Russia’s Diplomatic Moves

I just wanted to flag a couple Russia items that caught my eye. First, from RIA Novosti over the weekend, an anouncement that Russia and the EU will sign the agreement formalizing Russia’s participation in the EUFOR Chad mission. Russia had offered last spring to send a helicopter group, along with the units to man it, but the formal signing had yet to take place before the Georgia War froze up Russia- EU relations. The announcement came from a Russian diplomat, but if it’s accurate it would indicate that the EU has decided to compartmentalize its reaction to the Georgia War.

Contrast that to Anya Loukianova’s account over at Arms Control Wonk of the U.S. decision to renew sanctions on Russian arms middleman, Rosboronexport, ostensibly for contravening American law against arms deals with Iran. Russia’s arms sales are perfectly legal under international law, and Moscow has even shown a degree of sensitivity (to Israel’s concerns, for instance, as Richard Weitz’s WPR column details) with regard to what kind of weapons it has sold Iran (and Syria). Loukianova questions above all the timing of the announcement (in the runup to talks to renew the START treaties), and calls the sanctions Boltonesque. (Hopefully an adjective that will not enter into foreign policy the lexicon.)

Finally, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev got his photo op with the heads of state of Armenia and Azerbaijan, who by all accounts did not need to rein in their enthusiasm over the results of Sunday’s Russian-brokered talks. The joint statement reiterated a commitment to the Minsk Group’s mediation, but — oddly enough — representatives of France and the U.S. (the other co-chairs) were not present.

Medvedev seems to be taking a page out of Nicolas Sarkozy’s playbook here, where the important thing is to have one’s picture taken at the center of a summit meeting many thought could not be arranged. No one really expects anyone to get results in this sort of slow motion standoff, so the image of wielding influence (getting the parties to the table) becomes worth more than the ability to actually influence the standoff itself.

That’s all Russia has right now, but it’s about all Russia needs right now, too.

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