotta-lotta gazelles. Hell, I'll take all the gazelles Africa has off their hands, and promise to protect them, if they'll take our congress of our hands.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    (nor am I willing to take the CIA’s word on, well, anything)

    The SVR, on the other hand, is far more trustworthy.

  • ||

    "In the past, it meant quite the opposite."

    Yes, but now every piece of news shows the masterful skill of the Obama administration.

  • ||

    The United States is steadfast in its commitment to empty rhetoric about Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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