After Obama made his promise to the Russians that he would sell America out on missile defense and other issues after the November election, which he’s arrogantly confident of winning, Mitt Romney criticized him for that, saying, quite rightly, that Obama should not be offering concessions to America’s “Number One geopolitical foe”.
As soon as he said that, pro-appeasement figures in DC, in and out of government, went furious and accused Romney of clinging to Cold War stereotypes and trying to start another Cold War. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also reacted sharply, making the same claims. (Russia has officially endorsed Obama, knowing that he’s a softie whom the Russians can push around and force to make unilateral concessions.) State Secretary Hillary Clinton claimed that Romney had “dated information” and that he doesn’t know what the US and Russia agree on and what they disagree on.
But Romney is right. While Russia is not strictly America’s #1 geopolitical foe (that dubious distinction belongs to China, whose rise is the biggest challenge to America), Russia is indeed a hostile state, based on it actions, not Medvedev’s pretty words.
Russia supplies anti-American regimes around the world with weapons, a shield from sanctions at the UN Security Council, and oftentimes, nuclear reactors and nuclear fuel. It supports the Communist regimes in Cuba and Venezuela (and supplies the latter with tons of modern weapons, including SAMs, fighters, and rifles). It shields North Korea and Iran from serious sanctions at the UNSC and supplies the latter with nuclear reactors and fuel (which Iran is using to produce nuclear weapons). Indeed, if Russia hadn’t done that, there would’ve been NO Iranian nuclear crisis today. It also sells weapons to Tehran, as it does to Syria (where those weapons are used to slaughter civilians), whom it also shields at the UNSC from accountability with its veto.
Russia, which has perpetrated aggression against one of its neighbors (Georgia) in recent years, still maintains troops on its territory (as defined by its internationally-recognized borders) is now waging an arms race against the US, fueled by very high oil and gas prices ($110/bbl, higher than ever since the 1970s). It plans to acquire, among other things, 400 new ICBMs, 8 new SSBNs, and hundreds of modern fighterplanes and 200 Su-34 fighter-bombers in the next decade, and will spend $770 bn in total on new weapons for its military (which it can afford due to high oil prices). Vladimir Putin says explicitly that this buildup is aimed at catching up with the US. Russia already possesses strategic nuclear parity with the US and a huge lead in tactical nuclear weapons. It is threatening to withdraw from the New START treaty and to deploy nuclear weapons on its western and southern borders if the US deploys any missile defense system in Europe. It has threatened to nuke Poland “as a first priority” if it allows the US to deploy missile defense systems on its soil, and in 2007 threatened to aim its nuclear-armed missiles at all European countries if any American BMD systems were deployed in Europe.
And contrary to Russia’s lies that these systems would undermine its nuclear deterrent, 10 interceptors would hardly be a threat to Russia’s arsenal of hundreds of ICBMs, SLBMs, bombers, and bomber-launched cruise missiles. What Russia really opposes is an alliance between Central European countries (such as Poland and the Czech Republic), which were freed from Moscow’s yoke only 2 decades ago, with Washington. As LTG Henry “Trey” Obering, a former Director of the MDA said in 2008, Russia did not actually raise any objections to missile defense in Europe in talks with the US until Washington revealed plans to deploy them specifically in Poland and the CR. It did not object at the time to placing a radar in Britain. Russia knows that missile defense poses no threat to its nuclear deterrent and is lying through its teeth; it merely opposes Poland’s and CR’s free choices, as sovereign countries, to ally themselves with whomever they choose. (In the 1990s, Moscow tried its best to keep these countries out of NATO.) Before these countries came under Moscow’s yoke in 1945, half of Poland was overrun by the Soviets in 1939 (and the USSR never gave back the territory it occupied) and 50 thousand of its officers were murdered in Katyn, and before that, Poland was attacked by them in 1920 but defended itself. Before that, for 123 years from 1795 to 1918, there wasn’t even a Polish state because of the partitions of Poland that occurred in the late 18th century, with Tsarist Russia being the principal partitionary power. So Warsaw and Prague have good reasons to be afraid of Russia.
Threats, subjugation, blackmail, and in Georgia’s case, aggression are the methods Russia uses to conduct is foreign policy.
And don’t get me started on its human rights record. Just ask the families of Alexander Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya or Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant for opinion on that.
Or, as Russian affairs expert Kim Zigfeld writes:
“To his great credit, Republican challenger Mitt Romney confronted Obama directly over his outrageous policy of appeasement towards Russia. He expressed alarm that Obama was “looking for greater flexibility where he doesn’t have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia” and reminded Obama that Russia is “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world’s worst actor. The idea that he has more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed.”
That’s dead right. Russia has deluged Syria with powerful weaponry that has been used to carry out mass murder against women and children, and it has stood by Syria in all this against a tide of world opinion. Russia supported Egyptian dictatorship; it supports Iran; it supports Cuba and Venezuela. It supports American enemies wherever it finds them around the world, and that should surprise nobody.
Russia is ruled by a proud KGB spy who spent his entire life learning how to hate and destroy America and her values. To suggest that Putin would somehow magically decide to throw away his life’s work just because the USSR collapsed is fanciful nonsense.”
It’s fanciful, indeed. It’s a delusion, but for many people, their delusions are “truths”. Medvedev himself has accused Romney of 70s’-style talk and a “Cold War mentality”, but it is Russia that actually uses Cold War language about the US, and judged by its behavior, Russia is indeed behaving like the Soviet Union – aggressively, unfriendly, and unhelpfully – towards the US. Romney is merely stating the facts. (But, as usual, stating the facts can get you into trouble.)
Even Afghanistan and the Northern Distribution Network is no proof of Russian “cooperation” or friendliness. Defeating Islamists in Afghanistan (and more broadly, Central Asia) is in Russia’s interests moreso than in America’s, because Russia is in close proximity to it and has troops in countries that neighbor Afghanistan. Islamic terrorism is even more of a threat to Russia than to the US, which is thousands of miles away (although still in danger). Russia did it out of its own selfish interest, not to help the US. And that one action hardly disproves the thesis that Moscow is a foe, or at least a dangerous rival, of America.
So, judged by its actions, Russia IS a geopolitical foe of the US, although not the biggest one – that dubious distinction belongs to China.
Those of us like me and Mitt Romney who are sounding the alarm bells about Russia are the true realists. We base our assessment of Russia based on the real world, on Russia’s ACTIONS.
Those who defend Obama’s failed “reset policy” and continue to advocate appeasement towards Moscow are the ignorant hacks here. They are unrealistic, naive children, dreaming of a pro-American Russia that ceased to exist when Yeltsin left office and will not arise again for decades, if ever.
Mitt Romney is absolutely right to point that Russia is a foe and to criticize Obama. I wish he’d go even further and call Obama’s “reset policy” what it is: a dismal failure that must be ended immediately.