To his legion of online supporters, Obama's first foreign policy coup was caving to Russian pressure on missile defense, they claimed, in exchange for Moscow's assistance in applying sanctions on Tehran. Brendan Nyhan argued that Obama didn't "appease" Moscow because the move was "part of a quid pro quo in which Russia agreed to support tougher sanctions against Iran." Ubiquitous liberal blogger Matt Yglesias scoffed that, contra Obama's critics, in the "real world, Obama's approach is working" by getting Russia behind the administration's Iran policy. In Salon, Juan Cole argued that Obama "has been rewarded with greater Russian cooperativeness on Iran." "The US right wing accused Obama of a failure of nerve," Cole wrote, "But in fact his move was shrewd and gutsy, since he predisposed Russia to increased cooperation with the US in regard to Iran's nuclear research program."
It would have perhaps been shrewd (but not "gutsy") had the Russians not played the neophyte president like a fiddle. Reuters:
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned major powers on Wednesday against intimidating Iran and said talk of sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear programme was "premature". Putin, who many diplomats, analysts, and Russian citizens believe is still Russia's paramount leader despite stepping down as president last year, was speaking after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Moscow for two days of talks.
"There is no need to frighten the Iranians," Putin told reporters in Beijing after a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.