Is the West Forgoing Incalculable Benefits by Continuing the Cold War?

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Is the West Forgoing Incalculable Benefits by Continuing the Cold War?
Published 22-10-2012, 08:58


For many sound reasons the US presidential election debate has focused on domestic (mainly economic) issues. When it has touched on foreign policy, relations with Russia have featured prominently, not least because of Mitt Romney’s depiction of Russia as the "geopolitical foe Number One” of the United States. For his part, Vladimir Putin has commented that the Republican candidate has done Russia a favor because the Kremlin will now have no qualms whatsoever about opposing Washington’s plans for anti-missile defense systems. This does not bode well: while friction between Russia and the US will doubtless continue regardless of the election outcome, it is likely that bilateral relations will deteriorate significantly if Romney becomes president.

But let’s imagine a radically different scenario. Suppose that the Western (especially US) political classes finally catch up with reality and recognize that after the collapse of communism, Europe dispensed with totalitarianism for good – or, to put it more plainly, Russia disbanded its empire, introduced a functioning democracy and placed its economy on a market footing. And suppose also that they come to the conclusion that, given these developments, there is no longer any need for a Cold War and that the Russia-West friction of recent years must promptly be brought to an end. 

Such a scenario would not require that Russia become a member of NATO and that peace and harmony henceforth prevail. Indeed, this is entirely unrealistic because, depending on the issue at hand, great power interests will always clash or converge. What is realistic, however, is the building of a system of balanced power in which the major players treat one another as equals, respect their vital interests and strive for peaceful relations in the interest of all concerned. A realism-inspired "Concert” of this kind is by no means fanciful thinking: after all, it successfully operated in Europe in the 19th century until its gradual erosion ushered in the First World War.

The benefits the US would derive from working toward such a system are incalculable. To start with, the European continent would – for the first time in history – be fully at peace and united under essentially the same values as those of the US. Deeper economic integration, as Russia and the EU upgraded their trade ties, would generate new exports opportunities for US companies, not least in Russia and the rest of the Former Soviet Union. And there is a huge potential to be unleashed here: in 2011 US-Russia trade accounted for only 3.8% of total Russian trade turnover, only slightly more than Russia’s trade with Poland (3.4%) and South Korea (3%).

Clearly, the pursuit of a system of balanced power (instead of continued geopolitical confrontation) could make a major contribution to overcoming the global economic crisis. Moreover, it could also be the optimum strategy for combating terrorism since the economic development of Afghanistan and other failed states in the region would become a realistic prospect. 

What and/or who stands in the way of the emergence of such a system?

Assuming the main cause of the ongoing Cold War is the West’s inability to recognize the post-1991 realities in Europe, will the pressure to deal with the global economic crisis alter its stance?

Is there a sound policy on Russia that would benefit the US and be acceptable to Moscow?

The topic for the Discussion Panel is provided by Vlad Sobell, Expert Discussion Panel Editor (New York University, Prague)  

Expert Panel Contributions

Patrick Armstrong
Patrick Armstrong Analysis,
Ottawa, Canada

I don't think that I, or anyone else, can add anything much to this from George Kennan speaking about NATO expansion back in 1998. Source is HERE.
My emphases 

"His voice is a bit frail now, but the mind, even at age 94, is as sharp as ever. So when I reached George Kennan by phone to get his reaction to the Senate's ratification of NATO expansion it was no surprise to find that the man who was the architect of America's successful containment of the Soviet Union and one of the great American statesmen of the 20th century was ready with an answer. 

"I think it is the beginning of a new cold war," said Mr. Kennan from his Princeton home. "I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. [NATO expansion] was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs." 

"What bothers me is how superficial and ill informed the whole Senate debate was," added Mr. Kennan, who was present at the creation of NATO and whose anonymous 1947 article in the journal Foreign Affairs, signed "X," defined America's cold-war containment policy for 40 years. "I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe. Don't people understand? Our differences in the Cold War were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime. 

"And Russia's democracy is as far advanced, if not farther, as any of these countries we've just signed up to defend from Russia," said Mr. Kennan, who joined the State Department in 1926 and was U.S. Ambassador to Moscow in 1952. "It shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are -- but this is just wrong." 

