Can 90 US Senators Be Wrong?
CNN ran a bottom of the screen headline “90 US Senators Oppose Change in US Policy Towards Russia”. This is a signifiant number and almost assuredly is greater than the number of US Senators that accept man is playing a role in global climate change. What does it mean and is it significant?
The headline was most probably a shot across President-elect Trump’s bow. CNN did not cajole 90 Senators into taking this public position but the network was delighted to flash it across the screen. Maybe the Trumpster will begin a “tweet” avalanche.
The larger issue relates to why 90 Senators might agree on any policy. US Russian policy dates from the cold war when “containment” was the bi-partisan goal. With the fall of the Soviet Union, rather than adopt a “live and let live” policy versus Communist Russia, US policy switch to a hubris based view that Russia’s end was near. The path to this end was to entice the bordering countries (like Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, etc) to join NATO and the Common Market. The big idea was to enable these countries to thrive economically and demonstrate to Russian people how their communism system was doomed for the trash heap. Then, these experts theorized, Russia would crumble from within.
The experts appear not to have read the Catherine The Great biography by Robert K Messie. This biography reveals the deeply entrenched Russian DNA which is paranoid about threats from abroad. US inspired intrusion into these former “buffer” States set off nationalistic alarm bells. Russian conservatives and Communist hardliners have marshaled the Russian public’s support for saving Mother Russia. Hence we have seen intervention in Georgia, Crimea, and now Syria.
So much for that policy.
Thinking Americans should seriously question any US Russian policy which worries about Communism. If there is not already sufficient evidence that pure Communism does not work (compared to most democratic capitalist systems), then a new US Russian foreign policy crafted to change Russia is day dreaming.
This a long winded way of saying that the Senate would be wise to listen to what President-elect is really thinking about in terms of Russian relations. Assuming instead that the State Department is prima facia correct is a risky bet.
The world has changed. Think about it. There is the West led by the US, there is Russia, there is China, and there are a number of rogue or potential rogue nations, possessing nuclear weapons, and all with ideologies truly foreign to Western thinking. So how can the US follow a foreign policy with a singular view of Russia? How can a US Russian foreign policy not consider China and these rogue nations too?
The world has become too small for a set of specific country oriented foreign policies. There is a need for an overall US policy towards all foreign powers. This policy must envision US values and what the US would be willing to fight about.
Peaceful coexistence ought to be the base minimum with mutual economic growth as the preferred outcome.
The world is a messy place and President-elect Trump needs to express his views too.
Whether the Trump Administration can put forward a strategic vision or will prefer a series of one-off policies time will tell. Until such time, there is no reason to be critical of Trump given the current out of date US policy.