U.S. foreign policy is mired in controversies. Iraq is slowly resolving as chaos spreads to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iran and North Korea both pose nuclear challenges but the nation has little leverage and few options. Nuclear nonproliferation is also strained by the India-Pakistan rivalry; by potential nuclear decisions in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan; and by the rise of terrorist challenges. Efforts to spread democracy have also mired down. Key rulers in the Middle East and elsewhere have proven intransigent. Elected leaders in Venezuela and Palestine openly challenge the United States, while democratic Lebanon has been severely battered by democratic Israel. Democracy in Russia degrades, while Russia supports anti-democratic forces on its periphery in Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine and Central Asia. Foreign trade and global warming remain contentious issues, while there are insufficient resources to address a wide range of other problems, including in Haiti, Mexico, and almost all of Africa, as well as major domestic challenges. Now a global recession further restrains resources and increases tension.
of resources to achieve major objectives
Russia can provide a key to resolving many of these issues.
In the early 1990's, the United States and Russia found themselves unexpected partners after 70 years of often tense rivalry. Unfortunately before this nascent partnership could be reinforced, it began to come unglued. Russia now acts more as a spoiler on the international stage than a partner.
Why is this?
What can we do about it?
Democracy and market economy, introduced to Russia in the early 1990's, led not to prosperity but to the rise of plutocrats and criminal elements, while common workers lost jobs and often fell into impoverishment. Widespread disillusionment among the population was reinforced by the loss of international prestige. Almost overnight Russia changed from a superpower to a bit player on the world stage. NATO was expanding to its Western borders, China was rising on the south, and its military was a shell, barely able to engage the Chechens.
A natural reaction based on a thousand years of history was to turn to a strong leader. Historical ambivalence towards the West, reinforced by decades of Communism, supported this tendency to centralization and undermined the attraction of the West, an attraction which was further tarnished by the West's own problems: struggling economies, unassimilated and sometimes belligerent minorities, increasing internal restrictions, and bitterly divided polities. Perceived U.S. belligerence - the invasion of Iraq, veiled threats to Iran and North Korea, open support to Israel against Hezbollah and Hamas - further damaged the attraction of the West, along with abuses at Abu Graib and Guantanamo. Everyday Russians naturally came to question the desirability of closer ties with the West.
Nevertheless, an active U.S.-Russian partnership could do much to invigorate foreign policy efforts, including the promotion of stable democratic regimes, the reinforcement of nuclear nonproliferation, the liberalization of international trade, and the promotion of global prosperity as a major antidote to global terrorism. Russia is no longer in a leadership position, but can spoil, complicate, slow down and block Western efforts. But it can also support, facilitate, ease and promote positive programs. This puts it in a key position to promote or impede international stability and prosperity.
The West has much to offer Russia, much that it wants and needs. Its inclusion in the G-8 helped to provide a new sense of international legitimacy and prestige. Western technology and know how are important to the building of a new Russian industry, to addressing pressing environmental problems, and to supporting critical improvements in public health. The West can also provide important security support and assurances and continuing support for nuclear security - Russia remains a potential target for nuclear terrorists. Both Iran and North Korea are border states; it is hardly in Russia's interest to have unstable, nuclear-armed governments in either country.
The West can use these and other incentives to promote an invigorated partnership. A first step is a clear statement of the Western objective vis-a-vis Russia - promoting a democratic and prosperous Russia as an active partner in developing a democratic and prosperous world.
This requires first of all patience. Democracy will not come overnight. Rather it is critical to identify the specific elements that will promote long-term evolution of a cooperative and prosperous Russia - elements such as a regard for human rights and the rule of law. Russian membership in the G-8 already obligates it to adopt such policies. The West needs to insist on this, but at the same time show that cooperation brings real benefits, such as increased commercial, scientific, and cultural exchanges; continued cooperation on nuclear security measures; active programs in environmental and medical developments; and continued cooperation in space.
Overall security issues also provide major opportunities for expanded cooperation. The most obvious area is further mutual reductions in nuclear weapons. Both the United States and Russia (and to some extent Great Britain and France) maintain significant nuclear arsenals, not only at great expense, but with the added peril that somehow they might be used or fall into the hands of terrorists. Reductions would both free resources for more positive uses and reduce the risks of nuclear peril. Broader military exchanges between NATO and Russia, as well as between Russia and South Korea, and Russia and Japan can alleviate concerns on both sides over hidden hostile preparations.
Overall, a real partnership with Russia would create a new international situation, one in which major issues could be addressed proactively, creatively, and effectively.
This is a key we as a nation need to acquire.