President Reagan's famous dictum, which he often quoted to Mikhail Gorbachev in Russian, was Trust but Verify. (In Russian, it rhymes: Doverai, no proverai.) President Obama has recognized that Reagan was a "transformational" president. He says he gave the old man credit, though he never gave him his vote.
Now, Barack Obama is determined also to be a transformational president. And he is succeeding in this. More's the pity. His Russian policy is one of "Trust, Don't Verify."
First, he cancelled missile defense for our new allies -- Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic. This was done with the hope and expectation that it would make the Russians more cooperative on Iran.
Russia has responded by pulling the teeth of any sanctions resolutions at the UN that threatened to really bite the Iranian mullahs. The Washington Post tells us -- in a front page story, no less -- the absorbing tale of Vyascheslav Danilenko, Russian nuclear scientist, who is said to be aiding Iran in development of a nuclear weapon.
The UN's own International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that Danilenko is at the heart of "Iran 's efforts to gain expertise in disciplines essential to building a nuclear warhead."
So much for trusting the Russians. In the popular movie, Red October, the gruff U.S. admiral played by the redoubtable Fred Thompson says: "The Russians don't take a c__p without order from Moscow." Fred got that part right. To think that Danilenko could travel to and from Tehran on "business" without the Kremlin knowing and approving is ludicrous.
But we trust the Russians, don't we? Before President Obama's famous "hamburger summit" with puppet president Medvedev, the FBI collared ten Russian spies. Surely, we would never subject these Kremlin agents to enhanced interrogation. In fact, they were quickly issued exit visas and put on a direct flight to Moscow. They did not pass GO, they didn't even get a TSA pat down.
Nothing could stand in the way of the Obama administration's fast track for the START Treaty with Russia, ratified by the lame ducks of the 111th Congress. Vice President Joe Biden was their point man in hurrying this treaty through last December. Biden has a long history of trusting the Russians. He went to Moscow in 1979, when Barack Obama was just old enough to vote.
Biden told the KGB in 1979 that we were most interested in arms control. Human rights was a matter of lesser interest. As a result, we got no arms control agreement that could be ratified -- even by a Democratic Senate. And thousands more Russians were thrown into the GuLAG.
Biden's Russian expertise: Trust, don't verify.
The Wall Street Journal reports, in a front page story, that American astronaut Dan Burbank is " hitching a ride to the International Space Station." Thanks to Mr. Obama's re-ordering of priorities for NASA, we no longer have the capacity to send up astronauts ourselves. Instead, we can trust the Russians to take us for a ride.
President Obama recently met with outgoing President Medvedev in Honolulu . They conferred on ways to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Forget for the moment that Dmitri Medvedev faithfully plays the monkey to Vladimir Putin's organ grinder, what possible common interest could we have with Russia in framing a policy on Iran ?
Reuters reports the two men discussed Syria during their meeting. Does our president know that Russia has been a backer of Syria for decades? And that Syria is a virtual client state of Iran ?
Can we trust the Russians? Should "Trust, Don't Verify" be our new policy toward Moscow ? I can agree with this much of Astronaut Dan Burbank's merriment: You can always trust the Russians to take Americans for a ride.
Ken Blackwell is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission.