Dual Frustration

Dual Frustration

Mini Teaser: Russia and America still disagree about Iran and Iraq. An experienced policymaker explains what's not in this rivalry--and what to do about it.

by Author(s): Stephen Sestanovich

Iran and Iraq loom larger than ever in Russian-American relations. At a time when the number of issues on which Moscow and Washington disagree is dwindling, these two are still contentious enough-despite Russia's "yes" vote in the un Security Council on November 8-that officials and commentators on each side regularly suspect the other of ill will and bad faith.

It's not a new problem. Long before President Bush found Iraq and Iran to be part of an "axis of evil", they were already the subject of acrimonious exchanges between Moscow and Washington. American policymakers have frequently asked their Russian counterparts how they can expect to maintain friendly relations with the United States and with states that support terrorism, threaten American friends, and violate their own international commitments by seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Worse, Americans accuse Russia of helping Iraq and Iran. When Russian diplomats shielded Iraq from international pressure in the late 1990s, Madeleine Albright used to call them "Saddam's lawyers." And the U.S. government continues to believe that Iran's effort to build nuclear weapons and long-range missiles gets a boost from Russian technology and expertise. This is no minor irritation: the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by regimes deeply hostile to our interests has become America's pre-eminent national security concern, and Russian policies that make it harder for the United States to address this concern are not easy to ignore.

The extraordinary near-alliance forged by President Bush and President Putin after September 11, 2001, ought to help the two sides to work together on these issues. But the legacy they must overcome is daunting. The United States, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, has raised Iran and Iraq with the Russians over many years, when relations were good and when they were shaky. It has treated them as matters of the highest priority and as everyday diplomatic nuisances. It has sometimes offered to pay a high price for resolving them, at other times no price at all. Russia's response to all this has changed little over time. It has usually resisted putting pressure on either country, and only rarely restricted its relations with them. While expressing hope that neither will acquire nuclear weapons, it has usually betrayed a kind of fatalism about the outcome.

As we face the prospect of another Persian Gulf war, a closer look at the past is in order, if only to understand why years of American effort have not gotten us the results we sought. Renewed confrontation with Iraq may actually create an opportunity for Russia and the United States to put this disagreement behind them for good. (Washington has already offered Moscow more substantial inducements to cooperate than ever before.) Success may open up a chance for a breakthrough on Iran, as well. But none of this will come to pass if the United States does not give the Russians a better sense of what its tolerances are and how our relations are likely to develop if we cannot cooperate. Otherwise, the Bush-Putin partnership could become an inadvertent casualty of war.

Iraq, the Last Time Around

Since the Persian Gulf War, Russia and the United States have played out their disagreements over Iraq largely within the un Security Council. Here the war of 1991 gained an international mandate, peace terms were laid down, and disputes about enforcing them took shape.

These disputes were at their peak between 1997 and 1999, when Saddam Hussein challenged the un inspection system created at the end of the war to deny Iraq weapons of mass destruction. After two years of confrontation, inspectors of the United Nations Special Commission (unscom) were ousted from Iraq, and unscom itself was forced to disband. Its much weaker successor, unmovic (United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission), was not even able to enter Iraq.

The Iraqis would not have been able to overthrow the un disarmament regime but for divisions among the permanent members of the Security Council. From 1997 on, whenever Iraq sought to dilute unscom's authority, replace its leadership, change the composition of its staff or restrict its activities inside Iraq, it enjoyed consistent Russian support. Moscow insisted that Iraq had gone far to meet un disarmament requirements and deserved to know that intrusive inspections would soon give way to less onerous "monitoring" and eventually to a full lifting of economic sanctions.

Two motives appeared to guide Russian policy. The first was political-to constrain U.S. actions, preserve Russian authority, keep the Iraq question in the Security Council and maximize U.S. isolation if Washington acted unilaterally. The second motive was economic-to reap the material benefits of being Iraq's chief protector against American pressure.

Russian success was significant, but incomplete. The confrontation between Iraq and unscom was punctuated in December 1998 by four days of British and American bombing, which Moscow could neither prevent nor counter. Nor did Russian support free Baghdad from the un sanctions regime and indirect regulation of the Iraqi economy. Yet even this halfway result brought Moscow substantial benefits. The United States and Britain punished Saddam, but they did not take Iraq off the Security Council agenda. Indeed, once the bombing stopped, their diplomats went back to negotiating unmovic's mandate. Russia's veto continued to give it influence with both sides. On the economic front, Russia profited handsomely from the continuing standoff. The oil-for-food program, created in 1996 to help the Iraqi people, perpetuated un oversight of Iraqi trade; but because it allowed Iraq to choose its partners, it was an effective tool with which to reward Russia for its support. Between 1997 and 2000 Russian-Iraqi trade quintupled.

