Recognizing that the issues on which the United States and Russia are extremely unlikely agree to are limited to a relatively small sub-sphere is, unfortunately and erroneously, not enough for some commentators. Dave Schuler, at Outside the Beltway, for example, finds nothing on which the former Cold War foes can build a relationship. Yet how Schuler can argue in one paragraph that “[t]here is no more important bilateral relationship between nations than that between Russia and the United States” and in the next that “[w]e don’t really need Russia’s cooperation on pressing world issues like climate change” is utterly baffling to me. His point is that, as much as the two countries need a good relationship, “there isn’t much basis” for one. On the contrary — I’d argue quite easily that the very need for this good relationship — evidenced by, say, their ability, cited by Schuler, “to destroy the world” — is more than basis enough.
Dan Drezner respectfully disagrees with the logic Schuler uses to connect Russia’s strategic position with its U.S. relationship. The flaws in the logic that he uses to dismiss the mutual needs and interests of this relationship, I’d add, are encapsulated by that flabbergasting statement: “We don’t really need Russia’s cooperation on pressing world issues like climate change.” As a country, Russia is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. China, the United States, then Russia. How, pray tell, could any global emissions reductions system have any success whatsoever without inducing Russia to stopper its smokestacks?
(This is precluding, of course, the admittedly rather faint possibility of one particularly environmentally interested country, or billionaire, saying “screw it” and sucking all of the carbon out of the atmosphere themselves.)
(image from flickr user otodo under a Creative Commons license)