Are the Russians calling our bluff?
At the Thursday meeting of G8 foreign ministers in Moscow, someone forgot to turn off the audio feed from what was supposed to be a private luncheon. Reporters were able to listen in on what turned out to be, in diplo-speak, “frank discussions” between Condi Rice and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
Toward the end of the back and forth, came this pointed jab from Lavrov, as described by Glenn Kessler in the WP:
The two continued to squabble when Lavrov threw out a new concept — that the new Iraqi government had to answer questions about former president Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction because last week Republican lawmakers in the United States had said there was evidence of chemical munitions.
“I think it’s serious,” he said. “While we want to support this government, we also believe that this government has something to do to finalize the leftovers of the past, which is basically nonproliferation concerns.”
This line of conversation riled Rice, but once again other ministers suggested a compromise that mentioned the idea without endorsing it.
I’ll confess I had missed this exchange until an astute TPM reader pointed it out to me. But it appears that the Russians, as skeptical as the rest of us of claims from some in Congress that WMD really was found in Iraq after all, is telling the Bush Administraton to put up or shut up.
If what members of the President’s party are saying is true, then it logically follows that the international community will need certain assurances, such as guarantees that all such weapons and weapons capabilities are destroyed and commitments by the new Iraqi government that it will not pursue any such capabilities.
It’s not clear from the WP piece exactly what a “riled” Rice said in response, but as Laura Rozen put it:
The Russian government anyhow seems to be taking Hoekstra/Santorum/Weldon’s Iraq WMD concerns seriously. The Bush administration, not so much. What’s wrong with this picture?
(Thanks to TPM Reader GP)