Saddam offered Russia even larger pay-offs down the road. At the beginning of its campaign against unscom, Iraq signed a major exploration and development contract (valued at around $12 billion) with the Russian oil company lukoil. Unlike increased trade, of course, these benefits could only be realized if sanctions were lifted; the same was true of Russia's desire to collect its $7-8 billion in Iraqi state debts. Both gave Moscow further reasons to keep pressing for an end to sanctions.

In the late 1990s, accumulating Russian-American disagreements stoked a conviction on both sides that meaningful cooperation, not to mention real partnership, could not last. As one of the most important issues on which the two sides disagreed, Iraq was part of this downward trend. Yet what is striking about the evolution of Russian-American relations in this period is how limited the impact of Iraq turned out to be. American officials wanted to keep discord over Iraq from having negative side effects; they called this "managing our differences", and considered it a mark of maturity in Russian-American relations. Russia, too, clearly wanted to avoid paying a price in American enmity for the support it gave Saddam.

Domestic politics provides part of the explanation for Iraq's marginal impact on relations between Russia and the United States. Both presidents were politically vulnerable and had more pressing matters on their minds (Clinton, impeachment; Yeltsin, the political turmoil that followed Russia's financial crash). Other international issues, like the Balkans, evoked a much stronger domestic response. Iraq, by contrast, was an issue for foreign ministries.

Yet the main reason that Iraq did not cut deeply into Russian-American relations was that American aims were so limited. The Clinton Administration treated confrontation with Saddam as a test of core international principles-non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, respect for multilateral obligations, great power solidarity against rogue states and terrorists-but it was not willing to push matters to a decisive conclusion. American use of force did not aim to make Saddam comply, only to make his actions costly. No one thought a brief show of force would change Iraqi behavior, get inspectors back in, alter Russian policy, or, least of all, dislodge the Ba'ath regime. President Clinton had just signed a bill making Iraqi "regime change" the goal of U.S. policy, but airpower alone was clearly not going to achieve it, least of all in four days. When this episode was over, the administration paid little further attention to Iraq.

Because America's ends were limited, so were its means. During this period no U.S. official ever offered a serious quid pro quo for Russian support; or warned of the consequences of not cooperating. Measured against the priority that Iraq has now acquired, these omissions may seem strange, but as part of a strategy that did not aspire to solve the problem, they were not strange at all. The most obvious economic inducements that Russia sought were those associated with an end to sanctions. But because it was unwilling to do what was needed to disarm Saddam or overthrow the Ba'ath regime, the United States came to rely more heavily on keeping sanctions in place. They were what remained of a tough U.S. policy.

As for warning Russia of the negative consequences of backing Iraq, this was hard to make credible. Russian-American relations were already troubled, and the Clinton Administration wanted to salvage what was left, not subject the relationship to still greater stress. More important, pressure tactics against Russia would have been inconsistent with American strategy toward Iraq itself. Washington itself was not trying for a knock-out punch against Saddam Hussein, and there was thus no sense in telling the Russians that they were to blame when we ourselves fell short.

Iran: The "Bill and Boris" Formula

Iran and Iraq-two Persian Gulf states seeking weapons of mass destruction-posed similar problems for Russian-American relations in the 1990s, but Washington's strategy for dealing with Russia on Iran was completely different from its strategy on Iraq, and left a deeper imprint on Russian-American relations.

The first difference involved the scale of the problem, and its priority. American officials, who sometimes felt personally deceived by their Russian counterparts, claimed that Russia was helping Iran acquire long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. As a result, Russia's relationship with Iran was much more than a divisive diplomatic issue for the United States. It became a source of uneasy second thoughts about Russia's post-communist evolution, and about the overall wisdom of U.S. policy. (Assistance to Iran put Russia in very disreputable company. Its policy toward Iraq, after all, was similar to France's; its policy toward Iran was similar to North Korea's. This was no small difference.)

