Venezuela and Russia have begun joint naval exercises off the coast of Venezuela. These joint activities are the just reward of President Dick Cheney’s warped view of the globe and the times. The neoconservatives must be just rolling in their beds thinking this is just a nightmare. The Obama team has now seen a predictable but sobering reminder of what international relations are all about.
The Cheney/Bush era of picking on the weakest and not thinking about what always happens to a bully can be seen in their short sighted treatment of Russia. In 2000, Russia was an economically weak country which was having its own difficulties with Islamic insurgency. Russia was also experiencing “growing pains” in opening its country to democratic capitalism (in truth it looked more like hoodlums in suits). At a time when the opening existed for greater ties with the largest land mass country, Bush and friends chose to turn the other cheek, the one on their back side just below their waist.
1. Abrogating the ABM treaty and restarting the “star wars” program. This frightened the Russian right wingers and tilted the balance of power within Russia. Soon we heard that Russian arms reduction programs would be stopped.
2. Following 9/11, there was much sympathy expressed by the Russian Government despite their concerns about the ABM treaty. Russia supported the invasion of Afghanistan and provided over flight authority to America in supplying and supporting the invasion.
3. Deployment of the “star wars” anti-missiles. This confirmed in the mind’s of the Russian right wingers that you could not trust the Americans. There would be no more Mr Nice Guy.
4. No UN suport for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Russia advised against the invasion and did not offer any support. Instead Russia used the opportunity to work more closely with the Iranians who were clear to become the big winners following the US invasion.
5. NATO moves east. Not content to leave things alone, Bush/Cheney pushed NATO into expanding their members to include nations who were formerly members of the Soviet controlled Warsaw pact. If the anti-missiles sent Russia up the wall, this sent them over the edge. It was cold war time again.
6. Independance to Kosovo. While this process lies somewhat beyond the US’ ability to control, once Kosovo delared their independence, there was no requirement for the US to immediately announce recognition. The US did and the Russian were ready to get even. This came later with the Russian invasion of the Republic of Georgia.
7. US navy at Russia’s side door. Following the Russian invasion of Georgia (which has now been revealed to have been in response to Georgian aggression), the US sent its gunships into the Black Sea and to ports less than 100 miles from Russia. Provocative? You bet it was.
So now we have the interim results of this short sighted and unnnecessary foreign policy. At a time when Russia does not represent a long term threat to the US (Russian is still too weak economically and will remain so), the US has stuck Russia in the eye so often that their reaction is a growing threat Obama must consider and deal with. A Russian loose cannon is a danger waiting to happen.
For clarity, the argument is not that Russia is a country whose history and values are compatible with those of the US. It is also not that our goal should be to be Russia’s best friend. Rather, we need policies that recognize, whether we like it or not, Russia still possesses significant military power (or simply risk) due to its large stores of nuclear weapons. World order and peace can not be the responsibility or frankly is it possible to be within the capability of one country. World order and peace must come from cooperation of a number of countries. The US needs a working relationship with Russia and it must adopt policies that enable that relationship to take place.