EDITORIAL: Listening to Ariel Cohen

EDITORIAL

Listening to Ariel Cohen

The Heritage Foundation’s Ariel Cohen is surely one of the most insightful and courageous Russia watchers in the world today, and his recent white paper on HF’s website laying out America’s foreign policy objectives for Russia should be required reading for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, as well as all Russia watchers everywhere.

After laying out the facts establishing the threat posed by Russia to American national security in an irrefutable scholarly manner replete with footnotes, Cohen proceeds to set forth the specific policy steps that the Obama administration must take in order to meet those threats.  No thinking person can argue with his formulation, and if Obama does not implement it history will  surely condemn his fatal error.

Here is Cohen’s five-point proposal:

  • Bolster NATO, focusing on Russia’s weaponization of energy and its attacks on Ukraine and Georgia
  • Refuse nuclear arms reduction negotation until a review of U.S. strategic interests is complete and until Russia cooperates in neutralizing Iran and gives strict guarantees on U.S. business interests being protected from nationalization
  • Confront Russian aggression in Venezuela, Syria and the Arctic
  • Develop a Marshall Plan for weening Europe off Russian gas & oil
  • Press forward with missile defense in Eastern Europe

Cohen warns:

Despite the need to attract investment, the Kremlin is likely to pursue an anti-status quo foreign policy as long as it views the United States as weakened or distracted due to the combined effects of the economic crisis, U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, the presence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan, the need to deal with the fast-developing prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, and preoccupation with the Arab–Israeli conflict.

In other words, above all Russia must not be allowed to perceive the U.S. as being either indecisive or weak, much less both. Like a child or a animal, Russia will only seek to take advantage of such weakness.  The Obama adminsitration must project resolute power if it hopes to prevent Russia from misbehaving.

We think there is only one fault in Cohen’s analysis, and that is his failure to mention the need to support human rights within Russia. Throughout the first Cold War, America’s resolute defense of Soviet dissidents gave hope to all those who struggled for change, and Barack Obama is uniquely well positioned to renew America’s committment to civil rights and liberties within Russia.  Here more than anywhere else, a perception of weakness on his part will be life-threatening to the few who remain willing to risk all for democracy in Russia.  Obama must now allow Putin to believe he can go on liquidating Russia’s candles of freedom such as Anna Politikovskaya and Stanislav Markelov.

The economic crisis Russia has brought upon itself gives the U.S. an unprecedented window of opportunity to pressure the Putin regime into serious concessions. If this opportunity is squandered, the Obama presidency will be stained beyond redemption.

We urge the new president to pay attention to Mr. Cohen’s wisdom and act upon it immediately, before it is too late.

19 responses to “EDITORIAL: Listening to Ariel Cohen

  1. Last year, Mr. Cohen started a blog in Russian (http://ariel-cohen.livejournal.com/). After having been asked a few straightforward questions (e.g., what was the point in expanding NATO after Gorbachev had been promised that it would not expand “even by an inch” or why should the trajectory of would-be Iranian missiles necessarily lie over Poland where the so-called “ABMs” are to be stationed) he just gave up the idea. ;-)

  2. NATO expansion was inevitable. Eastern European countries looked to the west for help after the USSR collapsed. These countries enjoyed their newfound freedom and national identity, and also feared the big bully next door. Including them into NATO was strategically, a no-brainer for the west. It didn’t take long for Russia to show it’s lack of interest in things like rule of law, human rights, free speech, and basically improving the lives of it’s citizens. Instead we have a criminal mafia enterprise hijack a government and quickly snatch up all the assets and spirited away the money into foreign bank accounts. Economies don’t expand without capital. For a country that preached the greatness of socialism, there sure is quite an income disparity going on.

  3. Eugene,

    Trajectories lie on an optimal route for a ballistic missile to reach its target. A missile launched from Iran headed for the US or Europe would have its trajectory over central Europe as the shortest path to the target. This is also a great way to defeat any Russian argument that the BMD system threatens them. Their missiles would go over the north pole as the shortest route to the US, and thus would be out of range and not threatened by the European BMD. If this is too hard for you to understand, Eugene, you can find some pretty pictures that explain all that http://www.mda.mil/mdaLink/pdf/euroassets.pdf.

