Clinton Revives Cold War Mood

Article excerpt

When one of us asked Mikhail Gorbachev, "what is the difference between a politician and a great politician?" he remarked, "a politician is interested only in the next election, while a great politician is more concerned with the future."

The recent U.S. proposal extending NATO membership to various eastern European states and a lack of understanding regarding Russia's justifiable role in the New World Order are clear indications that great politicians are absent from American foreign policy-making circles today.

Seasoned Cold Warriors are drawing analogies between 1945 U.S. relations with the Soviet Union and the contemporary situation in Russia. But 1945 is not 1995. The Cold War was a conflict between two diametrically opposed political philosophies - communism versus capitalism. This ideological battleground no longer exists.

Russia has encouraged and accepted self-determination in eastern Europe. It has achieved unprecedented triumphs in democratization, and it is steadily adopting a free-market economy. Any comparisons between the Soviet system and present-day Russia are not only historically inaccurate, they are potentially politically dangerous as well.

Europe was artificially divided during the Cold War, but for the first time in the 20th century, Europe has a unique chance to unite. Yet can this be attained without Russian cooperation? Some U.S. policymakers may believe that isolating the Russian bear is once again the solution to the problems of European security, but if Russia is excluded from this process, Europe and the entire world will be partitioned once again.

Russian participation could help facilitate peace in several regions. If Russia is quarantined from eastern and central Europe, a renewed drive toward Asia and the Near East will result. This would only enhance the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and could perhaps ultimately threaten Western oil interests. It is also in the U.S. national interest to allow Russian control over its sphere of influence in the newly independent states.

If ethnic conflict is permitted to escalate into eastern and central Europe, further Balkanization could occur. The Russian army could be used as a peacekeeping force in this area but, more important, the United States must grant Russia control over its periphery. Just as the United States insists on unilateral control in Grenada, Panama, and Haiti, Russia must be granted unilateral control over the successor states.

American policymakers must also adopt initiatives that focus on long-term strategic interests rather than on particular individuals, such as Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The Cold War belief that government rested on a cult of the individual is no longer applicable. Neither Yeltsin's nor Zhirinovsky's power is absolute.

Policy should be formulated to accept the various twists and turns on the Russian road to democratization. The last several years American policy toward Russia has been reactive. …