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Russia-Libya-Syria: a wasting chance to join the West

From: Ira Straus (IRASTRAUS@aol.com)
Date: Thu, 1 Sep 2011
Subject: Russia-Libya-Syria: a wasting chance to join the West

In Libya, Russia had a major opportunity to join the West and upgrade relations seriously. It lost the chance.

The West has similarly wasted or inadequately used most of its opportunities since 1989 to upgrade relations with Russia.

Mutual support remains far below the level of shared interests. Vital national interests on both sides have been damaged.

Before our eyes, Russia is wasting major opportunities anew.

RT has sounded like TV Qaddafi. It goes out of its way to make Russia repugnant to the world.

There may still be an opening at this time for Russia to fix its Libya mistake and move toward an upgrade -- via Syria. The opening is growing wider by the day, as Syrians are beginning to advocate taking up arms and asking for international intervention.

By all odds, Russia will waste this too. It might end up, to be sure, muddling through with Syria like Libya, by going ambiguous and playing both sides. This would at least avoid -- again as in Libya -- a downgrade in relations. But the chance for an upgrade with the West -- and for sparing Syria further protracted loss of life and encouragement of radicalization -- would fade away.

Support for one another's military actions is not the highest form of mutual cooperation, but it is a viscerally fundamental one. When one shows that one thinks of the other's military as Enemy every time it moves anywhere, no matter that it is moving for interests that are mostly shared, this makes a deep impression. It is seen for all that it means -- even if the reticent side isn't conscious of what it means.

Positive support for the other's military effort, conversely, has a huge positive effect. Nothing makes friends better than acting as friends. Acting actively. Backed by words spoken with unforked tongue.

The West would have welcomed Russian participation in its several interventions since 1990; Russia would have improved its own position in each case by acting. Russia would have welcomed Western action against nationalist excesses by its clients in Georgia and elsewhere; the West would have improved its own position by acting. Instead, each focused on running diplomatic interference against the other's demands for getting problems solved in these venues. And each drew the logical conclusions as to what this said about the other's attitude problems.

Russia still has an opening to fix its current mistake.

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