Why did Obama write that letter to Medvedev?

Could it have been to help Medvedev in his power struggle with Putin? If so, I approve.

If I had to list the three most important objectives for U.S. foreign policy in the short-to-medium run, my list would be:

1. Pakistan: Helping Zardari beat the ISI, the military, and the jihadists.

2. Iran: Helping reform-minded forces gain power, even if it’s not possible to defeat Ahmadi-nejad in the upcoming elections.

3. Russia: Helping Medvedev against Putin. (Medvedev may be no great prize, but he never served in the KGB.)

In deciding what to say and do about Pakistan, Iran, and Russia, a central consideration ought to be helping those less hostile to us (and less inclined to be tyrannical at home and aggressive abroad) make progress as against our committed enemies.

The split between Medvedev and Putin seems like good news. I wonder to what extent the Obama-Medvedev letter on missile defense was intended to add a card to Medvedev’s hand in domestic politics?

Note that the story broke first, not in the New York Times (which would have suggested a leak from somewhere in Washington) but in Kommersant, which suggests that someone in Russia thought it might be useful to have news of the letter get out.

Who in Russia? Generally speaking, Kommersant reflects the views of the market economist/technocrat faction now coalescing around Medvedev as against those of the security goons and kleptocrats who constitute Putin’s power base. That suggests that Medvedev wanted it to be known that he and his American counterpart are pen pals, and that the Americans are making nice.

If that’s what’s happening, I’m all for it.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com