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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Cohen on the new Cold War Declared by Putin at Munich

Writing in Human Events Aril Cohen, a senior research fellow in Russian and Eurasian studies and international energy security at the Allison Institute, a division of the Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage Foundation, explains the underlying neo-Soviet pathology of Putin's crazed declaration of cold war at Munich, and calls for America to form ties with opposition groups to avoid the creation of an anti-American, neo-Soviet bloc:

The cold shower that Russian President Vladimir Putin unleashed on the United States at the international security conference in Munich last weekend should not have come as a surprise. After all, Putin himself and a host of other senior spokesmen, including Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov (one of the "official" heirs-apparent) and military Chief of Staff General Yuri Baluevsky, have said as much in the past.

The list of grievances that Putin lodged against the United States and the West is long. The main complaint is that the American "hyper power" is pursuing its own unilateral foreign, defense, cultural and economic policy, disregarding international law, and ignoring the U.N. (where Russia has a veto). French President Jacques Chirac would be proud. However, Russia takes its opposition much further.

Putin accused the U.S. of expanding NATO to Russia's borders and deploying "five thousand bayonets" each in forward bases in Romania and Bulgaria. He blasted the plans for U.S. missile defense bases in Central Europe, possibly in Poland or the Czech Republic, mocking the stated goal of such installations as defenses against missile launches from Iran or North Korea. Putin clearly stated that the missile defenses are aimed to neutralize Russian retaliatory nuclear strike capability -- a destabilizing factor in the Russian nuclear playbook.
He further accused Washington of not meeting its obligations on nuclear disarmament treaties and trying to hide hundreds of nuclear weapons in warehouses, "under the blanket and under the pillow."

Adding to the rhetorical overkill, Putin blamed U.S. policies for the failure of nuclear non-proliferation, implying justification for North Korean and Iranian efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Putin lambasted NATO members that refuse to ratify the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty; criticized the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for democracy promotion; warned against Kosovo's independence; and rejected Western criticisms of Russia's track record in human rights. Putin waxed nostalgic about the bi-polar world in which the U.S. and the USSR checked each other's ambition through a balance of nuclear terror known as Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). Many Russian and Western experts perceive Putin's speech as a declaration of a new Cold War.

Back to the Future?

Putin's speech has a number of domestic and international "drivers," which add up to a picture of Russia craving strategic parity with the United States and defining its national identity in opposition to the West.

While Russians enthusiastically embraced private business, designer brands, and Costa-del-Sol Spanish vacations, they were slow to internalize pluralistic values, support freedom of speech and press, and defend human rights. The rule of law in Russia is a far cry from Western standards.

Several years of increasingly loud anti-American and anti-Western propaganda in pro-government and nationalist media have nurtured a generation of Russians who are ethno-centric, and reject liberal values. Some 60 percent in a recent poll supported the slogan "Russia for Russians."

Sustained nationalist and anti-American brainwashing bridged the gap between the Soviet superpower chauvinism and the new Russian assertiveness, fueled by massive oil revenues and nationalism.

The "America-as-the-enemy" construct bolsters the legitimacy of the current regime, headed largely by former KGB officers, as the defender of Mother Russia. It rejects fully integrating Russia into the global economic and political community, as the other official "heir-apparent," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, suggested in his January 2007 speech at the Davos World Economic Forum.

Russia is planning to spend $189 billion in the next five years for a rapid military modernization. Announced on February 8 by Defense Minister Ivanov, the program includes new nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, a fleet of TU-160 supersonic strategic bombers, and development of a fifth-generation fighter jet. Such a program is clearly aimed at balancing U.S. military power, not fighting terrorists in the Caucasus mountains. It needs the U.S. as "glavny protivnik" -- the principal adversary.

Russia is also trying to corner the market in weapons sales, especially to rogue- and semi-rogue states. Russia is the largest arms supplier to China and Iran; it signed a $3 billion arms deal with Hugo Chavez's Venezuela over U.S. objections, and is courting Middle Eastern buyers.

Russia is happy to play into the Arab and Muslim street's anti-Americanism and to signal that the U.S., which is facing severe difficulties in Iraq, does not exercise exclusive strategic dominance in the Persian Gulf and in the Middle East. Moscow is back -- with a vengeance -- in the most important energy depot of the world. It is no accident that the speech was delivered on the eve of Putin's historic visit to Saudi Arabia, the first for any Russian or Soviet leader, and to Qatar and Jordan, America's allies in the Middle East.

Where Are We Going From Here?

From Washington's perspective, the timing of Putin's speech couldn' t be worse. With Iraq in limbo, and Iran remaining truculent, the chances for Russian cooperation in taming Teheran' s nuclear ambitions are dwindling. Russia was recalcitrant in providing necessary pressure on Iran during the December 2006 negotiations on U.N. Security Council Resolution 1737, and may refuse to do so when the Security Council revisits the Iranian dossier in a few weeks.

Moreover, Putin is signaling that Russia is willing to be the vanguard of the anti-American camp in Europe and the Middle East, and from Caracas to Beijing. Russia is putting not just military might behind its rhetoric, but economic muscle as well: Putin publicly approved of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's idea of creating an OPEC-style cartel for natural gas. Whether such a coalition materializes, and whether it might translate itself into a military alliance, remains to be seen.

What Should Washington Do?

The image of a new Cold War may be too simplistic to describe the emerging global world architecture. Clearly, the post-communist honeymoon is over, dead, and buried. A realistic reassessment of the relationship is in order.

The United States should avoid a rhetorical confrontation with Moscow. Deeds, not words, are necessary to send a message to the Kremlin that the U.S. and its allies will not be bullied, but that Washington is not interested in renewed hostility.

The U.S. should continue cooperation with Russia on matters of mutual concern, such as energy, non-proliferation, and space.

