The Russian invasion and dismantling of Georgian infrastructure and military has led some to call for a new Cold War against Russia. As Putin-Medvedev debilitated Georgia, they knew there would be no substantial and credible responses from NATO, the EU, and the United States. They were right. The failure to anticipate Russian moves and the consequences of such actions has created an unnecessary quandary to which the Secretaries of State and Defense are sending mixed messages. The Secretary of State speaks in soft diplomatic language inappropriate for the situation while the Secretary of Defense speaks in blunt language that is far less equivocal.
Let us have no illusions. Putin and Medvedev are running an autocratic, nationalist, and sometimes cruel Russia that would like to become an arbiter of global energy markets, particularly in natural gas, and seeks to reassert Russian hegemony over weak neighbors. Russia, however, is not the totalitarian Soviet Union, either internally or as a military threat. We are not seeing the mighty Red Army that once threatened to storm the Fulda Gap; that the competent movement of a few armored brigades into tiny Georgia is cause for Western amazement shows how far Russia has fallen as a great power, not how high it is rising.
Calls for a new Cold War with Russia because we have been embarrassed by the inept performance of a client state are wrongheaded, at times venal but certainly detrimental to American national security. We have potential national interests and a few vital ones that span all the states of the former Soviet Union, including Russia. Not to mention a real shooting war with al-Qaeda and other forces of Islamist terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We need, at the highest levels of government, to sit down and take the long view of what America’s strategic policy toward Russia should be, in a process free of the input of registered foreign agents and special interest K Street lobbyists.
On some issues the United States will need to lead in opposing Russia and on others we will seek her cooperation. But to declare Russia our enemy, out of misplaced Cold War nostalgia or on behalf of allies who will continue to do business as usual with Moscow while we bear all of the costs, is to play the fool.
With the additional saber rattling by Russia in response to the agreement with Poland to deploy interceptors, Russia is playing a dangerous game and unless we do plan strategically with our allies, the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are rightly concerned.
Read all of Mark’s editorial here.