Four U.S. policies that have most offended the Russians

07.12.2015 - Tony Henderson

Four U.S. policies that have most offended the Russians
Dr. Stephen F Cohen (Image by

Very important to understand what’s going on today with Russia and the US!, says Alice Slater, as she shared a translation done by Sharon Tennison of the talk given by  Prof. Stephen Cohen (contributing editor to at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club November 18, 2015 which details Mr Cohen’s standpoint on the matter. the entirety can be found on the email list of Abolition-caucus.


The four U.S. policies that have most offended the Russians:

1)  The decision to expand NATO right to Russia’s borders:  It’s nonsense when we say Putin has violated the Post-Cold War order of Europe. Russia was excluded from the post-Cold War order of Europe by NATO’s expansion.  Russia was pushed “somewhere out there” (beyond a zone of security).  Russia kept saying, “Let’s do a Pan European Security Arrangement like Gorbachev and Reagan proposed.”  The NATO-expanders said, “This is not military, this is about democracy and free trade, it’s going to be good for Russia, swallow your poison with a smile.”  And when the Russians had no choice in the 1990s, they did;  but when they grew stronger and had a choice, they no longer stood by silently. 

Russia started pushing back, as any Russian leader would have done who was sober and had the support his own country.  I don’t say this as a joke.  By the end, Yeltsin could barely walk.  He was pushed out of the presidency, he didn’t resign voluntarily.  But the point is, anyone could have predicted this situation back in the 1990s––and some of us did so, often and as loudly as we were permitted.

2)  The refusal on the part of the  United States to negotiate on missile defense: Missile defense is now a NATO project.  That means missile defense installations, whether on land or sea (sea is more dangerous) are now part of NATO expansion and its encirclement of Russia.  Missile defense is part of the same military system.  Russians are absolutely convinced that it is targeted at their nuclear retaliatory capabilities.  We say, “Oh no, it’s about Iran, it’s not about you.”  But go talk to Ted Postel at MIT.  He explains that latter-stage missile defense is an offensive weapon that can hit Russia’s installations.  It also violates the IMF Agreement because it can fire cruise missiles. Meanwhile we are accusing Russia of developing cruise missiles again; and they have begun doing so again because we are back in an unnecessary tit-for-tat arms race for the first time in many years.

3)  Meddling in Russia’s internal affairs in the name of democracy promotion:  In addition to funding the National Endowment for Democracy’s “opposition politics” programs across Russia and Ukraine––are you aware that when Medvedev was President of Russia and Ms. Clinton and Michael McFaul had their wondrous “reset” (which was a rigged diplomatic game if you looked at the terms of it), that Vice President  Biden went to Moscow State University and said that Putin should not return to the presidency.  He then said it directly to Putin’s face.  Imagine, Putin comes here in the next few weeks and tells Rubio or Clinton they should drop out of the U.S. presidential race!

Are there any red lines left anymore when it comes to our behavior toward Russia.  Do we have the right to say or do anything we wish?  This extends to everything, and it certainly extends to politics.  The White House simply can’t keep its mouth shut, being egged on by vested anti-Russian lobbies and mainstream media.  We all believe in democracy, but like it or not, we will not be able to impose democracy on Russia; and if we could, we might not like the democratic outcomes that might result.

So ask yourself, is there a Russian position that needs to be carefully thought through in the aftermath of Paris?  And does Russia have any legitimate interests in the world at all?  And if so, what are they?  What about their borders?  Do they have legitimate interests in Syria?  

4)  My last point is a prescriptive hope (until Paris, I didn’t think there was much hope at all). Now there is still a chance to achieve the lost partnership with Russia, at least in three realms.

•  Ukraine:  You know what the Minsk Accords are. They were formulated by Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande,  Ukraine’s President Poroshenko and President Putin.  They call for a negotiated end to the civil war in Ukraine.  They recognize that the conflict has been primarily a civil war and only secondarily a matter of Russian aggression.  I don’t care what American mainstream media says––this has been basically a Ukrainian civil war.  To put an end to that civil war would be exceedingly security-building today.

•  Syria: before Paris I thought there was almost no chance for an American coalition with Russia.  Part of it …. and I’m not big on psychological analyses, but at least in part it was due to Obama’s mind-fix about Putin.  He resents him and speaks out about him in ways that are not helpful.  But with Paris and Hollande announcing that there is now a French-Russian coalition, with Germany agreeing, and I would say almost all of Western Europe is on board, there is a chance, but only if the White House seizes the opportunity.  We will see very soon.

•  The false idea that the nuclear threat ended with the Soviet Union:  In fact, the threat became more diverse and difficult. This is something the political elite forgot. It was another disservice of the Clinton Administration (and to a certain extent the first President Bush in his re-election campaign) saying that the nuclear dangers of the preceding Cold War era no longer existed after 1991. The reality is that the threat grew, whether by inattention or accident, and is now more dangerous than ever.

Last year, in an unwise pique of anger, Russia withdrew from the Nunn-Lugar Initiative which you may remember was one of the wisest pieces of legislation that Congress ever passed.  In the 1990s, we gave Russia money to lock down and secure their materials for making weapons of mass destruction. In addition we paid salaries to their scientists who knew how to make and use these materials and who might otherwise have gone to Syria, Yemen or the Caucasus to sell their knowledge in order to employ themselves. Russia did withdraw but said it wants to renegotiate Nunn-Lugar on different terms.  The White House has refused.  After Paris, one hopes that Obama picked up the phone and said, “I’m sending someone over, let’s get this done.”

Unfortunately, today’s reports seem to indicate that the White House and State Department are thinking primarily how to counter Russia’s actions in Syria.  They are worried, it was reported, that Russia is diminishing America’s leadership in the world.

HERE IS THE BOTTOM LINE:  We in the United States cannot lead the world alone any longer, if we ever could.  Long before Paris, globalization and other developments have occurred that ended the monopolar, US-dominated world.  That world is over.  A multipolar world has emerged before our eyes, not just in Russia but in five or six capitals around the world.  Washington’s stubborn refusal to embrace this new reality has become part of the problem and not part of the solution.  

This is where we are today …. even after Paris.

Sharon Tennison –




Categories: Europe, International issues, North America, Opinions
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