Year after year the worriers and fretters would come to me with awful predictions of the outbreak of war. I denied it each time. I was only wrong twice.
-Senior British intelligence official, retiring in 1950 after 47 years of service
Man's most enduring stupidity is forgetting what he is trying to do.
WE ARE witnessing a systemic decline in Russia's relations with the West. There is a long list of complaints from the industrial democracies regarding Moscow's behavior, many of them justified. But the U.S.-Russia relationship (and that of Europe and Russia) does not occur in a strategic vacuum. Many of Russia's contemporary offenses pale before what should be the West's highest policy priority in the period ahead: Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. According to a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released on December 3, 2007, it will be difficult to convince Tehran to forego the eventual development of nuclear weapons and Iran could produce sufficient quantities of highly enriched uranium (HEU) for a weapon as early as 2010.
Before we can assess Russia's relationship with the West, including on the question of Iran, we should first examine the international context in which those relations will occur. This allows us to address the fundamental question: How important is Russia's cooperation in the next several years on issues clearly most connected to American and allied vital national interests?