Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Two Paths On Russia

There are different gradations of positions in an approach to Russia between an accommodationist and a confrontational stance.

I remain where I have been for years; we need to have a respectful but realist approach to Russia. She sees us as her primary opponent, but we have no desire for such and should not encourage her paranoia.

There are many places where we can work together, and we should happily grow our cooperation there. Those places our interests do not overlap, we should stand a reasonable ground, but not unnecessarily provoking a nation who has, rightfully, a not so slight streak of insecurity.

Thomas F. Remington over at TheNationalInterest gets close to where I am on Russia - a bit off in a few areas, but close;
Rhetoric matters, but it has to be backed up consistently with actual behavior. Gratuitous gestures, such as Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s December 2013 visit to the Maidan rally, are foolish: they reinforce the paranoia of the Putin team while failing to bring about constructive change.

More generally, the next U.S. administration must shift its ideological focus from supporting “color revolutions” around the world—which in recent times have never resulted in democracy—and instead promote good governance as our primary aspiration. We should say that we want to see effective, honest and accountable governments that serve the interests of their peoples and enable countries to cooperate internationally to solve urgent global tasks.
While U.S. rhetoric and actions need to be consistent, the United States must recognize that Putin has increasingly staked the legitimacy of his regime on a hysterical anti-U.S. propaganda campaign. He is trying to foster a wartime atmosphere, and we should do nothing to give him opportunities to further this line. It is not in our power to force Putin to reverse course, but we should look for opportunities to deny him cheap public-relations victories. We should continue to point out that his posture is not benefiting Russia’s international positions, nor its economic well-being. And we must state again and again that we want Russia to be strong and prosperous, a source of stability in its neighborhood.
There is, of course, another option - a more aggressive option.

I would feel a little more comfortable with James Poulos's robust stance over at TheWeek if our allies in Europe were spending close to 3% of GDP on defense - or at least 2% - as a signal that they can back our play, but they aren't. As such, I think defending Europe to the last American while those nations closest to Russia barely spend 1% of GDP to help defend against the bear - is a bit much.

That being said, I can appreciate the verve;
While we reasonably fret about homegrown neo-Nazis, China is busy consolidating a truly neo-fascist regime — ethno-nationalist, corporatist, and conflict-hungry to boot — of historically unprecedented reach and ambitions. If Trump loses Europe to Russia, he would exacerbate all of these problems, no matter how inclined he might be to share some global responsibility with Russia.

Annoying as the unending political drama of Europe may be, America can't just wash its hands of the mess (a lesson President Obama should have learned on Day One of his administration, but will leave office never having mastered). Even if Trump doesn't always want to surround himself with the very smartest people, he'll soon find that, here, he's already surrounded. Even if he doesn't realize that he must stop Putin from his long-held goal of expanding into Europe, the people around Trump, and the veteran experts in America's "deep state," will absolutely know this.

If you want to make America great again, you've got to make its continental presence in Europe great again, too. However much Trump may wheel and deal with the Russians, only one country can have the upper hand in Europe — a fact that ensures he can't jump into bed with them, too.
I'm sorry James, I just can't fully align with you. Emotionally, I am right with you - but when the first flush works its way out of the blood - no. 

We can't love Western Europe more than the Europeans. When our NATO allies have more population and GDP than we do, having hundreds of thousands of Americans garrisoning positions a day's march around the Oder, Narva, and Prut rivers because they won't shift funds from their armies of the idle and entitled? No.

We don't have to be Russia's friend - I don't think she really can have any or wants any. We also do not have to provoke her to be any more confrontational, flinty, or paranoid than she was, is, and will be.

She respects power and even more than that - others who respect themselves and their position. We should be firm and demand respect - but not to be foolishly looking for problems.

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