Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Washington Times on Russia
With Russia neither avowed friend nor enemy, Washington needs a solid understanding of what kind of relationship it can realistically expect with the Kremlin, and how to work toward that relationship.
One view is that what the United States can expect and should work for with Russia is "narrowly defined strategic cooperation, not full partnership, not close and intimate friendship, but meaningful strategic cooperation on key issues which the United States needs to address," Dmitri Simes, the founding president of the Nixon Center and a respected expert on Russian relations, told The Washington Times in an interview last week. Washington needs to understand that it is dealing with a more nationalist and resurgent Russia -- a Russia "that is not interested in anybody's guidance regarding domestic affairs," said Mr. Simes.
"If we did not have serious external threats like nonproliferation, like terrorism, an argument could be made for a kind of normal but distant relationship with Russia," said Mr. Simes. But like Mr. Simes, we believe the United States does not have this luxury.
After all, Russia merely is in a position to give us assistance with actual intelligence, military, economic, and political assets, whereas Poland and the Baltic States give us a warm feeling that we won the "Cold War".
Putin is no Gorby, and he's certainly no Yeltsin. He will fight back, hard and smart.
And its kinda hard to see what we'll use, what with our credit streached to the limit, the dollar finding new lows daily, and the army bogged down in Iraq.
Calling Vlad harsh names ain't gonna do it.
On the other hand, Russia could cut her oil exports by 5 million barrels a day, and still cover her debts and pay for all her imports.
How would you like it if the price of gasoline doubled, or more, tomorrow?
Perhaps you now understand why Russia won't be defeated if we try your course of action, and why Putin dosen't care what's said about him.
"The dogs bark. The caravan passes."
Russia and America are both on long-term trajectories of relative decline but that does not mean that either of us have to undergo absolute decline. It is in the interest of both sides that each side be a stable and prosperous state later in this century.
We need to re-establish our relations on the basis of this common long-term interest and increase public awareness of it in both societies.
David, Vlad's on the case:
"Russia and America are both on long-term trajectories of relative decline but that does not mean that either of us have to undergo absolute decline. It is in the interest of both sides that each side be a stable and prosperous state later in this century.
We need to re-establish our relations on the basis of this common long-term interest and increase public awareness of it in both societies."
And when the US government comes around to this understanding, it will find the Russian government waiting.
But as long as Russian influence, anywhere, is treated as something illegitimate to be opposed and diminished whereever it is found, there'll be problems.
President Putin's state of the union address last May is an impressive review and one must hope that the Duma will follow through on the changes he proposed six months ago, if it has not done so already.
Clearly the Russian people will determine whether there is change by how they respond to the measures proposed. But in the areas of economic revitalization identified by Putin, closer ties to American counterparts could be helpful. It would be unfortunate if US ties that could otherwise grow are hostage to foreign policy differences.
"But in the areas of economic revitalization identified by Putin, closer ties to American counterparts could be helpful. It would be unfortunate if US ties that could otherwise grow are hostage to foreign policy differences."
It would. But the liklihood of our foreign policy elite as presently constituted agreeing to a mutually accomodative and mutually beneficial relationship is vanishingly small.
Nevertheless, she has been a great military and political power.
When it comes to the exercise of power, Russia will choose Power over Wealth - that is how they have survived so far.
Indeed, and the one time she chose wealth over power, back in 1989-1992, the West exploited her concessions to her grave detriment, and reciprocated nothing, giving Russia extensive experience of the situation of having neither power nor wealth.
And what's blackly humorous is the Western outrage over the Russians having learned from the experience. Mr. Billington seems not to understand that a "carrot" is an incentive only if the person you're trying to tempt believes you might actually give it to them. Holding out a "carrot", and then delivering "...Here's what you've got to do next. Here's some more $#!+ for your face." as President Clinton characterized our approach to Russia to Strobe Talbott convinces the other guy pretty quickly that your offers of "carrots" are actually $#!+.
Treat people this way, and pretty soon they look for alternatives and never again rely on you for anything.