Because stopping Russian assistance to Iran was a higher priority than Iraq, it required a different kind of communication. Harsh words between foreign ministers would not be enough. The U.S. message on Iran aimed both higher-at an explicit "Bill-and-Boris" commitment to fix things-and wider, since so many institutions of the Russian state (and actors outside it) were working with Tehran's weapons programs. A solution had to start at the top, but could not succeed without the cooperation of officials at lower levels, too.

Such an effort called for deploying serious leverage, and the result was a third difference between the U.S. handling of Iran and Iraq. The Clinton Administration offered large economic inducements to re-orient Russian high-tech industry-whether the huge Ministry of Atomic Energy or individual missile specialists-away from business with Iran toward more wholesome ventures with the West. American officials conjured images of vast cooperation, but when carrots alone did not work-and when Congress threatened to act on its own-the administration made use of sticks as well. Sanctions were imposed in mid-1998 and again in early 1999 on Russian entities that had helped the Iranian nuclear and missile programs, and were repeatedly threatened thereafter.

To stop Russian assistance to Iran, American policy sought the extra torque it lacked over Iraq. No other issue was said to threaten the Russian-American relationship so fundamentally, was tied so closely to mutual confidence between presidents, was so incessantly discussed by officials at all levels, or was linked to such large material inducements. It would be hard to draw up a cleaner textbook case in which outwardly similar and highly important issues were handled so differently.

Why, then, was the result so similar? Russian export-control laws and regulations were tightened, and some glaring cases of freelance cooperation appeared to end (especially when the U.S. government provided specific information about them). Yet no moonlighting Russian missile engineers were arrested, no Iranian middlemen were expelled for misusing their diplomatic status, and the largest item of Russian-Iranian cooperation-a nuclear power reactor being built at Bushehr-continued to provide effective cover for illicit assistance. By the end of the decade, the U.S. intelligence community judged that Iran continued to benefit from Russian help.

In the effort to stop Russian assistance to Iran, each tool of U.S. pressure proved blunter than it should have been. The very claim that Iranian nuclear weapons proliferation was a matter of high priority was doubted by Russian officials, who seemed to view American warnings about assistance to Iran as essentially a way of fending off partisan domestic attacks on the Clinton Administration. The Russians retorted that it was not their job to save the president from his critics. Similarly, they read American forecasts of deep damage to Russian-American relations as an invitation to engage in a joint effort to manipulate Congressional opinion. They always wanted to know what minimum set of actions would defuse pressure for awhile, not how to solve the problem for good. These perceptions were wrong, but they were not altogether unreasonable.

The administration's use of inducements was also problematic. The Russians needed to be convinced that their performance alone would determine whether they got the carrots they wanted. They saw instead that corporate lobbying successfully blocked the use of sanctions whenever it was likely to hurt American business. The administration's own message about the link between performance and payoff was inconsistent. Thus, Vice President Gore's stiff warning to Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov in November 1998 ("You can have a piddling trickle of money from Iran or a bonanza with us, but you can't have both.") coincided with a proposal for major new assistance to Russia under the Nunn-Lugar program.

Finally, the assumption that a presidential handshake could stop Russian assistance to Iran proved mistaken and out of date. By the late 1990s, Boris Yeltsin lacked the interest, energy, aptitude and maybe even the power to meet such a complex political and institutional challenge. And American appeals to him, and to the grand goal of Russian-American partnership, no longer had their old motivating force. Russian assistance to Iran seriously eroded mutual confidence, but so did financial meltdown and scandal, Kosovo, nato expansion, national missile defense and other first-order disagreements. The circuitry of relations between Moscow and Washington had reached overload. They did not become manageable again until each country's transition to new leadership was complete.

Bush, Putin and Saddam

Since President Bush's "axis of evil" speech, the United States and Iraq have again been on a collision course. But Washington has no longer to take all-out Russian opposition for granted, a strategic transformation made possible by a series of changes in Russian politics and foreign policy.

The first of these changes, of course, is the strong rapprochement between Russia and the United States and the unprecedented, unequivocal endorsement of U.S. military action that came with it. That President Putin would also distance Russia from Iraq was made possible by a second change-his complete authority over Russian foreign policy, based on his extraordinary personal popularity and reputation for a bristly attentiveness to Russian national interests. Yeltsin believed that denouncing every American military action made him look tough; Putin sees that ineffectual public tantrums would make him look weak.

