Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Bipartisan Experts Urge "Partnership" with Russia

A new report makes a series of recommendations to the new administration for finding common ground with Russia, after the U.S.-Russia relationship reached a new post-Cold War low last summer.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

(Inter Press Service)

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama should work hard on areas of common interest with Russia in order to build a "partnership, however uneasy," that would serve Washington’s interests in key areas, including nonproliferation, energy, and counterterrorism, according to a new report released this week by the Nixon Center and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.

The 17-page report is the product of a bipartisan task force of two dozen former senior government officials and independent experts with substantial experience in dealing with both the former Soviet Union and Russia. The report calls for, among other things, the new administration to shelve U.S. efforts to make Ukraine and Georgia full members of NATO and move promptly to eliminate Cold War trade restrictions with Moscow, and bring it into the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"A new, more forthcoming approach to Russia is far from guaranteed to succeed, but we are convinced that the risk in making the effort is smaller than the costs of a slide into hostility," asserted the report, which was presented by four task force members to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and his top national security aides in Moscow last week.

"If both Washington and Moscow are committed to improving their relationship, action to … gradually transform American relations with Russia into a partnership, however uneasy, could considerably advance U.S. goals from Iran to Afghanistan and beyond," it concluded.

The report, which has also been briefed by task force members to Vice President Joe Biden and Obama’s national security advisor, Gen. James Jones, comes amid indications that the new administration is indeed determined—at least rhetorically—to establish a more cooperative bilateral relationship. This would be a marked change from last summer when relations appeared to reach a post-Cold War low during and after the brief war between Russia and U.S.-backed Georgia.

In an important speech to the annual security conference in Munich last month, Biden made clear that Washington was looking for ways to, in his words, "press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia."

In her first meeting with her Russian counterpart, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even presented Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a yellow box with a large red "reset" button to drive the point home, although what was supposed to be the Russian translation on the box turned out to mean "overload."

The Obama administration, however, has made clear that it is prepared to reconsider its predecessor’s determination to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic—a major irritant for Moscow—in hopes of gaining Russia’s help on other priority issues. Most importantly, these include pressing Iran to freeze its uranium-enrichment program and possibly helping persuade the authorities in Kyrgystan to reverse their decision—reportedly inspired at least in part by Moscow—to deny Washington continued access to its Manas air base, a key hub for troops and supplies bound for Afghanistan.

The new report clearly favors such efforts, suggesting that they should be part of a larger and more comprehensive strategy based on a "much clearer definition of American interests and priorities and serious consideration of Russian interests," as well.

That it will get a serious hearing both in the White House and the Kremlin is virtually certain, given the stature of the task force’s members, which include several former U.S. ambassadors to Russia, including Thomas Pickering, who served under Bill Clinton, and Jack Matlock, who served under both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Other members of the task force, which was cochaired by two former senators, Republican Chuck Hagel and Democrat Gary Hart, included former national security advisors Robert McFarlane and Brent Scowcroft, former Treasury Secretary Peter Peterson; and the head of the Woodrow Wilson Center, former Congressman Lee Hamilton, who, like Scowcroft, has acted as an informal advisor to Obama and a number of whose protégés now occupy key posts in the national security council staff and the State Department.

Like the Nixon Center itself, the task force was also dominated by foreign policy realists, most of them Republicans, who clashed frequently on a range of issues—including relations with Russia—with neoconservatives and other hawks in the George W. Bush administration.

That battle is expected to continue as neoconservatives, in particular, have been arguing for months that Russia’s foreign policy ambitions, particularly its alleged desire to reassert control over former Soviet states of its "near abroad" and Europe’s energy supplies, as well as what they describe as its increasingly authoritarian tendencies, are fundamentally incompatible with both U.S. values and interests.

"Any ‘grand bargain’ the United States makes with Russia would be viewed in Moscow as a sign of desperation," recently wrote David Kramer, a neoconservative who led the State Department’s human rights bureau under Bush, suggesting that Moscow would be quick to take advantage. "[A]bove all, we must not bargain away our relations with Russia’s neighbors or our own values."

While the new report does not argue explicitly for such a "grand bargain," it makes a series of recommendations for finding common ground with Russia across a number of issue areas and regions.

On nonproliferation, for example, it calls making Russia a U.S. "partner" in dealing with Iran a "top priority." It also urges Moscow and Washington to work together to strengthen the international nonproliferation regime through existing and new international treaties and launching a "serious dialogue on arms control," including discussion of the "’nuclear zero’ goal articulated" by both Obama and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

It calls for a "new look" at missile-defense deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic to "make a genuine effort to develop a cooperative approach to the shared threat from Iranian and other missiles" and to "develop options other than NATO membership to demonstrate a commitment to the sovereignty of Ukraine and Georgia."

"Close U.S. Russian cooperation in Russia’s neighborhood is unlikely, but the United States should avoid zero-sum competition for influence there," according to the report. "The United States must recognize … that its interests are not identical to those of Russia’s neighbors and avoid becoming their instrument in dealing with Russia."

It also urges support for "European efforts to develop non-Russian sources of natural gas" while working with both Washington’s European allies and Russia to "develop a mutually acceptable system of rights and responsibilities for energy suppliers, transit countries, and consumers."

In addition, Washington should work for Russia’s growing integration into the global economy, through membership in the WTO, graduation from the Jackson-Vanik Amendment that tied preferential trade treatment to free immigration from Russia, and negotiating a bilateral investment treaty.

On human rights, the task force said Washington should "call attention to Russian leaders’ formal commitments to democracy and international obligations to protect human rights while respecting Russia’s sovereignty, history, and traditions, and recognizing that Russian society will evolve at its own pace."

Washington should also "ensure that U.S. behavior meets or exceeds the same standards and that statements about Russian conduct are proportionate to those directed at other governments."

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to PRA’s Right Web (https://rightweb.irc-online.org). His blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/.

Citations

By Jim Lobe, 'Bipartisan Experts Urge "Partnership" with Russia' Right Web with permission from Inter Press Service (Somerville, MA: PRA, 2009). Web location:
https://rightweb.irc-online.org/rw/4991.html Production Information:
Author(s): Right Web
Editor(s): Right Web
Production: Political Research Associates   IRC logo 1310 Broadway, #201, Somerville, MA   02144 | pra@publiceye.org

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a leading framer of the “global war on terror” and a staunch supporter of aggressive U.S. military action around the world.


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Right Web readers will be familiar with Mr. Fleitz, the former CIA officer who once threatened to take “legal action” against Right Web for publicizing reports of controversies he was associated with in the George W. Bush administration. Fleitz recently left his job at the conspiracy-mongering Center for Security Policy to become chief of staff to John Bolton at the National Security Council.


Norm Coleman is chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former senator from Minnesota known for his hawkish views on foreign policy.


Billionaire hedge fund mogul Paul Singer is known for his predatory business practices and support for neoconservative causes.


Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is a passionate supporter of Trump’s foreign policy.


Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest “pro-Israel” advocacy group in the United States, is known for its zealous Christian Zionism and its growing influence in the Republican Party.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


RightWeb
share