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Posted on on June 11th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

from Jeffrey Laurenti <>
date Fri, Jun 11, 2010 at 3:25 PM
subject Century Foundation: Obama’s Russia investment recouped in canceled missiles

Investment Recouped in Canceled Missiles

by Jeffrey Laurenti

President Obama’s conservative critics have carped about his Russia “reset,” his moves toward nuclear build-down, his hesitant opening to Iran, and the supposedly insipid sanctions he squeezed out of the Security Council on Iran’s nuclear program this week.  They sneered at his Nobel Peace Prize last fall, saying it was an award for rhetoric since he had produced no results.

Where, they have demanded, is the beef?

Today there is a very big beef delivery from the Moscow policy stockyards, one that will feed speculation in policy circles from Washington to Tehran.  The Russians have canceled the long-planned sale of S-300 missiles to Iran.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, adopted June 9th, bans the sale of heavy weapons systems to Iran, including “missiles and missile systems.”  While the S-300 missile sale to Iran was a cash cow for Russia’s hard-pressed military industries, President Dmitri Medvedev agreed these sanctions had to bite in order to prompt Iranian officials to recalibrate their nuclear posture.

Despite Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s public bravado, the canceled missiles are not flies he can casually swat away.  Iran has very much wanted a modernized missile defense system to protect its nuclear facilities against possible attack.  It now knows it cannot get them till those nuclear facilities are under strict international supervision and its enrichment of nuclear fuel is checked.

The suspended sale will not immediately change Iran’s nuclear policy.  But it underscores that Iran’s self-isolation on the issue carries costs that are not trivial.  As Tehran begins to absorb this new reality, the United States should seek direct talks with the Iranians on both the nuclear file and the broader range of American-Iranian relations.  The sanctions, of course, are not an end in themselves, but a wake-up call to invigorate the politics of diplomacy.

Medvedev’s collaboration on fencing in Iran’s nuclear program could only happen because Barack Obama’s far-reaching transformation of U.S. foreign policy has cleared away the toxins that years of aggressive unilateralism had built up in America’s international relations.

The symmetry between the suspended missile sale and Obama’s cancellation of the Bush administration’s ill-conceived antimissile system in Poland is not coincidental.

Obama’s patient investment in rebuilding the bilateral relationship with Russia, his administration’s scrupulous respect for international obligations and rejection of double standards, and the president’s embrace of nuclear weapons phaseout have all been crucial to this telling step in reducing nuclear dangers.

The beef is real.  Well done.


Jeffrey Laurenti
Senior Fellow anD
Director, Foreign Policy Programs
The Century Foundation

41 East 70th StreeT
New York, New York  10021   USA
Tel.:  +1  (212) 535-4441 ext. 339

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