  4. Eugene, your link goes nowhere. So, that’s not verifiable.

    • Just remove the period at the end of the address when you click the link. Eugene was just trying to end his post semi-grammatically correct with a period, but WordPress’ auto-recognition feature for external addresses attached the period by mistake.

  5. If there wasn’t someone in the Kremlin so insistent on pretending it is still 1962, they would in fact welcome NATO expansion as dramatically enhancing Russian security without costing Moscow a single kopek. From the Eastern European perspective, NATO expansion isn’t just about external security — although that’s important to us for obvious reasons — it is also about helping newer and less experienced countries develop stable and reliable internal military, political and economic institutions. Remember that several of us — Poland, the Baltics and Romania in particular come to mind — have a history in the 20th century of military coups; developing proper civilian controls over our militaries and ensuring smooth changes of power with each successive government is crucial. NATO for us isn’t about subordinating ourselves to yet another empire or alliance — Russians like to think that we just traded one empire (theirs) for another (Washington’s) — it’s about developing countries strong enough to contain and withstand their own internal extremist forces. Through NATO expansion, Russia is getting teh security along its western frontier it has never known, certainly not in the 20th century, and all for free. If anyone in Moscow had a single brain cell in their head that wasn’t stuck in the 1960s, they would see that cooperating with NATO to cut down on illegal migrants, narcotics and etc. NATO ensures there will be no more nationalist adventures on the part of Germans, Poles, Balts, etc., and if Russia really gave a crap about its ethnic Russian minority enclaves in the “near abroad” region, it would work with NATO and the EU to ensure countries like Estonia and Latvia treat their ethnic Russian citizens fairly.

    Unfortunately, Moscow still thinks the whole West is against it and the only possible way to deal with the West is confrontation. Maybe they don’t change the calendars often enough in the Kremlin because I read a story this morning purporting to show that Tsar Putin (via his viceroy, Medvedev) was considering placing bombers in Cuba again. It really is 1962 in Russia! And today we read that despite a disastrously faltering economy, Russia is going to launc a massive r4e-armament program (BBC link here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7947824.stm). Good! I welcome this lunacy! It was a moronic re-armament program launched during a collapsing economy in the 1980s that brought the last Russian tyrants down, so maybe this will do the same trick again! Spend, you fools, spend!

    • A very excellent post! I disagree on one point. I believe that the infestation in the Kremlin is fully aware that NATO is of no threat to them.
      Putin and his FSB/Criminal syndicate NEED the west to be the enemy. The foundation of their power rests on their claim to protecting to country from the radical militarist russian hating foriegners. There are many other reasons, but one of the main reasons the Kremlin feels it must control the media is to be able to foist this lie on the population.

  6. If there wasn’t someone in the Kremlin so insistent on pretending it is still 1962, they would in fact welcome NATO expansion as dramatically enhancing Russian security without costing Moscow a single kopek. From the Eastern European perspective, NATO expansion isn’t just about external security — although that’s important to us for obvious reasons — it is also about helping newer and less experienced countries develop stable and reliable internal military, political and economic institutions. Remember that several of us — Poland, the Baltics and Romania in particular come to mind — have a history in the 20th century of military coups; developing proper civilian controls over our militaries and ensuring smooth changes of power with each successive government is crucial. NATO for us isn’t about subordinating ourselves to yet another empire or alliance — Russians like to think that we just traded one empire (theirs) for another (Washington’s) — it’s about developing countries strong enough to contain and withstand their own internal extremist forces. Through NATO expansion, Russia is getting teh security along its western frontier it has never known, certainly not in the 20th century, and all for free. If anyone in Moscow had a single brain cell in their head that wasn’t stuck in the 1960s, they would see that cooperating with NATO to cut down on illegal migrants, narcotics and etc. NATO ensures there will be no more nationalist adventures on the part of Germans, Poles, Balts, etc., and if Russia really gave a crap about its ethnic Russian minority enclaves in the “near abroad” region, it would work with NATO and the EU to ensure countries like Estonia and Latvia treat their ethnic Russian citizens fairly.