One only wonders what future historians will say. If we are lucky they will say that NATO expansion to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic simply didn't matter, because the vacuum it was supposed to fill had already been filled, only the Clinton team couldn't see it. They will say that the forces of globalization integrating Europe, coupled with the new arms control agreements, proved to be so powerful that Russia, despite NATO expansion, moved ahead with democratization and Westernization, and was gradually drawn into a loosely unified Europe. If we are unlucky, they will say, as Mr. Kennan predicts, that NATO expansion set up a situation in which NATO now has to either expand all the way to Russia's border, triggering a new cold war, or stop expanding after these three new countries and create a new dividing line through Europe. 

But there is one thing future historians will surely remark upon, and that is the utter poverty of imagination that characterized U.S. foreign policy in the late 1990's. They will note that one of the seminal events of this century took place between 1989 and 1992 -- the collapse of the Soviet Empire, which had the capability, imperial intentions and ideology to truly threaten the entire free world. Thanks to Western resolve and the courage of Russian democrats, that Soviet Empire collapsed without a shot, spawning a democratic Russia, setting free the former Soviet republics and leading to unprecedented arms control agreements with the U.S.  

And what was America's response? It was to expand the NATO Cold-War alliance against Russia and bring it closer to Russia's borders. Yes, tell your children, and your children's children, that you lived in the age of Bill Clinton and William Cohen, the age of Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger, the age of Trent Lott and Joe Lieberman, and you too were present at the creation of the post-Cold-War order, when these foreign policy Titans put their heads together and produced . . . a mouse. 

We are in the age of midgets. The only good news is that we got here in one piece because there was another age -- one of great statesmen who had both imagination and courage.  

As he said goodbye to me on the phone, Mr. Kennan added just one more thing: "This has been my life, and it pains me to see it so screwed up in the end." 

Sergei Roy
Former Editor-in-Chief, Moscow News

Who Can Stop Cold War II?

Those of us who have lived through, and perhaps contributed to, the collapse of the Communist regime in Russia (then the Soviet Union) remember the years 1989 to 1992 with very mixed feelings. 

There is, on the one hand, the sweetness of nostalgia for the time when the constant nagging fear, often subliminal, that our whole world might suddenly and swiftly come to an end in a nuclear holocaust or nuclear winter, gave way to euphoria about eternal peace just round the corner. In fact, it was not just peace but brotherhood of men in the spirit of "Umarmt euch, Millionen," especially the Millionen of the West (primarily of the USA) and of the East (primarily of the Soviet Union, which was then rapidly becoming the Former Soviet Union). And for a while they did embrace each other quite ecstatically, often with tears in their eyes at the incredible discovery that the other side was human, too. "They're just like us!"

There is, on the other hand, the sense of bitterness and shame that one could have been credulous enough, in fact gullible and stupid enough, to believe that the winners in the Cold War (or the politicos who saw themselves as such) would do anything so sensible, reasonable, and plain practically profitable to all concerned, as to go and build this Brave New World hand in hand with the vanquished side. 

No, "that's not the way we do it in the States" (for those who have forgotten this old chestnut, it's about an American astronaut who, seeing a couple of Selenites clapping each other on the shoulder and learning that that is the Selenite idea of sex, exclaims: "That's not the way we do it in the States!") The way they did it in the States this time was the same way folks did it in the Stone Age: the winner just had to put his foot on the prostrate foe's neck, menacingly shake his club, and roar some imbecility in triumph. In our case, the winner just had to expand NATO eastward, toward the borders of Russia - non- and overwhelmingly anti-Communist Russia, with a government that was feeding out of the World Bank's (for which read America's) hand, mostly consisted of pupils or American economists, and was practically run by Western advisers. That move was ostensibly motivated by the West's desire to protect East Europeans and Baltics against Russian aggression - a pretext that was not even funny, just scurrilous: Russia then had practically no effective army, as defeat at the hands of Chechen warlords, also known as common or garden bandits, showed. Filling a power vacuum? George Kennan merely stated an obvious fact when he pointed out that in areas where globalization was in full swing there are no vacuums to fill. No, it was simply a primordial urge to trample the fallen foe to death and, on a broader scale, to gobble up as much of the world as possible but actually much more than possible.

NATO eastward expansion was a military-political offensive that could not but cause a military-political defensive reaction on Russia's part. And it did. Hence the current sad state of affairs best described as Cold War II. 

