Monday, March 16, 2009

Perezagruzka or Peregruzka?


You've probably heard that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented a "reset button" to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as a symbol of the new administration's desire to renew positive relations with the country. Whatever that means.

Of course, the destructiveness of this new administration's policies is matched only by its blundering incompetence. The button included a label with "PEREGRUZKA" written in Roman letters. Not only did they get the word wrong, but it was pointlessly transliterated.

By some cosmic twist of fate, the United States foreign policy and diplomatic relations apparatus, the U.S. State Department, which employs thousands and thousands of language specialists, put the word for "overcharged" on the button, not the word for "reset." How appropriate.

Why are we giving gag gifts to the Russians anyway? Our president returns a bust of Churchill to London, then in return for a number of fine gifts including Sir Martin Gilbert's seven-volume Churchill biography, Obama got the Brits some DVDs. Aren't we glad "the adults" are in charge now? This is how we treat our friends?

And our enemies... they don't even accept that there could be such a thing. I think it was Mark Steyn who said that liberals don't have enemies, just people whose grievances they haven't accommodated yet. Even the Russians, whose "main enemy" we have been since the end of World War II, at least.

It seems now that President George W. Bush, who 'looked in Putin's eyes' and saw the soul of a Christian or some such nonsense, was too much of a bully to those peaceful Russians. Apparently helping NATO allies such as Poland and the Czech Republic; and helping other countries like Ukraine and Georgia join NATO, is not what President Obama and his team meant by 'restoring our broken alliances' and 'fixing American's reputation in the world.' That's not the bilateral approach they have been looking for.

Apparently unilaterally accommodating the aggressiveness of Iran, Russia, Hamas and the Taliban is more important than standing by our allies in Eastern Europe, who have been debating for more than a decade now about whether to be a part of the American/European sphere of influence or the Russian/Chinese sphere of influence, and at great danger to themselves and with much effort have moved toward strategic partnership with the Western countries. Great arguments have taken place. Politicians have risen and fallen over supporting or not supporting the United States and whether to allow missile shield facilities to be built in their countries.

But Obama, Biden and Clinton want to "push the reset button" on Russian-American relations. The language error is appropriate. American leaders naively believe that the slate with Russian can be wiped clean; Russia can be appeased into partnership with the U.S. Russian leaders believe that the situation in the U.S. is overcharged and ripe for exploitation.