    Unfortunately, Moscow still thinks the whole West is against it and the only possible way to deal with the West is confrontation. Maybe they don’t change the calendars often enough in the Kremlin because I read a story this morning purporting to show that Tsar Putin (via his viceroy, Medvedev) was considering placing bombers in Cuba again. It really is 1962 in Russia! And today we read that despite a disastrously faltering economy, Russia is going to launch a massive re-armament program (BBC link here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7947824.stm). Good! I welcome this lunacy! It was a moronic re-armament program launched during a collapsing economy in the 1980s that brought the last Russian tyrants down, so maybe this will do the same trick again! Spend, you fools, spend!

  7. What a weird site this is–a gathering point for immigrant loonies who are still obsessive-compulsive in their Old World hatreds, and want to take my America down with them. This site should be left up as a perfect example why we need to seriously limit immigration, especially from crazy east europeans. Those that stay here should learn to focus on helping America. Otherwise get the hell out of my country where I was born and bred, and go back to fighting your old world fight somewhere else. Losers.

  8. Uncle Sam,
    Thank you for your thoughtful and relevant contribution to this discussion.
    You probably know (based on your deep analysis of this site you couldn’t miss this simple fact) that I am one of the few (if not the only) “regular” on this board who actually is an immigrant. Others are either Americans (penny, scott, etc.) or Russians (Eugene, Bobby, etc.) or neither (Andrew, Tomek). Obviously, Internet is anonymous and people may be lying or just concealing their identity. For example, Tomek may be Brzeziński’s nephew, and you may be chairman of La Raza trying to increase Mexican immigration at the expense of Eastern European. But I’ll take your contribution at face value… for all the value that it provides.

    So, “loonies” and “losers” is addressed to me. I appreciate your perspective. I am sure that your contributions to American society exceed mine and your new world fights are the only ones worth fighting. However, for others that may not be as trustworthy – do they actually have any reasons to think that way (besides your words, that is)?

    If not – then it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that you are actually a loonie and a loser…

  9. Uncle Sam,
    As an American, I am embarrassed you took the time to write your ignorant post. Obviously a product of our union led educational system. Spend some time in a library informing yourself of history before making a fool of yourself.

  10. Felix, what our little moronic troll isn’t getting is that America is more about a frame of mind than a place of birth. And, that attribute as you can appreciate is what will always make us a unique society no matter how crappy economically things get here. We will sort it out without violance or repression.

    I refuse, as should you, to even entertain that he is one of us. LR attracts too many trolls with disruptive political agendas.

  11. Penny (and others),
    Oleg’s link above does work – just remove the period after it

    Click to access euroassets.pdf

  12. penny,
    thank you for your very kind words.
    Unfortunately, I see more and more often that America moves from “frame of mind” (excellent definition – when we were growing up, we always felt that we were Americans living in the Soviet Union) to “frame of feelings”. There were always enough “useful idiots” that were fascinated by Stalin, Mao, and Spanish International brigades.

    But mindless slogans of “hope” and “change” and their permutations (we are the change that we’ve been hoping for) don’t instill a whole lot of confidence. As I read somewhere,

    Live in San Francisco, or you will lose your heart; leave San Francisco, or you will lose your mind

    Seems like too many people around the country have never left San Francisco.

  13. Felix,

    Allow me to join your ranks as someone who came to this country as a child. I am also proud to be in the US military as my way to pay back for the opportunities this country has offered me. Worthless trolls like Uncle Sam enjoy all the liberties while having the gall to spit their bile of nonsense. I believe that people like us, who have the experience (whether first hand or through our parents) know what Russia and USSR are all about. This is not about fighting old fights but making others aware that turning a blind eye to Russia will only hurt our country and the world.

  14. Oleg,
    Thank you for your post, and thank you for your service. Too many people, including here in US, consider US military an agent of imperialism and world domination. But from natural disasters to hot spots all over the world, no other entity in the world has done as much good, as US military. The world is a better place thanks to you!

    • Well said Felix, just like after the Indonesian tsunami. Who was it who delivered the aid that kept hundereds of thousands alive?
      USN &USMC, thats who.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s