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Similar positions

"Similar positions" Continued...

As for Germany, NATO was an instrument of rehabilitation and stability after World War II. But Germany now has a complex relationship with Russia, as well as internal issues. It does not want NATO drawing it into adventures that are not in Germany's primary interest, much less into a confrontation with Russia. No amount of charm, openness or dialogue is going to change this fundamental reality.

Dialogue does offer certain possibilities. The United States could choose to talk to Iran without preconditions. It could abandon NATO expansion and quietly reduce its influence in the former Soviet Union, or perhaps convince the Russians that they could benefit from this influence. The United States could abandon the BMD system (though this has been complicated by Iran's recent successful satellite launch), or perhaps get the Russians to participate in the program. The United States could certainly get the Germans to send a small force to Afghanistan above and beyond the present German contingent. All of this is possible.

What can't be achieved is a fundamental transformation of the geopolitical realities of the world. No matter how Obama campaigned, it is clear he knows that. Apart from his preoccupation with economic matters, Obama understands that foreign policy is governed by impersonal forces and is not amenable to rhetoric, although rhetoric might make things somewhat easier. No nation gives up its fundamental interests because someone is willing to talk.

Willingness to talk is important, but what is said is much more important. Obama's first foray into foreign policy via Biden indicates that, generally speaking, he understands the constraints and pressures that drive American foreign policy, and he understands the limits of presidential power. Atmospherics aside, Biden's positions-as opposed to his rhetoric-were strikingly similar to Cheney's foreign policy positions.

We argued long ago that presidents don't make history, but that history makes presidents. We see Biden's speech as a classic example of this principle.
Republished with permission of stratfor.com.

George Friedman, Stratfor.com
George Friedman, Stratfor.com

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