It is clear as day that cessation of CWII would be an inestimable boon to all concerned, and even those not closely concerned, on many counts. We can only touch here on just one aspect, the economic/financial one.

Financially, Russia can ill afford to increase its defense budget to any appreciable amount: too many people living on or beyond the poverty line, too measly sums paid out in pensions and benefits, too many painful problems in healthcare, education, housing, etc. 

As to America, how it can spend nearly as much as the rest of the world on what is curiously known there as "defense" while being in the red to the tune of 16 trillion is something for winners of Nobel Prizes in economics to explain. To an innocent bystander like myself it is sheer madness. Ordinary common sense reminds us that financial bubbles burst, and burst inevitably. Given that the dollar is a world reserve currency, that bubble burst is sure to plunge the world into the worst economic crisis it has ever known.

Ceasing CWII is the obvious first step in dealing with this grim prospect. The US started this war, and it is up to the US to stop it - for its own benefit and salvation if for no one else's. Accept the obvious fact that Russia is no threat to anyone, least of all to the United States or, still less, to Europe. Expand economic ties with a country which is just one vast market for US commodities; the current level of trade between the two countries is plain silly. Stop blathering about "autocratic" Russia while being hand in glove, economically, with Communist (!) China.

One could go on and on about the mutual benefits of peace, however lukewarm. Only - what's the use – I do not believe that anything so sensible and intelligent is to be expected either of the current or any future US administration. It did not happen in the past, nor is it likely in the future. The drumbeat of rhetoric from Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney, even if we forget characters like Sarah Palin, extinguishes any such hopes very effectively. And oh, if only it were just the rhetoric. 

Richard Sakwa
Professor of Russian and European Politics, University of Kent, UK

Engagement with Russia will be very difficult as long as the country is mystified as some sort of orientalist’s paradise of corruption and autocracy. Typical of this approach is Michael Ignatieff, who in The New York Review of Books notes that ‘Russia is a thieving tyranny with only the capacity to intimidate its neighbours and its energy partners’. The policy consequence of this is the revival of Cold War policies. The analysis is typically misleading, such as the view that the Eurasian Union is a recreation of the Russian empire. Nevertheless, despite the ferocious rhetoric coming out of certain quarters in Washington, American public opinion is rather more pacific, although the trend is negative. 

Arguments for greater engagement with Russia as the country is, rather than endlessly waiting for some preferable version to emerge (however desirable that may be), are typically countered by charges of appeasement, if not outright capitulation, as well as the usual accusations of ‘useful idiotism’ and the like. The intemperance of the anti-engagers is a special subject in itself, but their arguments need to be taken seriously. There is a perceived tension between a commitment to human rights, the rule of law and democratic pluralism, and the cynical pursuit of Realpolitik, a contrast that is particularly acute in the Russian case. This is in part justified, since Russia is a signatory of Council of Europe and other commitments, which reflects values that have not been simply imposed on Russia but are ones that the country freely and voluntarily subscribes to. Hence the failure to fulfil these obligations is a genuine matter of concern not only to foreign observers, but above all to a large section of the dom
estic audience, including within the elite. 

Derogation from these principles has so far been at the level of practices rather than as a matter of official state policy. However, in the recent period the Putin regime has been almost wilfully alienating its friends (for example, Finland over child adoption cases), undermining attempts at rapprochement (notably, Obama’s reset) and humiliating advocates of evolutionary within-system reform.

The question is whether pressure from outside to ensure conformity in practice with declared principles is justified. At one extreme there are the democratic fundamentalists, who call for sanctions accompanied by constant hectoring and attempts to delegitimize the present regime. This is a dangerous course, threatening to turn Russia into an avowed opponent and undermining cooperation on any number of common challenges. Russian and Western interests coincide on numerous foreign policy issues, including concern over nuclear weapons in Iran and ensuring a reasonably pacific Afghanistan. The Northern Distribution Network acts as an alternative to the Pakistan route into Afghanistan, and Russia has established a transit centre in Ulyanovsk to facilitate the removal of matérial and forces from Afghanistan.

