During his DNC nomination acceptance speech in Charlotte, President Obama launched a ridiculous foreign policy attack on Mitt Romney, criticizing him for designating Russia as “America’s #1 geopolitical foe”. Obama falsely claimed that Al-Qaeda, not Russia, is America’s #1 geopolitical foe “unless you live in the Cold War.”
It has been popular, at least among liberals, to accuse anyone who says that Russia may be a foe, a potential adversary, or even a disruptive rather than cooperative actor, of harboring a Cold War mindset or being a Cold War dinosaur. But let’s see if Russia is indeed a foe (or a potential adversary) of America or not? And does it fit Romney’s description of it as America’s #1 geopolitical foe?
Let’s start with definitions, because unless we get them right, we won’t be able to assess if Mitt Romney was right or wrong.
A geopolitical foe is a country which 1) is hostile to you; 2) poses a geopolitical, if not a national security, threat to you; and 3) makes trouble for you geopolitically (i.e. at least to your national interests around the world, if not directly to your homeland).
Does Russia fit that definition?
Russia is certainly hostile to the United States, as demonstrated by Vladimir Putin’s and other Russian officials’ statements and actions, and certainly poses a geopolitical, indeed national security, threat to the US. Their hostile statements and actions include:
- Putin’s slander of the US during the 2012 Russian presidential campaign.
- Blaming the 2000s economic crisis on the US.
- Threatening to aim ballistic missiles at Europe if missile defense systems are deployed on the continent.
- 14 threats to use nuclear weapons against the US and/or its allies since 2007 alone.
- Appointment of the vehemently-American, fiercely nationalist Dmitry Rogozin first as Russia’s Ambassador to NATO and now as Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister.
- Threats to start a new arms race unless the New START treaty were ratified.
- Conducting huge bomber exercises nearby Alaska in June 2012 (at the same time Obama and Putin were talking), the largest since 1991, involving bombers, escort fighters, tankers, and AWACSes, and done without notification, even though it was required by the New START treaty. After the exercises, the Russian AF, asked why they were holding that exercise, said they were “practicing an attack on the enemy” – their enemy being the US, of course.
- Conducting another bomber exercise nearby California (and possibly over CA, thus violating US airspace) on July 4th, 2012.
“Practicing an attack on the enemy”? Who behaves in that manner, if not a hostile state?
So Russia is certainly hostile, and poses a national security and geopolitical threat, to the US.
Indeed, Russia’s military buildup, including the development, production, and deployment of new ICBMs, SSBNs, SSNs, SSKs, and SRBMs, and significantly increased production of combat aircraft and plan to double the size of the Airborne Troops, is a threat to the US.
Moreover, Russia is busy making trouble for the US and threatening America’s geopolitical/national interests. To wit:
- It shields Iran, North Korea, and Syria diplomatically from the consequences of their WMD and ballistic missile programs and their domestic atrocities against their own people.
- It built Iran’s nuclear reactor in Bushehr and continues to provide nuclear fuel to Iran – nuclear fuel that is being enriched to ever-higher degrees and will be used in Iran’s nuclear weapons, perhaps against the US.
- It continues to provide weapons to Syria and Venezuela and is seriously flirting with the idea to deliver S-300 SAMs to Iran. These weapons could be used against Israeli or American troops.
- It has perpetrated an unprovoked, unjustified aggression against Georgia and continues to occupy 20% of the country.
So yes, Russia IS a geopolitical foe of the US. It is hostile towards America (as proven by both its actions and the rhetoric of top Russian officials); it has violated the New START treaty and practiced a large-scale bomber attack on the US; it has violated America’s airspace with its bombers (on July 4th no less); it has made repeated threats to aim and use its ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons against America and its allies; it is now conducting a large-scale buildup against the US; it continues to arm anti-American regimes and to provide them with diplomatic shielding; and it has perpetrated an aggression against one friend of the US.
So yes, by any honest standard, Russia IS a geopolitical foe of the US.
The only reason why it does not, arguably, qualify as America’s #1 geopolitical foe is because that dubious honor belongs to China, which is a even larger geopolitical and national security threat to the US than Russia.
To conclude, let’s let Heritage Foundation Russia expert Ariel Cohen have the last word:
“Russia’s continued defiance of U.S., Western, and Sunni Arab interests is a clear mark of disregard for the Obama Administration’s “reset” policy. Russia wants to see itself as an independent pole of a “multi-polar” world—but in Syria, this approach is backfiring. Some Russian policymakers understand that. Mikhail Margelov, a Middle East expert who taught Arabic in the KGB Academy and is now the chairman of the Russian Parliament’s upper house International Affairs Committee, said that Moscow has exhausted the arsenal of its means to support Assad. Hopefully, someone in the Kremlin is paying attention.
The list of the Obama Administration’s concessions to Russia is long—but they failed to earn cooperation on Syria. They included the cancellation of the “third site” in Poland and the Czech Republic, a ballistic missile defense plan for the protection of Europe and the U.S. homeland. The Administration toned down criticism of democratic norms and human rights violations, as Moscow stepped up its crackdown on peaceful protests in 2011 and manipulated the parliamentary election.
The White House pursued a policy of geopolitical neglect in the former Soviet Union and a lack of any tangible response regarding Russia’s strategic nuclear buildup. These concessions emboldened Russia to become even more bellicose and disregardful of U.S. interests.
Syria is yet another example of the “reset” policy backfiring. Lavrov’s cold shoulder treatment of the U.S. Secretary of State demonstrates that Moscow considers the Administration weak. The U.S. can’t afford to be pushed, least of all by a power with one-seventh of our GDP. Congress and the Administration should not tolerate Russian mischief, either domestic or geopolitical, such as in the case of Syria.”