Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Flexibility They Expected

President Obama did promise Putin we'd be more "flexible" after his reelection. So why wouldn't Putin be happy with Secretary of State Kerry?

Our first Spandex-American Secretary of State is a hit in Moscow, as the New York Times reports. Despite failures to get Russia to reduce support for Assad in Syria, our double-jointed yoga master is eager to work with the Russians:

Kerry is undaunted by the evidence of his failure and is instead concentrating on making friends with Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov. The result is, as the Times says, a “change in tone” in the relations between the two countries even if it has not actually advanced American interests.

While there is a case to be made for diplomats keeping the lines of communication open, what recent events have shown is that Kerry is not so much keeping the Russians informed of American positions as he has signaled to them that the U.S. is ready to bow to Moscow’s will. The news that, as the Times makes clear, the Russians are well pleased with Kerry ought to set off alarms in Washington.

The premise of the Times feature is quite clear. While Kerry’s predecessor Hillary Clinton worked hard to butter up the Russians and get them to play ball, Putin and his minions were displeased by her occasional willingness to speak up about human rights violations as well as her assertive statements about Iran and Syria. But in Kerry Moscow has found its perfect American secretary of state: a man willing to both appease them on policy as well as one determined not to offend their sensibilities. As the Times notes, Putin and Lavrov like Kerry a lot more than they did Clinton, let alone her predecessor Condoleezza Rice.

How bad is Kerry? He is a Navy combat veteran and still the Russians believe they can push him around. And sadly, Kerry is quite capable of curling into a fetal position while waiting in Putin's outer office for a pity photo op. This is a "reset" Russia can believe in.

The Palestinians check in with a vote of confidence, too:

The top Palestinian negotiator with Israel on Monday threw his weight behind U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's bid to revive stalled peace talks, while describing the situation in the West Bank as apartheid worse than that suffered in South Africa.

I can only assume that Iran and North Korea will submit their professions of admiration soon.

Hey, have any of our allies been as happy with our chief diplomat?

UPDATE: Well, the Turks have reason to be happy--for the wrong reason, of course:

A month after comparing the “activists” who died in the 2010 Gaza-flotilla raid to Americans killed in the Boston Marathon bombing, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly met with Ahmet Dogan, whose son, Furkan Dogan, a Turkish-American dual citizen, was among those killed aboard the MV Mavi Marmara in 2010.

You'll recall the pro-Palestinian ambush at sea in that whole fauxtilla controversy. Sadly, we're in more need of an "American desk" at State than ever.