Democratic fundamentalists are challenged by those advocating engagement. It is here that the alleged gulf between realism and capitulationism is shown to be demonstrably false. Engagement does not necessarily mean ignoring the evident failings of the present regime in Russia; indeed, it bears additional responsibility for the clear and principled enunciation of the normative standards as embodied in the Council of Europe. However, this stops short of trying to provoke ‘regime change’ by unconstitutional means. It calls for evolutionary adaptation to CoE norms, including mass pressure through demonstrations (condemning too restrictive limitations on the right to meet and protest), designed to limit the arbitrary and unaccountable power of the regime while strengthening the institutions and practices of the constitutional state.

Old patterns of hegemony are being challenged by emerging powers, and the question then becomes whether the transition to a new geopolitics can be a managed and consensual process, or whether, as so often in the past, it will be accompanied by hubris and war. 

Anatoly Karlin
Da Russophile

I recently began reading Martin Malia’s Russia under Western Eyes. One of the key points he makes early on is that the Western view of Russia has rarely corresponded well with its objective strength or the actual threat it posed. To the contrary, it is when "institutions and culture” converge that the West’s "evaluation of Russia tends toward the positive”; when they diverge, the reverse. So by that theory, relations should be pleasant; after all, in terms of political systems and values, the West and Russia are far closer now than they have even been in history.

This makes it all the more puzzling that half the US foreign policy establishment remains entrenched in Cold War thinking. Romney belongs to them. A man who now has a 39% chance of becoming President, according to Intrade, declared Russia to be a "our number one geopolitical foe.” But unlike the case in the Cold War, it is a divergence that now most afflicts the US and its satellites – namely, the idée fixe that it is globally "exceptional”, and thus called forth to express global "leadership.” This translates into the belief that it can dictate its terms – from support for the Iraq War to the pursuit of Wikileaks – to other powers without negotiation (for anything else is appeasement!), and woe unto the VIRUS’s that oppose it (a cute neocon acronym standing for Venezuela, Iran, Russia).

Needless to say, such attitudes make mockeries of any genuine democracy promotion. As long as you pay the requisite cultural tribute, you get off scot free – "Bahrain’s bosses understand modern symbolism about minorities so well that the Arab kingdom’s ambassador to Washington is a Jewish woman.” They might not understand the Hippocratic Oath near so well, imprisoning doctors for treating wounded protesters, but that is of little consequence next to anti-Iranian orientations and the US naval base there. Meanwhile, Venezuela is demonized by the Cold Warriors for daring to elect a socialist to power in Latin America, even though it has some of the structurally freest and fairest elections in the world. Their hatred of Russia ultimately boils down to the same roots: It resists.

There are three ways this impasse can end. The first, and most incredible way, would be for the residual Cold Warriors to stop thinking of the world in Manichean terms, with themselves playing God’s role. The second would be for Russia to become a client state of the US. This is not going to happen short of the likes of Gary Kasparov and Lilia Shevtsova coming to power.

The third possibility is by far the likeliest, as it is already occurring. Back in the 1990’s, Western Diktat politics in relation to Russia typically worked – because it was in crisis, and had no other powers to work with. They believe this is still the case, and not only the neocons: In 2009, Biden said Russia had a "shrinking population base… a withering economy”, and a banking system unlikely to "withstand the next 15 years.”). This would presumably give Russia no choice but to fall in line. They are wrong. In real terms, the Chinese economy may have overtaken the US as early as in 2010; a constellation of other sovereign, non-Western powers such as Brazil, Turkey, India, and South Africa are attaining new prominence. With the EU in permaslump, the US and Japan under accumulating mountains of debt, and oil futures now permanently sloped upwards, a new world is arising in which modernization is no longer synonymous with Westernization. Russia is one of its key players, just like the other BRIC’s.

One can’t resist gravity forever. Once the requisite relative political, economic, and cultural mass is no longer there, ideological Cold Wars will become as unsustainable as Western hegemony itself.

Edward Lozansky
President, American University in Moscow,
Professor of World Politics, Moscow State University 

The big question for the future historians will be to figure out why after the collapse of Communism and of the USSR the West, led indisputably by the United States, failed to integrate its prodigal son Russia into the alliance of free and democratic nations, for that is the way they like to describe themselves. There had been successful precedents, after all, in the case of Germany and Japan after their defeat in WWII. Such a move would have been all the more natural since the Russians could not be accused of killing hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, the way Germans and Japanese had done. More than that, even under the Communist rule Russians had fought shoulder to shoulder with the Allies in WWII and made a major and, in fact, decisive contribution to the Allies' victory.

