Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Diplomatic Stupidity - Hillary Edition

One of the main benefits of the New START treaty -- possibly the only benefit -- is its effect on maintaining decent relations with Russia. After pushing hard for the treaty, the administration, along with some European allies, turned right around and damaged relations with Russia for no good reason.

If you haven't followed the case, Russia just convicted a major oil tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, of theft and money laundering. Critics of the Russian government at home and abroad see it as a politically-motivated prosecution. It may well be. But what does it have to do with the U.S.? For some reason Hillary Clinton issued a statement on Monday "saying the oligarch's conviction raised 'serious questions about selective prosecution - and about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations.'" She also said that "the case had a 'negative impact on Russia's reputation for fulfilling its international human rights obligations and improving its investment climate.'"Britian and Germany took similar positions. Naturally the Russians were not happy.

a foreign ministry spokesman in Moscow said: "Judgements about some kind of selective application of justice in Russia are without foundation." He added: "We are counting on everyone minding his own business – both at home, and in the international arena."
This case is a prime example of diplomatic stupidity in action. How Russia prosecutes cases against Russians is clearly an internal matter for that country. The Russian spokesman is correct. By interfering in Russia's internal affairs the U.S. gains absolutely nothing. Making a public statement criticizing Russia is entirely counterproductive. Not only does it invite other countries to critique how the U.S. applies its own laws, but it does nothing to help Russians such as Khodorkovsky. By making such a statement, Hillary Clinton has practically guaranteed that Russia will take a hard line in support of its own legal system. The bottom line is that A) it's none of our business, and B) intefering is not in the interests of the U.S. So why interfere?


  1. The only reason that comes to mind is that it pleases the Democratic masses: I'm guessing the shock (and awe, couldn't resist...) of the reality of running foreign policy is disheartening to many. The gritty reality of dealing with foreign powers is very different than the platitudes that so many enjoy...

  2. We have leaders who can't resist the urge to moralize without considering whether there is any real point, or if their actions are in the U.S. interest.