Feature

Obama, Russia, and The Godfather

What Vito Corleone can teach Obama about diplomacy

Proponents of a U.S.-Russia “grand bargain” got “a double drenching of cold water yesterday,” said The Washington Post in an editorial. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, reacting to a secret letter from President Obama, said Moscow would not help douse Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for concessions on a Russia-opposed U.S. missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. And Obama clarified that Iran’s actions, not Russia’s, will determine U.S. decisions on missile defense.

Obama “urgently needs to do a couple of things: learn to play chess; and watch the DVD of the Godfather saga,” said Pepe Escobar in Hong Kong’s Asia Times. Medvedev needn’t be even a “good chess player” to see that Obama’s opening gambit—help us quash “non-existent Iranian nuclear weapons” and we’ll stop our possibly useless missile shield—is hardly an “offer he can’t refuse.”

Yes, Obama is “turning into a bizarro Don Corleone,” said Abe Greenwald in Commentary, in that “he makes offers you can’t not refuse.” But Russia isn’t his first diplomatic “debacle.” Iran has slapped down Obama’s “extended hand” and China has been give an “American green-light” to ramp up human rights abuses.

Actually, “the Obama administration can’t lose” on this one, said Daniel Drezner in Foreign Policy. So Russia says no—their ties to Iran are too valuable. That should strengthen Obama’s hand in Europe and weaken Russia’s leverage in trying to get “missile defense out of their backyard.” Look for more “grand bargain efforts” in the future.

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