Palm Beach News

For Wexler, It's Hard to Be Good Cop When White House Is So Bad

By helping Obama win Florida, Congressman Robert Wexler earned himself a higher profile in Washington, but the new administration has also placed him in some no-win foreign-policy situations.

Wexler, who is Jewish and has a large Jewish constituency in his central Palm Beach and north Broward district, has the unenviable task of brokering relations between the Israelis and an Obama administration that has been tougher on that nation than any U.S. president in a generation.

He's also chairman of a House subcommittee that deals with Europe, and in that capacity, it was his job to smooth over some terribly impolitic remarks about Russia that Vice President Joe Biden made to the Wall Street Journal.

At a committee hearing with Russian diplomats yesterday in Washington, D.C., Wexler began his introductory remarks ominously:

It is hard to be overly optimistic about U.S.-Russian relations as we approach the one-year anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war, Russia's military and political presence in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which is hardening. President Medvedev renews threats to place short-range missiles on Russia's border with Poland, and another prominent Chechen human rights activist is brutally murdered without judicial recourse.

There is no more pressing issue on the U.S.-Russian reset agenda than Iran's development of nuclear weapons. To date, Russia's actions suggest anything but a real partner in deterring Iran's nuclear program. In fact, Russia has failed to implement Security Council resolutions and their accompanying sanctions and continues to build the Bashir Nuclear Power Plant and provide the Iranian government with lethal weapons, even signing an agreement to sell the S-300 anti- missile defense system to Tehran.

Twenty years after the revolutions in 1989, in the fall of the Iron Curtain, many Central and Eastern European nations feel increasingly threatened by a resurgent Russia. America must take these concerns seriously, continue to unequivocally reject a Russian sphere of influence, assist Europe in its quest for energy security, expand the visa waiver program to include allies, and consult closely with European governments, including Poland and the Czech Republic, on missile defense.
[Transcript from Congressional Quarterly]

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Thomas Francis