It is also time to build bridges to potential Russian allies to prevent the emergence of anti-American blocs. The U.S. should also appeal to its traditional allies in Europe and elsewhere to recognize the changing geo-strategic balance in the Eastern hemisphere, to boost mutual defenses, to coordinate energy policy, and cooperate on energy security among the consumers.

This is hardly the end of history, but rather continuation of an old and taxing game.


Vova said...

Ariel has a point but he is clearly uncomfortable writing in Russian

Anonymous said... publishes your hero Michelle Malkin. So I thought it would be relevant to have someone who is also published there - Patrick Buchanan - an American Nationalist - to express himself on the topic.

February 12, 2007
Doesn’t Putin Have a Point?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

"A soft answer turneth away wrath," teaches Proverbs 1:15.

Our new secretary of defense, Roberts Gates, seems familiar with the verse. For his handling of Saturday's wintry blast from Vladimir Putin at the Munich security conference was masterful.

"As an old Cold Warrior, one of yesterday's speeches almost filled me with nostalgia for a less complex time," said Gates, adding, "Almost."

A former director of the CIA, Gates went on to identify with Putin: "I have, like your second speaker yesterday ... a career in the spy business. And I guess old spies have a habit of blunt speaking.

"However, I have been to re-education camp, spending the last four-and-a-half years as a university president and dealing with faculty. And as more than a few university presidents have learned in recent years, when it comes to faculty it is either 'be nice' or 'be gone.'" (Gates calls for partnership with Russia in security matters,, February 11, 2007)

Gates added he would be going to Moscow to talk with the old KGB hand, who will be retiring as Russia's president around the time President Bush goes home to Crawford.


For one of the historic blunders of this administration has been to antagonize and alienate Russia, the winning of whose friendship was a signal achievement of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. And one of the foreign policy imperatives of this nation is for statesmanship to repair the damage.

What did we do to antagonize Russia?

When the Cold War ended, we seized upon our "unipolar moment" as the lone superpower to seek geopolitical advantage at Russia's expense.

Though the Red Army had picked up and gone home from Eastern Europe voluntarily, and Moscow felt it had an understanding we would not move NATO eastward, we exploited our moment. Not only did we bring Poland into NATO, we brought in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and virtually the whole Warsaw Pact, planting NATO right on Mother Russia's front porch.

Now, there is a scheme afoot to bring in Ukraine and Georgia in the Caucasus, the birthplace of Stalin.

Second, America backed a pipeline to deliver Caspian Sea oil from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey, to bypass Russia.

Third, though Putin gave us a green light to use bases in the old Soviet republics for the liberation of Afghanistan, we now seem hell-bent on making those bases in Central Asia permanent.

Fourth, though Bush sold missile defense as directed at rogue states like North Korea, we now learn we are going to put anti-missile systems into Eastern Europe. And against whom are they directed?

Fifth, through the National Endowment for Democracy, its GOP and Democratic auxiliaries, and tax-exempt think tanks, foundations and "human rights" institutes such as Freedom House, headed by ex-CIA director James Woolsey, we have been fomenting regime change in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet republics and Russia herself.

U.S.-backed revolutions have succeeded in Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia, but failed in Belarus. Moscow has now legislated restrictions on the foreign agencies that it sees, not without justification, as subversive of pro-Moscow regimes.

Sixth, America conducted 78 days of bombing of Serbia for the crime of fighting to hold on to her rebellious province, Kosovo, and for refusing to grant NATO marching rights through her territory to take over that province. Mother Russia has always had a maternal interest in the Orthodox states of the Balkans.

These are Putin's grievances. Does he not have a small point?

Joe Lieberman denounced Putin's "Cold War rhetoric." But have we not been taking what cannot unfairly be labeled Cold War actions?

How would we react if China today brought Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela into a military alliance, convinced Mexico to sell oil to Beijing and bypass the United States, and began meddling in the affairs of Central America and Caribbean countries to effect the electoral defeat of regimes friendly to the United States?

How would we react to a Russian move to put anti-missile missiles on Greenland?

Gates says we have been through one Cold War and do not want another. But it is not Moscow moving a military alliance right up to our borders or building bases and planting anti-missile systems in our front and back yards.

Why are we doing this? This country is not going to go to war with Russia over Estonia. With our Army "breaking" from two insurgencies, how would we fight? By bombing Moscow and St. Petersburg?

Just as we deluded ourselves into believing the Iraq war would be a "cakewalk," that democracy would break out across the Middle East, that we would be beloved in Baghdad, so America today has undertaken commitments, dating to the Cold War and since, we do not remotely have the resources or will to fulfill.

We are living in a world of self-delusion.

Somewhere in this presidential campaign, someone has to bring us back to earth. The halcyon days of American Empire are over.

La Russophobe said...


Thanks for the comment and the link (though there's no need to post the entire article, especially if it doesn't mention Mr. Cohen's article, people can click through on your link if they are interested in reader it).

We're not sure if you're aware of it nor not, but Mr. Buchanan has run for office several time and been utterly repudiated by the American voters. Certainly, this blog has never once quoted his views on Russia with approval. The overwhelming majority of Americans (including members of both political parties) view him as an extremist crank, and therefore the fact the he's in Russia's corner is actually proof of how far gone Russia really is. His main claim to fame is being a speechwriter for Richard Nixon, the only American president ever forced to resign from office in disgrace.

Anonymous said...

I disagree, actually one of his "major claims to fame" was his public service - Mr Buchanan served for years as White House Communications Director for the Ronald Reagan administration. Oh, he's a NY Times bestselling author too.

As for your blog, I can't help but notice that there's too much... how to put it mildly - incitement to hatred. It would be interesting to see how future Federal Hate Speech legislation shapes up...