Gates gets it:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave a tough speech Thursday lamenting the “dark turn” in Russia’s conduct. Accurate as her assessment might be, Rice’s indictment was marred by a refusal to concede the Bush administration’s role in provoking the Kremlin’s recent belligerent actions. Her castigation of Russia’s disproportionate use of force in the recent war with Georgia was rightly balanced by an acknowledgment that President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia launched the first attack.

But Rice brushed aside Russian complaints about NATO expansion. She neglected to mention, however, that those consultations ended without any accommodation of Russian concerns. This is what happened with deployment of a gravely flawed missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic, and with a needlessly hurried recognition of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia without UN authorisation.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates offered a more dispassionate view the same day, noting that there is no real military threat from Russia. NATO countries should seek a prudent “middle ground” in responding to the war in Georgia, Gates said, and they should avoid sending provocative signals to Moscow. Rice may Russia expert, but American policy would be better shaped by Gates’s unflustered view of Russia. — The Boston Globe