I'm afraid you misunderstand my recent posts. I am not recommending the offer of incentives as a quid pro quo for domestic change.
Where conditions permit, I am urging more cooperation in outer space, more joint private ventures, partnerships between universities and high technology research centers, and other bilateral ties that could benefit both countries in the long run. All of these things would have to be done on terms acceptable to Russia. Difficulties between the two current Presidents (who will both be out of office in two years) do not have to impede them.
Russian leaders will need to make social changes in their own way and in their own time so that their younger people see a future for themselves in their country. The long-term reforms that Putin has identified as necessary are changes that would be in America's own proper interest to see happen.
Our goal now should be to assist these internally-initiated reforms, if we are invited in specific ways to do so, and if we can, and not try to persuade Russians to make reforms that they have not already decided they need to make.
You wrote: "Russian leaders will need to make social changes in their own way"
Don't you know that has always been the problem with Russia - the State's repeated attempts since the time of Peter the Great to engineer a new Russian society?
It would be more useful to suggest that the Russian State circumscribe its intrusions into people's lives; something like what Odessa was during the liberal reform period.
I also take exception to the hubris that you and other Westerners display in the repeated call for reforms in other societies while your own social, economical, and political institutions are in a state of disrepair or decline.
Your State has written-off large populations such as the urban poor (black, white, etc.), sells its jobs abroad to pay for its consumption, its political system makes course corrections impossible in the executive branch, its judiciary is sinking in a morass of archaic precedence, and its legislative branch uses an arcane system of governance by committees that is no longer functioning efficiently.
Physician, heal thyself.
In my last post, I tried to distinguish between outsiders preaching to Russians and outsiders wanting to support changes that Russians themselves have initiated. I do not endorse all aspects of current Russian policy or practice. But I don't think Putin bears comparison to Peter the Great or Stalin.
Regarding the United States, I would like to see much of the social agenda of the 1960s completed. But our form of government compares favorably with most other forms of government and can and will be amended over time to meet truly pressing needs.
Russia doesn't even have, to my recollection, as much as another half-century of oil left. Their concerns about proliferation and terrorism are even more severe than our own, and their overall policy - crushing domestic Islam while sponsoring it abroad - is even more contradictory, and puts their own state at more risk than us. Russia has plenty of natural incentive to cooperate with us on "strategic matters" - the Russian state hates Islamic terrorists even more than we do. We should hold Russia accountable for autocratic regression and demand democratic processes as much as anywhere in the world. Playing non-proliferation with autocratic regimes is a feat akin to juggling with oven mitts.
Jordan W. 02
It is because they are too dependent on rentier income from natural resources that Russians need to diversify their economy. The priorities for development that Putin outlined in his speech last May seem to be consistent with this need, among others. The question is whether we should assist Russia in meeting its objectives, if invited to do so, or whether our differences with Russia should stand in the way.
I agree that contradictions in Russian policy are serious, although there are similar conflicts in our own policy toward the Islamic world and toward proliferation. It might bring us both closer to a common and consistent position if our bilateral relations are worth more to each side.
Considering their budget urplus and they're current account surplus, they've no requirement to pump oil at the present rate. And they've got lots more natural gas.
"Their concerns about proliferation and terrorism are even more severe than our own, and their overall policy - crushing domestic Islam while sponsoring it abroad - is even more contradictory, and puts their own state at more risk than us."
Domestic Islam does just fine in Russia. Problems arose when independent Chechnya became a wretched hive of scum and villiany, then decided these were items for export.
"Russia has plenty of natural incentive to cooperate with us on "strategic matters" - the Russian state hates Islamic terrorists even more than we do."
Sure they do. And we're going to have to decide whether we want Russia's cooperation, or to continually get in their face about their internal policy.
"We should hold Russia accountable for autocratic regression and demand democratic processes as much as anywhere in the world."
Demand away. A fat lot of good it'll do. They gave us a hearing on this sort of thing back in the '90s, and they're only now recovering from the experience. But they learned from the 1990s, though some of us Amercans don't seem to have.