- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TESTING OBAMA

If an award were given to the first foreign leader to challenge President-elect Barack Obama, the prize would go to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who “manufactured” a potential crisis within 24 hours of the presidential election, according to John R. Bolton, the hard-boiled former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Mr. Medvedev “seized on the opportunity to win the first annual Joe Biden award to challenge the president-elect with a crisis that [the Russian leader] manufactured, in my view, specifically to test the mettle of the incoming administration,” Mr. Bolton wrote in an essay for the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

The Russian president acted quicker than even Mr. Biden predicted. During the election campaign, Mr. Obama’s running mate warned that some foreign leader would create a crisis to test the new administration within six months of Inauguration Day.

Mr. Medvedev warned he will aim missiles at Poland, if Mr. Obama carries out the Bush administration plan to install a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic to guard against attacks from Iran or other rogue states.

“If President-elect Obama carries through on where I think his real instincts lie on missile defense, which is not to continue it, I think [that] in Moscow, they will read that [decision] as responding to the threat and indeed intimidation reflected in Medvedev’s speeches,” Mr. Bolton wrote.

Mr. Bolton noted that Mr. Obama can expect more trouble from the same parts of the world that challenged the Bush administration over the past eight years. He cited the nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea, the military buildup in China and continued unrest in the Middle East, as well as a resurgent Russia determined to exert influence over areas once controlled by the Soviet Union.

Mr. Bolton fretted over Mr. Obama’s campaign pledge to meet with the leaders of Iran, North Korea and other authoritarian nations without preconditions.

“I believe that if he carries through on that [pledge], we will see in very graphic terms what the consequences of real naivete in international affairs can be,” he said.

FRIEND OF BILL’S

The Bush administration called him the “last dictator in Europe,” but President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus hopes for better relations with the Obama administration, especially if Hillary Rodham Clinton is secretary of state.

Mr. Lukashenko considers himself a friend of former President Bill Clinton and believes that he can count on Mr. Clinton to persuade his wife to mend relations with the Belarusian leader.

“I’m counting on Bill,” Mr. Lukashenko told Agence France-Presse. “We want a normal dialogue, and I think if Bill tells Hillary about this, she’ll listen.”

A CHRISTMAS GIFT

Norwegian Ambassador Wegger Christian Strommen on Tuesday will give Washington its first Christmas gift of the season when he lights a 32-foot-tall tree at Union Station and opens an exhibit of Norwegian model trains that chug along a special display in the Main Hall.

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