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The U.S.-Russia Problem: A Four-Step Recovery Program

If the United States is to push back against Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, it must set aside wishful thinking and breathless rhetoric about a new “Cold War” and get to work shoring up its neglected Transatlantic alliances.

Published on: March 7, 2014
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  • Pete

    1. ” …… the crisis is now about more than Western efforts to preserve the independence and sovereignty of 45 million people.”

    That’s America’s responsibility? I don’t think so.

    2. ” … raising the risk of NATO devolving into an ossified bureaucratic structure with declining military utility and increasing political irrelevance

    That’s what NATO has already been for years now.

    3. “We are watching a consistent and hard-nosed Russian neo-imperial strategy aimed at restoring its historical sphere of privileged influence in Eastern Europe and other areas of the post-Soviet space.”

    You got that right.

    4. “The gap has begun to grow in the wake of President Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” which communicated to NATO allies in no uncertain terms that U.S. priorities were shifting away from Europe.”

    The pivot to Asia is proper. Isn’t it time wealthy Europe started to defend itself or is that critical point to be ignored by the self-anointed foreign affaire experts?

    5. “NATO remains the key alliance, whose strength is vital to both U.S. and European security,”

    Half true. Europe needs NATO; the U.S. does not need NATO

    • rheddles

      Europe needs NATO; the U.S. does not need NATO

      Hear, hear!

      • Jim__L

        The Germans aren’t down, the Russians aren’t out — are the Americans in?

    • John Stephens

      Actually, the Ukraine IS our responsibility. In 1994, the United States guaranteed their sovereignty and territorial integrity in exchange for their giving up their share of the the former USSR’s nuclear weapons. Unless we want to see nuclear non-proliferation become even more of a bad joke than it already is, we’ve got to do SOMETHING about Russia’s behavior.

      • Andrew Allison

        Acknowledge the right to self-determination of the people of Crimea in exchange for guarantees that Russia will not proceed beyond Crimea maybe?

        • John Stephens

          And will this guarantee be any better than the last one? A nation’s word is only as good as it’s willingness to back it up with deeds.

          • Andrew Allison

            Do you mean the West’s promise to protect Ukraine’s territorial integrity in exchange for its giving up nuclear weapons? We’re seeing how that one is playing out.
            I was thinking of a face-saving way to stop the nonsense. Crimea is going to be annexed to Russia and there’s not a damned thing the West is prepared to do about it other than huff and puff.
            There are two ways this can play out, a humiliating defeat for the West or a fig leaf which let’s both sides claim “victory.”

      • rheddles

        Then let’s sell nukes to Ukraine.

    • Andrew Allison

      Off topic, but what the US really needs is a NATO in which the US isn’t providing cover, e.g., the 65,000 troops we have there, for the rest of the freeloaders, er members.

      • Pete

        Exactly

  • Andrew Allison

    Why in the name of goodness should the West push back against a perfectly rational desire on the part of Russia to protect its interest in maintaining its only warm water port? The solution to this problem is simple: recognize that de facto or de jure control of Crimea is a Russian imperative.

    • rheddles

      Or go to war with Russia. Join Napoleon, Wilhelm and Hitler.

      • Andrew Allison

        Exactly!

    • General_Chaos

      Because Russia’s interest in Sevastopol Naval base was never threatened. It has a secure lease that Ukraine never threatened.

      The question is not Crimea and its relationship with Russia, but rather the MEANS by which this is done. If Russia has exerted political pressure on Ukraine to allow a referendum, the fine, but to effect it by force of arms makes it not just a Crime situation but a larger geopolitical challenge.

      I wonder at what point you woudl draw a line. The Baltics? Poland? eastern Germany? How much fo the Soviet empire can Putin reconstitute before you woudl consider it worthwhile to challenge?

      • Andrew Allison

        The westward tilt of the new Ukranian government was a clear threat to Sevastopol. Ukraine would want to NATO, and the only way it can do so is get rid of Russian bases in the Crimea; the referendum was not effected by force of arms but be the same sort of popular uprising which changed the government in Kiev; and I draw the line at the border of Crimea.

  • Jim__L

    #4 simply isn’t going to happen with this president. We can’t afford both ObamaCare and a credible military. It’s that simple.

    (Heck, we probably can’t afford one of the two without serious shrinkage of our existing major welfare state programs.)

    Want to see America rebound? A leaner (less butter) and meaner (more guns… pointed outwards, thanks) government is essential.

  • Fat_Man

    The world has changed greatly over the past half century. The policy that you describe has nothing to do with the way the world is today. The fact is that Russia is not going to conquer Europe, it couldn’t if it wanted to, as it has neither the manpower, nor the resources to do that. They won’t even try to conquer the entire Ukraine, although they might take a bite out of it.

    The countries of western and central Europe have become sclerotic and ossified, as has NATO. Germany is in the best shape of the lot, but that is not saying much. It is time to recognize that Europe no longer has the economic nor the military power to affect the the prosperity and tranquility of the United States. If we dissolved NATO, the countries of Europe would have to look to their own defenses. This would be salutary for them, because it would reawaken their honor and dignity, and reduce their tendency to gripe about US, and, salutary for US, because we would save a lot of money.

    We should not hesitate to favor a German led Europe over the Russians, as we need to cabin Russian power and keep them busy on their western front. But, military alliance is no longer a good thing for either side.

    The US has far more important business in North America, the Caribbean, South America, the Arctic, and on the Pacific rim than it does in Europe. Our resources and attention should be directed to those areas. Oh yes, and the Middle East? Let them kill, cook, and eat each other. It is so clearly what they want to do.

  • Jerome Ogden

    Author: “(we)…risk NATO devolving into an ossified bureaucratic structure with declining military utility and increasing political irrelevance.”

    It’s not a risk, it’s an actuality.

    Since the end of the Cold War NATO has been searching for something to justify its existence, settling for now on the pablum of bombing non-nuclear Lilliputian governments into or out of existence, as in Libya and the former Yugoslavia.

    Does anyone seriously think Europe and the US are going to take on Russia in its own backyard, even if Russia were finally to decide to carve East Ukraine into the buffer state it believes is essential to security on its western flank? All of NATO’s expensive sabre-rattling with ship and fighter deployments is risible. It’s not intimidating Russia. The Russians know we are bluffing and will not risk war while they are armed with enough nuclear weapons to destroy most of our civilization.

    The most accurate analysis in this article comes from the Russian legislator who says: “They talk and talk, and then they will stop.”

  • General_Chaos

    It is so disappointing to see the near-isolationist sentiment in the comments. Through active use of US power assets an amazing world has been created. Out of the ashes of WWII the US did not stick its head in the sand, ponied up money and people to carve out a zone of relative peace and prosperity. After the collapse of the USSR that sphere expanded. It is the system we created that has lifted billions of of poverty and created a world where there is very little direct threat tot he US homeland.

    Everyone here acts as if this thing we constructed will just continue to exist even if we stop maintaining it. And sorry, no one else is up to it. The French can’t even bring themselves to cancel the sale of advanced helicopter carriers to Russia. Most of our allies are feckless until the threat is at their door. But waiting for that threat to emerge is no solution. Is it fair? No. But if you want this period of wealth and security to continue someone needs to maintain it, and no one else is willing or able. I know the country is temporarily tired of its burdens and has a financial crisis of its own. But that was true in the 1930’s and 1970’s as well. And when we take our eye of the ball the world becomes a very nasty place again. I hope we do not need to relearn this lesson yet again. Leadership is a lonely, expensive, and thankless task…but absolutely essential.

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