John McCain’s Russia Policy Is Bad For U.S.’s Middle East Allies

Back in March, in his first major foreign policy address since securing the Republican presidential nomination, McCain declared his view that Russia should be kicked out of the G8. Writer Fareed Zakaria called this “the most radical idea put forward by a major candidate for the presidency in 25 years.”

It should be understood that McCain’s confrontational stance toward Russia was not just a line in a speech, but is representative of McCain’s deeply-held views, as well as those of top McCain advisers like Randy Scheunemann.

As Zakaria and other analysts like Zbigniew Brzezinski make clear, Russia’s cooperation is essential for dealing productively with Iran. In addition to aiding Iran’s nuclear program, Russia has become one of Iran’s most important business partners:

– On July 13, Iran announced a deal with Russian energy giant Gazprom to help Tehran develop its oil and gas fields.

– On June 21, Tehran announced that it had “signed an agreement with Moscow for a joint venture to build passenger airliners” at a production plant to be sited in Iran.

– In February, Russia announced that it would double its staff at the Bushehr nuclear reactor in southwest Iran.

McCain’s anti-Russia stance does not bode well for efforts to partner with Russia in containing Iran. This has serious negative implications for U.S. interests in the Middle East, especially for regional allies like Israel.


Yossi Klein Halevi recently wrote in The New Republic “Above all else, [Israelis] dread a nuclear Iran. With few exceptions, the consensus within the political and security establishment is that Israel cannot live with an Iranian bomb.” Israelis not only fear a possible first strike by Iran, they’re also concerned about the Iranian “nuclear umbrella,” the greater freedom of action that Iran would enjoy upon obtaining a nuclear deterrent.

Military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities, either by Israel or the U.S., also would trigger numerous unpredictable consequences, which is why it’s imperative that the U.S. work with its partners and use every diplomatic tool possible to ensure that we are not left with war as the only option.

Last month, the Bush administration achieved success dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program by reversing course away from policies that John McCain continues to advocate. Just as China was a partner in dealing with North Korea — by the way, John McCain advocates harsher policies toward China, too — so Russia must be a partner in dealing with Iran. The aggressive policies that John McCain promises to pursue toward Russia make an Iranian bomb more likely.