The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has disagreed fundamentally with John McCain's saber-rattling against Russia and at the same time put himself in opposition to all of the civilian leadership of the Bush administration except perhaps his boss, Bob Gates.
"I believe we've got to have a relationship with Russia," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Los Angeles.
"I don't believe we should discontinue engagement on the military side because that relationship is going to be very important in the future," Mullen said.
..."We need to approach this in a measured way and do it in a way that recognizes we have mutual interests with Russia," he told a gathering organized Town Hall Los Angeles, a nonprofit group that sponsors debates on topical issues.
Mullen's measured remarks chimed with comments last week by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said Russia did not pose a threat on a par with the Soviet Union.
They stand in contrast to harsher rhetoric from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and particularly Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, who has said Russia would face severe consequences for its actions in Georgia.
One of the areas where Mullen said the US and Russia must continue co-operation is nuclear non-proliferation, including safeguarding loose nuclear materials which might fall into the hands of terrorists.
However, the Bush administration doesn't think that's as important as tough talk for domestic consumption.
Some high-level meetings have been postponed indefinitely, including a trip to Russia by John Rood, the acting undersecretary of State for arms control and international security, to discuss various security issues and to negotiate a new pact to replace the existing Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START.
And the congressionally appointed Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism has been asked to not go on its upcoming fact-finding visit to Moscow.
Hat tip to Cheryl Rofer at WhirledView, who notes that START I is due to expire at the end of 2009. It provides the only means by which the Moscow Treaty, which limits the number of nuclear warheads Russia and the U.S. can posses, can be verified. But the neocons wanted an excuse to dump START - they hate treaties - and this hasty excuse of the Georgia conflict is just more convenient than outright abrogating it with no cause.
Then there's that Congressional factfinding trip. That's just as outrageous as the Commission was set up "to build on the work of the 9/11 Commission ... to assess our nation’s progress in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism."
The Bush administration (and John McCain) need to be asked which they think is more important: petty diplomatic posturing- when even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs thinks Russia/US co-operation is crucial to US national security - or the threat of unsecured nuclear material falling into terrorist hands.
Crossposted from Newshoggers