Similarly, when Putin says Russian diplomacy must serve economic interests, no one accuses him of putting foreign policy up for sale. He enables low motives to win respect as high principle. When American pressure on Iraq resumed, Russian spokesmen started issuing public reminders of Russia's economic stake in the matter. Iraq had never before been bargained over like this, but U.S. officials got the hint. Russia, they promised, would be rewarded for support.

The broader evolution of Russia's economic elite has also pushed policy toward accommodation with the United States. Riding a four-year surge in oil production, leading Russian business figures now say that their prime goal is to gain access to Western markets; they profess to be tired of being bottom-feeders dependent on semi-illicit ties with the world's rogues. For businessmen with such an outlook, Putin's alignment with Bush did not sacrifice the Russian corporate bottom line-it strengthened it.

Together these changes ruled out the reflexive pro-Saddam stance Russia had adopted in the past. Saddam might face defeat, but Putin would not let it become his defeat as well. Some commentators even wrote of the risks for Russia in standing by Iraq too long. Russia, they said, might find itself empty-handed and isolated when the war was over: What kind of hard-boiled defense of the national interest would that be?

As such talk showed, the hardening of U.S. policy against Iraq had narrowed the benefits that Baghdad could offer Moscow. Yes, by taking advantage of a crisis it might be possible to push Russian-Iraqi trade a little higher, but the larger economic interests that Russian officials have been invoking-the repayment of Iraqi debt to Russia and the long-term development of Iraq's energy potential-can best be advanced by working with Washington, not with Ba'athi Baghdad. (In fact, Saddam cannot bestow these benefits even if war is averted, since they depend on the lifting of sanctions, to which the U.S. administration will clearly not agree.)

Much of Russia's recent handling of Iraq has seemed to follow from such calculations. Putin has avoided personal identification with Iraq, declined to meet with Saddam's longtime deputy, Tariq Aziz, and authorized official contact with Iraqi opposition figures. At the end of last summer, when Iraqi diplomats began touting a draft ten-year economic agreement, Russian officials quietly declined to sign. Meanwhile, Russian oil companies talked up cooperation with the United States. From lukoil's ceo, Vagit Alekperov, came the (probably false) claim that the United States had promised to honor the contract he had signed with Iraq in 1997; his rival at Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, urged the Russian government to get assurances that Washington would prevent too big a drop in postwar oil prices. Putin actually joked that he was not trying to squeeze more out of the West in some sort of "Oriental bazaar." No one believed him.

The most telling sign that Russia does not want to go down with Saddam was, of course, its vote for un Security Council Resolution 1441, warning Iraq of "serious consequences" if it did not meet its disarmament obligations. After two months of diplomatic stalling, and of seeming to want above all to stay America's hand, Russia positioned itself to blame Saddam if war broke out. Between 1997 and 1999 Russia's abstentions and endless haggling in the Security Council had clearly encouraged Baghdad to flout its obligations, knowing that Moscow would continue to front for it no matter what. Joining a unanimous Security Council vote in November 2002 sent a completely different message: You're on your own.

Yet for all the seeming clarity of this message, Russia will face continuing choices as Iraq's confrontation with the United States unfolds. And Moscow will have many motives to try to tie the Bush Administration down. There will be the unavoidably gray areas of unmovic's mandate and findings. There will be those who say that Russia cannot defend its authority in the un Security Council-a last residue of Soviet great power status-by supporting the United States, only by checking it. There will be the example set by France, Germany and other European critics of U.S. policy. There will be the chance to wheedle concessions from Washington on Georgia and Chechnya. Putin may even believe that protracted haggling will further bolster his image as a tough advocate of Russian interests.

Above all, Moscow will keep its options open if it is not sure of the direction and conviction of American policy. The United States, after all, has sought Russian support by offering inducements on which it can make good only if it wins outright. Until it is clear that the United States will prevail, Russia risks more by aligning itself prematurely with the United States than by standing aloof. Were American policy to unravel and Saddam to stay in power, what reward would Russia then claim, and from whom? Putin no more wants to tie himself to an American failure than to an Iraqi one.

In the 1990s, American influence with Russia was limited by the fact that Washington clearly did not intend to go all the way. The same is true today. A U.S. policy that is not determined to solve the problem actually revives Saddam's leverage with Moscow.