So what is so special about Russia or Russians that the successful experiments with Germany and Japan could not be repeated with that country? After all, it is well known that, when Russia liberated itself and all other so-called captive nations from Communist rule, America enjoyed overwhelming popularity among the Russian people.

Why then almost all of the former Soviet republics -- except Russia! -- were given special terms for speedy integration into the EU or NATO while all Russia's advances to the West from the Yeltsin, Putin and Medvedev administrations have been unceremoniously turned down?

These failures of Western policy-makers not only have been harmful to Russia's post-Communist development; they heavily undermined the security and geopolitical standing of the United States as well.

For any unbiased observer there is clear evidence that Russia is slowly, and in some areas not so slowly, evolving in the right direction. It is a fact of life that in the last 20 years the country has made giant strides toward freedom and democracy. However, numerous Western politicians, pundits, and especially the media continue to cynically treat Russia as if it were the same old USSR or something even worse. All this at a time when the West is experiencing dramatic economic, financial and security challenges. It thus remains a mystery that instead of seeking partnership with Russia to meet these common challenges, we continuously push it to the opposite side of the barricades.

There is at present an urgent need to reevaluate such harmful policies and reject them as being extremely detrimental to the interests of the USA and its allies. Realpolitik is based on a clear-eyed assessment of what will advance your interests in the world. Russia may not be where we would like it to be politically now, but it has come a long way in a relatively short time. We cannot expect the habits of centuries to fall away overnight just because we want them to. If you advocate democracy, you have to accept that the people may not vote the way you want because of those habits, and you cannot punish them for voting "wrongly." It ill serves the goal of democracy promotion to continually jab a stick in Russia's eye for emotional and political effect only.

Whether some folks like it or not, we will have to deal with Putin for at least the next six years, and neither he nor the overwhelming majority of Russians appreciate constant lecturing and moralizing from Washington and Brussels. The West should leave Russia's internal affairs to its many and diverse peoples. We have already done our impressive share of poor economic and political advising that has transformed Russia's largely pro-American society of 1991 into a society which - putting it quite mildly - is pretty skeptical about U.S. intensions.

Judging by US media's hysteria and statements expressed by some hot-headed politicians, we should hurry up encircling Russia with antimissile shields as well as doubling our efforts to promote democracy over there by funding the supposedly West-leaning opposition and by using other available instruments which have been previously tested and applied in many color revolutions.
This attitude simply ignores the miserable failures of such revolutions in both the post-Soviet space and now in the Middle East, where democracy promotion actually results in heavy weapons quickly falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda. Not only is it a terrible waste of taxpayers' money at a time of huge deficits and the US national debt increasing to mind-boggling levels; it marks a further devaluation of Western democratic values, those same values that we are trying to impose on the rest of the world.

During the last 20 years we have heard many statements about failed US policies towards Russia. Republicans blamed Democrats, Democrats blamed Republicans. US media are also contributing their huge share of disinformation. Regrettably, there are not too many voices of reason that one can hear these days though such voices are desperately needed. We should tone down the rhetoric and activate the Reset button, to make sure it is calibrated to operate in areas that advance a bilateral relationship well worth cultivating.
Let the Russians themselves decide their fate. The United States and other Western countries should concentrate on developing a positive and productive security and economic cooperation agenda with Russia.

Dmitry Mikheyev
Former Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, teaches "Leadership in the 21st century” at various business-schools in Moscow

Will American foreign policies change with either candidate’s election? Only in rhetoric and the emphasis on the instrumentation (soft power or hard power), but not in substance. Too deep are the roots...

George Bush Jr. succinctly expressed what all American presidents from Washington and Jefferson, to Theodor Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, to Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama have claimed: "America is a nation with a mission, and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs.” These "most basic beliefs” are American exceptionalism and "Manifest Destiny." 

