U.S. Acquiesces to Russian Blackmail; Recent Talks Are Less about Partnership, More about Reclaiming Power
Byline: Janusz Bugajski, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Since President Obama launched his detente with Moscow, Washington has bent over backward to accommodate Russia and gain its support in pressing security challenges. The Kremlin now views itself as indispensable and is intent on extracting maximum advantage from its hallowed position. Above all, Russia seeks to neutralize NATO and minimize the U.S. global reach.
For the Kremlin, NATO remains a threat not because it destabilizes Russia but because it thwarts its imperial aspirations. President Dmitry Medvedev blackmails the alliance by asserting that NATO's eastward growth would terminate all collaboration with the West. Despite lofty declarations at the recent Lisbon Summit, NATO growth has been stymied indefinitely along Poland's eastern border.
Moscow also seeks veto powers over troop deployments among new NATO members. It wants NATO to commit to stationing a maximum of 3,000 soldiers; if reinforcements were needed during a crisis, NATO would require Russia's consent. In effect, the alliance would depend on Moscow's permission to intervene if Russia invaded a NATO member.
Moscow also has been invited to participate in NATO's missile-defense program and exploits that opportunity to divide the continent. Mr. Medvedev has proposed that Europe be split into two sectors of military responsibility to protect it from missile attack - one controlled by NATO, the other by Russia, encompassing all ex-Soviet states. In this context, cooperation over Afghanistan, Iran and nuclear proliferation remains contingent upon Western strategic concessions acknowledging Russia's zone of influence across Eurasia.
However, in the midst of Moscow's efforts to neutralize NATO, Republican gains in U.S. midterm elections have thrown a spanner in the machinery. With or without ratification by the outgoing Senate of the new START treaty on reducing nuclear weapons, the U.S.-Russia dAtente has been exposed as an unequal partnership based on flimsy foundations.
Although START is supposed to symbolize the transformation of Russia into a responsible global player, Republicans charge that the treaty will hamper U.S. missile defense and nuclear modernization. Russia's leaders have not helped their cause by threatening significant consequences and a new arms race if START is not ratified. In a clear admission that Moscow is blackmailing the White House, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates revealed that Russia could curtail supplies across Russian territory to NATO forces in Afghanistan if the treaty is not approved. Russia also may retaliate by reneging on sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear ambitions.
A strategic partnership cannot be based on blackmail and bluster. The wider debate sparked by the START treaty will shed new light on Kremlin ambitions. Clearly, the U.S.-Russia detente has been used by Moscow to gain strategic concessions from Washington, including the downgrading of U. …