Finally, Putin's choices will be affected by how he reads their likely impact on what has been his supreme foreign policy achievement-a partnership with the United States that elevates Russia's international status. Last time around, Russian policymakers knew that their handling of Iraq would have no material impact on their relations with the United States. Washington had made clear it would not link the two. In the current confrontation, however, no goal of U.S. foreign policy is more important than success against Iraq. For all their improvement, Russian-American relations cannot be insulated from this issue. If, when it's all over, the administration feels that it has been critically held back by Russian policy, it will hardly be able to shrug off the disagreement as it did before. Has President Putin told President Bush he doesn't want Iraq to harm U.S.-Russian relations? If so, it's surely true. But has President Bush told President Putin that they will be just as good friends if this disagreement keeps American policy from succeeding? If so, it's almost surely false.

Iran Today: "Bill and Boris" Again?

Before George W. Bush took office, his supporters and spokesmen insisted that in dealing with Russia on Iran he would show a sharper edge than his predecessor and make Moscow see that cooperation in other areas would depend on solving this critical problem. But it didn't happen, and the main reasons are not hard to discern.

Despite its criticisms of the Clinton record in handling this issue, the new administration wanted most of all to engineer a smooth withdrawal from the abm treaty, and for this reason, far from featuring a sharp edge, initial meetings between Bush and Putin accentuated the positive. Lest they spoil the tone, other contentious issues would have to wait. After September 11, a still more powerful reason to put Iran to one side arose-and it was not just that the war on terrorism came first. Putin's quick show of support made the entire idea of Russian-American partnership credible again. Senior American officials assumed that the two countries now had key parallel interests, and that with a bit more time their new ally would do the right thing on Iran.

For his own reasons, Putin did seem to be fashioning a new approach to Iran. He fired Yevgeny Adamov, his minister of atomic energy (seen by U.S. officials as an incorrigible liar about cooperation with Iran), abandoned Moscow's support for Tehran's claim to an equal share of Caspian Sea energy, and proposed a multilateral force that other Caspian states might join for protection against Iran. After Bush's "axis of evil" speech, too, the Iranian foreign minister's visit to Moscow was abruptly cancelled; Putin, it seemed, did not want to see him.

Officials in both countries, then, had reason to think that the ingredients of a solution to this problem might be at hand. Putin faced fewer bureaucratic obstacles to a policy shift and seemed ready to stand up to Tehran; with both Congress and the media ignoring Russian assistance to Iran, Bush was also free to maneuver. Most important, in both Moscow and Washington there was new interest in a formula that would allow each side to claim it had achieved its core objective. Privately, senior U.S. policymakers acknowledged that the Bushehr nuclear power plant was not a prime proliferation danger in itself, but rather that it provided a cover for transfers of really dangerous assistance. If the Russians would stop all sensitive transfers to Iran beyond Bushehr-and stop making excuses for themselves and the Iranians-an agreement might be possible.

For their part, highly placed Russians admitted privately that Iran was working on nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, and that this called for strict and tightly enforced limits on future Russian-Iranian cooperation. If, they said, the Americans were prepared to stop trying to roll back all Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran, focus on what was truly dangerous, and lubricate an understanding with a major expansion of Russian-American nuclear cooperation, then this long-running dispute would be over.

"They're saying all the right things!"-this was the cheery assessment of American officials before the Bush-Putin summit of May 2002. Yet the meeting and its aftermath were a severe setback. Far from confirming a new approach, Putin embarrassed Bush at their joint press conference by refusing to confirm "assurances" that Bush had just claimed to have heard from him in private, moments before. Instead, Putin launched into a spirited defense of nuclear cooperation with Iran, and charged that American companies were guilty of giving Tehran dangerous technologies. U.S. officials bravely insisted that the private discussions had gone better, but Russian officials showed no signs of a new policy. In July, in fact, they announced plans to build as many as five more reactors after current work at Bushehr is completed.

Why did high hopes for a breakthrough come to so little so quickly? Ironically, one part of the answer was the new atmosphere of Russian-American relations. With less public heat on the issue, and no threat of Congressional interference, U.S. officials had hoped that Putin would push for a solution without fear of seeming to yield to U.S. pressure. But the lack of pressure also implied that the United States now cared less about the whole issue. Wittingly or not, the Bush Administration may have come to believe in the very solution that the Clinton Administration did-mutual trust between presidents as a lever to override narrow bureaucratic or economic interests. Far from thinking they should reciprocate because the administration had become so reasonable, Russian officials may have concluded that Washington was looking to retreat from a failed policy.