America's exceptionalism goes back to the most radical wing of dissenting Protestantism. Puritans were driven by a super-ambition of transforming the world into the Kingdom of God in which every sphere of human life should be reconstructed upon the sacred Word of God. In early-nineteenth century their mission was rekindled and modified into "Manifest Destiny" which has become America’s raison d’être to this day. The "Manifest Destiny" concept rests on two irrational myths -- of racial (Anglo-Saxon) and religious (the one and only true religion) superiority. These basic assumptions underline "American Creed”, the sense of being special, chosen by God for a greater mission of remaking the world which went awry. 

Any exceptionalism, however, can shine bright only against the dark background of "others.” Here is where Russia comes in handily. I’ve just finished reading "Putin’s New Russia,” which, despite tremendous factual material, left the key questions unanswered. Why are the Western elites so obsessed with cultivating Russia’s image as an intrinsically reactionary, imperialist power, a major threat to Western civilization? Are they paranoid and imagine threats where there are none? Are they foolish to seek confrontation with great powers like China and Russia? Are they so blinded by hatred that they are simply unable to see that the Evil Empire is no more? Are they simply stupid and don’t they see what so is clear to all of us – that "Putin’s New Russia” is a normal, inward-looking nation preoccupied with modernization and raising the living standards? 

I leave it to our European brethren to speculate about what motivates European elites to alienate Russia instead of seeking an alliance with her. But as one who had spent fifteen years in the trenches of the Cold War with American neoconservatives and fundamentalists I can speak confidently about their mindset. 

Russia occupies a very special place in their hearts and no other country, no assortment of bin-Ladens can substitute her there. 

Russia reminds them of their frontier legacy, their heroic past of rugged individualists who forged American "national character.” They see huge landmass of wilderness, sparsely populated by largely savage people who sit on a treasure trove of natural resources, which belong to God's chosen people. For their part, the liberals see Russia’s undemocratic, authoritarian and imperialistic "national character” in her DNA. Add the fact that Russian Orthodox Church is not separated by the Jeffersonian wall from government and thus is an ex-officio state religion. 

For evangelicals (44% of the population), Russia is also the only country which can lead the Antichrist’s coalition force in the Battle of Armageddon. They see a crippled Evil Empire coming back as a major world power. As George Bush Jr. might say, Evil Empire was defeated but evil has not been eradicated. Russia makes the perfect adversary because: 1. Russians are white but not quite – their blood is "tainted with the Mongolian”; 2. they are Christians but not the "right denomination”, 3. they are rugged and sturdy, as Anglo-Saxons used to be centuries ago but are no more; 4. they are terrifying in war -- look what they did to the best army of Europe less that seventy years ago. And, finally, they are smart: look at Putin’s IQ (in the range of 170 or so) and compare him with Bush’s or Romney’s (probably in low 90-s). All this makes Russia the only formidable opponent worthy of the God ordained "empire of liberty.”

For the dichotomized Manichaean American mentality, both liberal and conservative, the fact that Russia refuses to join the countries which accept America’s moral superiority and leadership places her firmly in the camp of the evil. As Bush Jr. said: "We are going to eradicate evil in the world, and those who are not with us are against us.”

It all may look stupid, hypocritical and crazy ... but only in the mind of universal humanists. Only naive dreamers and humanists like us can think that peace and harmony are better than perpetual wars; that unity, cooperation and integration are better for the economy, stability and prosperity of mankind. Only hopeless idealists can think that coordinated efforts are more effective in overcoming the global economic crisis and in dealing with rogue dictators. Only bleeding-heart liberals can think, quoting Vlad Sobell, that "a system of balanced power in which the major players treat one another as equals, respect their vital interests and strive for peaceful relations is in the interest of all concerned.” 

American elites’ fear, suspicion and hostility toward Russia rest on a totally different Weltanschauung – on the Hobbesian worldview of universal enmity and struggle. They see the world steeped in corruption, ignorance, superstition and oppression and the United States as chosen people ordained with a mission to spread freedom, democracy and civilization. As Bush Jr. said, ''Our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world of justice and inclusion and diversity without division.”    

Put in doubt the nation’s self-identity and raison d’être and you will kill it. This is what unravelled the Soviet Union. This is why no American president will take away the glue which holds this patchwork-quilt of cultures together – the sense of exceptionalism and Divine mission. They have no option but to keep fighting by resorting to all available means.  

Anthony Mele
AMI Global Security

Some Lessons From SDI - Then and Now.

