President Obama, through Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, boasted of a “reset” with Russia at the outset of his first term.
Since then, Russia has run diplomatic interference for both Iran and Syria, the Russian military is spending $700 billion modernizing its nuclear and conventional forces, the West has been threatened with retaliation for creating a NATO defensive system and the Russian Duma has banned Americans from adopting Russian orphans, which harms only the already-hurting children.
No, said members of a panel who discussed the “failure” of the “Russian reset” by the Obama administration today.
The event was hosted by the Heritage Foundation and featured Vladimir Kara-Murza, a senior policy adviser at the Institute of Modern Russia; Stephen Blank, research professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Army War College; and Katrina Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation.
Host was Ariel Coehn, the senior research fellow for Russian and Eurasian Students and International Energy Policy, The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies.
Kara-Murza said that the “essence of the reset” occurred on March 5, 2012, when the U.S. State Department congratulated the “fraudulent election of a dictator.”
He said the naïve and pragmatic approach in engaging Russia has led to important issues falling by the wayside, issues such as human rights and Russia strife-filled relationships with neighbors such as Georgia, Ukraine and Belarus.
And Russo-American relations have “been the worse since the collapse of the USSR,” Kara-Murza said.
The “rationale” of this reset, according to Blank, was that “Russia could be persuaded to cooperate with vital American interests and then would downplay other” hot contentious areas such as Georgia and Ukrainian membership in NATO.
“There are three main issues of Russo-American relations,” Blank said, “Arms control, regional security in Eurasia and human rights.”
“We’ve had good results” on strategic arms reduction, said Blank, citing how Obama has been very pro-active towards Russia and denuclearization. However, the result of Obama’s effort now is an imbalance in nuclear arms.
“The Russians have about 2,000 tactical nukes,” Blank said, “while the USA has about 500 aging, tactical nukes.”
This, in his opinion, increases Russia’s ability to “use force abroad.”
And it gives Russia a stronger ability to regain lost territory in Central Asia, where the United States is disengaging and Russia is pushing forward for a new Eurasian Union.
“Basically we have disengaged from Eurasia,” Blank said. “There is….no Central Asia policy beyond Afghanistan…and human rights is second on the list [of American policy priorities] at best.”
Swett said, “Shame on us for our shortsightedness in looking out for solely our interests” while ignoring human rights.
Additionally, on Iran, Blank said that the Russians “are opposed to any further sanctions with Iran.”
He also added that a nuclear Iran is not in “Russia’s interests but they do not want to do anything about it.”
Regarding Russian domestic policy, the panel made comparisons between President Vladimir Putin and Stalin.
And panel members accused Russian of becoming more like Pakistan.
Swett noted the nation’s new “blasphemy laws,” under which is is a “crime to affront the religious rituals of Russia’s traditional religions.”