Similarly, although the Bush Administration had described a long and impressive list of material inducements intended to elicit a change in Russian policy, it had not persuaded the Russians that getting these benefits depended on changing their own policy. The American effort to pick up the pieces after the summit showed this problem vividly. Perhaps, the President's advisors admitted, Putin had not gotten a clear message in Moscow, but he would definitely hear straight talk at their next gathering, the G-8 summit in Canada. When that meeting rolled around, however, the leaders spent their time discussing a new $20 billion aid program to improve the security of Russian nuclear materials. They barely touched on Iran. Demands for better behavior were now being downplayed in favor of offers of new assistance, just as the Clinton Administration had done in 1998 when it veered from sanctions to aid increases over just a few months' time.

In seeking a breakthrough in the long dispute over Russian assistance to Iran, the Bush Administration has had many advantages: a strong overall relationship, an effective Russian leader to deal with, and an array of powerful material inducements to offer. The administration has not treated Iran as a make-or-break issue of Russian-American relations, and it will understandably not do so until its confrontation with Iraq is over. At that point, assuming that Putin has avoided putting himself at odds with the United States, there is likely to be a further surge of confidence between Moscow and Washington-and this will create an even better opening for a serious discussion of assistance to Iran. Yet the administration must remember that, for all the advantages of the U.S. position, it has so far been unable to convince the Russian side to take the problem seriously enough to solve it. Getting it to do so will not be easy. In its dealings with two administrations on Iran, Russia's preference has always been for partial solutions-at best-that only stored up trouble for Russian-American relations in the future. If the administration wants to change that preference, it will have to show that more hangs in the balance than has ever been true in the past.

Russia's Fatalism

Over the past decade, most of the issues that were thought to have the potential to sink Russian-American relations for good did not do so. Almost all of them have in fact faded into insignificance. Iran and Iraq, however, are likely to have far greater staying power. Not only do the Persian Gulf and Middle East seem certain to remain first-order preoccupations of American national strategy for years to come, but Moscow and Washington continue to have different approaches to the issue that has lately animated the U.S. government more than any other--the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

The American approach to this problem has become, especially since September 11, increasingly absolutist. The prospect of having hostile states vault the nuclear threshold is viewed as a fundamental threat, to which the right policy response is to make use of all available instruments of pressure--stopping nuclear cooperation with offenders branding them as pariahs, using force in extremis to block their progress or to disarm them. The Russian outlook has been more fatalist--less fearful, more resigned, less determined. Proliferation, in this view, is hardly good, but it may be inevitable. If so, the right response is to preserve one's influence with those who acquire such weapons, deter their use and not let oneself become a target.

The United States has never had a better opportunity than it has now to draw Russian policy away from this fatalism. We need to seize it, for the more absolutist our own approach, the more we need others to work with us. Absolutism--trying to solve a problem outright--is not the same thing as, and is not served by, unilateralism.

Given Russia's circumstances, of course, fatalism has something to be said for it, and absolutism may seem like overreaching. But only at first glance. The record of recent years suggests the high costs--for both the United States and Russia--of pretending that partial solutions are complete ones. It can't be lost on Putin that if Yevgeny Primakov had not let Saddam defy the United Nations four years ago, Russia would not be in the awkward fix it's in today, trying to decide which way to jump when war comes. From the Russian standpoint, North Korea's recent sensational disclosure that it has defied its 1994 agreement to foreswear a nuclear weapons program must be equally unnerving. For Putin knows that Russia is, in a sense, the sponsor of a still looser arrangement with Iran, and that Russian help is already implicated in subverting it. Does he like the prospect of being briefed by George Bush, at some point in the future, that Iran has taken the North Korean path?

To change Russia's fatalistic calculus, the United States has to suggest the results that will follow from such scenarios in the future, and from continued inability to cooperate in the interim. But it must also suggest the possibilities that greater cooperation would open up--not only in slowing or stopping proliferation, but in the consolidation of Russian-American relations. If America's new absolutist goals are at the center of its national security policy, then they need to be at the center of its relations with Moscow as well.

Stephen Sestanovich is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and professor of international diplomacy at Columbia University. From 1997 to 2001 he was ambassador-at-large and special adviser to the Secretary of State for the former Soviet Union. This essay is adapted from a monograph to be published by the Stanley and the Century Foundations.

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