George Kennan makes the correct observation that NATO expansion filled a vacuum that need not be filled, but from the Western perspective, the optics were equally important symbolically to re-integrate the East into the community of free nations. 

As one high ranking former intelligence official notes; " ...the prospect of NATO membership for East Europe definitely triggered increased and very effective cooperation on issues of mutual concern like terrorism that has become institutionalized and strengthened up to the present. As far as sparking a new Cold War, I believe that would have happened anyway, as has been done under Putin, NATO expansion or not."

As a matter of practicality to US Intelligence and Military arena's, this fresh relationship fostered new cooperation on issues of mutual interest like global terrorism and trade that continue to serve all involved to this day.

NATO was created as a defensive shield in response to the Warsaw Pact, others will argue Warsaw Pact was created to counter the NATO threat. What was accomplished is it drew the demarcation lines between East and West. ICBM's presented humanity with the most destructive potential imaginable that could wipe out life as we know it. Be it from extended winters caused by the Nuclear Freeze or destruction by Nuclear Fire offered us the freeze - fried postulations. Populations were held hostage to this Cold War paradigm. Until SDI emerged alongside the invention of the micro-chip and changed everything.

To get a clearer perspective of the view from present day Moscow, we should revisit the SDI negotiations of the Soviet era; " In short, SDI places before Moscow the following problem: to survive, it must compete, to compete, it must reform; yet to reform is to admit the bankruptcy of the communist regime, and to make clear the unwisdom of totalitarian control." [Dmitry Mikheyev, The Soviet Perspective on the Strategic Defense Initiative, 1985]

Gorbachev stated in 1985: "that the demise of SDI was the number one foreign policy objective of the Soviet Union." [Confessions of a Cold Warrior; Graham; page 189]

Today, Moscow's position remains the same. The policy of non-benign hegemony over East Europe and the demise of any type of missile defense deployed by the US to protect their populations.  Times have changed, but the reason's that foster this thinking resistant to strategic defense remain founded in the massive investment made in first strike ICBM capability would be rendered useless.  

This is historically true of all super weapons of the past. So too, will the nuclear ballistic missile lose its' strategic importance and prestigious luster to "all states, large and small" [Graham: page 191], when these class of offensive weapons are made obsolete by their exploitable vulnerability to technological defense.

In 1982,Marshal of the USSR Ogarkov told the Politiburo that SDI is both "desirable and inevitable."  The paradigm against the idea of missile defense back then and today, both end up in the same place.  They call for the Russian and American people to be held hostage to ICBMs and defense-less against their deployment by anyone who possesses them.

Missed opportunities back then on this issue are haunting us again in present day. Both the US and Russia, can share in missile defense systems that are incapable of causing any harm whatsoever. 

"For the destruction of enemy rockets and not for hitting any objectives on the enemy's territory".. wrote General Nikolai Talentsky, former editor of the Soviet General Staff journal Military Thought.  He was explaining that such defenses would be activated only "when the act of aggression has been started." [Graham; pg.192]

So long as the prospect of Russian/US strategic ICBM's loom in a world where nuclear proliferation is wound to leap forward or escape the "Jinn's bottle", all other matters of Russian/US relationship will be overshadowed. President Obama's open mic. moment with former President Medeyev did little to quell the psychological component of mistrust, too few are willing to discuss openly, alluding to US capitulation to Moscow's long stated goal of returning to the paradigm of Mutual Assured Destruction, and abandoning the East European's to the perception, if not the practice of undue hegemony.

The answer has long been as obvious, as much as it has been elusive. Mutual Assured Cooperation thinking should replace Mutual Assured Destruction thinking in order to achieve Mutually Assured Survival of nations. How much are globalist, internationalist, one-worlder views influencing intelligensia, academia, and political leadership on this issue remains to be seen, but it remains the duty of free people to preserve the virtue of individualism over collectivism and nationalism over globalism. Let's not lose sight of that.

The American and Russian personalities I've quoted, pointed out long ago the missed opportunities and projected outcomes back then, we are witnessing presently. Then as now, the thinking remains unchanged, so thereto the outcomes as well. Let not our missed opportunity be learning the lessons from their errors back then, and avoiding them today. 

[Sources:  Confessions of a Cold Warrior, Daniel O. Graham]
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