Obama's Russia Policy

Russian Life, January-February 2009 | Go to article overview
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Obama's Russia Policy

To consider how U.S. policy toward Russia might change under President Barack Obama, we contacted Michael McFaul, a foreign policy advisor to president-elect Obama during his campaign, Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and Director of the Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law. McFaul declined to be interviewed during the transition period, instead referring us to his September 9, 2008 testimony before the US Congress, which we extract below.

Russia's government actions in Georgia constitute just one front of a comprehensive campaign to reassert Russian dominance in the region through both coercive and cooperative instruments ... This campaign of asserting Russian hegemony in the region started well before the Russian intervention in Georgia and will continue well beyond. And it is more than coincidence that the emergence of a more bellicose, anti-American, and anti-Western Russian foreign policy has occurred in parallel to the growing erosion of democracy inside Russia. Developing a sustainable, smart, and multi-dimensional strategy for addressing a resurgent and autocratic Russia has now crystallized as a central 21st century foreign policy challenge for the United States and our allies ...

The first element of a new strategy must be to re-establish unity with our European allies. ...

Second, NATO members must affirm their Article V commitments that an attack on one country in the alliance is an attack on all. In addition, NATO allies feeling especially worried about future Russian aggression should be given additional defensive assistance.

Third, the United States, Europe, and the rest of the international community must stand firm in demanding that Russian soldiers inside Georgia return to their August 7th positions and that the world continue to affirm its recognition of the territorial integrity of Georgia.

Fourth, the United States and Europe must work together to help rebuild Georgia. ...

Fifth, the United States and Europe must act proactively to deter Russian hostile actions against the other post-Soviet democracy at risk, Ukraine. The deep cuts in the Freedom Support Act assistance to Ukraine, from $138.6 million in FY2005 to $72.4 million in FY2008, must be reversed, as these cuts reflect premature optimism about the stability of Ukrainian democracy. ...

Sixth, the United States, Europe and our partners in Eurasia must reaffirm together the permanence of existing borders of all members of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). All international forums, including the UN Security Council, must affirm this principle. Russia of course, would veto a UNSC resolution on this issue, but compelling Russia to demonstrate its isolation is important symbolically. ...

Seventh, the United States must work closely with our partners in Europe and Eurasia to reduce their overdependence on Russian energy exports. We must understand that this dependency works both ways; the Russian economy would suffer severely from any sustained attempt by the Kremlin to disrupt energy exports for political purposes. ...


Eighth, the United States must coordinate closely with our allies to consider future actions against the Russian government if it refuses to adhere to the ceasefire agreement that it signed [in Georgia]. Russia's actions already have helped to trigger the biggest losses on the Russian stock market since August 1998, sparking a real debate among Russian economic elites about the wisdom of this war. Russian diplomatic isolation is also very palpable--only one country, Nicaragua, has joined Russia in recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states--causing some within the Russian foreign policy elite to question the long-term Russian security benefits of these recent actions... the list of consideration for future actions must include the tabling of the U.

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