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
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. …