The Heritage Foundation

News Releases on Russia

June 11, 2001

June 11, 2001 | News Releases on Russia

Cooperative Relations With Russia Vital As Security Threats Grow, Expert Says

WASHINGTON, June 11, 2001-As concerns mount among officials in Washington over a possible confrontation with China, Iran or Iraq, the United States can't afford to let Russia remain "neither America's friend nor its foe," says Ariel Cohen, The Heritage Foundation's leading Russia expert, in a new paper.

That's why President Bush should pursue a more "cooperative relationship" with our former Cold War foe during his June 16 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, writes Cohen, a research fellow in Heritage's Davis Institute for International Studies.

The security interests of both nations are closely aligned, he says. For example, each could save billions of dollars and lose little in security by reducing their stockpiles of nuclear weapons from the present 6,000 per side to fewer than 2,500.

And since both realize that the new threat comes not from each other but from rogue states, President Bush should urge Putin to limit sales of sensitive technologies and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to those countries. He can encourage cooperation from the Russians-who sell weapons primarily to raise cash and keep their military-industrial complex afloat-by easing limitations on U.S. cooperation with Russia's civilian high-tech sector, Cohen says.

President Bush also should invite Russia to participate in the development of a global missile-defense system, Cohen says, noting that the Russians will try to bargain for better terms on foreign debt relief and more involvement in activities of the G-8 group of western economic powers. President Bush should say that serious negotiations on missile defense will occur only after a system has been selected and funded and a deployment timetable put in place.

The same economic levers that could bring the Russians around on missile defense and the sale of weapons of mass destruction could be used to persuade them not to enter into regional alliances with China, Iran and other states hostile to the United States, Cohen says.

"President Putin acts on his perception of national interest, which is rather narrowly defined," the analyst says. "But for the conceivable future, none of the countries that are hostile to the United States can do anywhere near as much to help his country as America can."

Economic levers also could be used to encourage the Russians to support and help, rather than intimidate and brutalize, the so-called New Independent States, he says. These former Soviet republics-Georgia and Ukraine foremost among them-shouldn't be threatened with energy cutoffs, kept economically dependent on Russia or ordered to fire pro-American leaders.

"President Bush should make clear that while the United States realizes Russia has security challenges and economic interests in the NIS, the United States and other Western states can't recognize a 19th-century-style hegemony," Cohen says. Instead, he should propose that U.S. and Russian companies enter into joint economic development projects, such as oil and gas pipelines, that would help the struggling NIS states become strong and prosperous neighbors.

Finally, President Bush should press for individual rights and the rule of law in Russia, Cohen says. That means contracts that are honored, adoption of both international accounting standards and real intellectual property rights, and establishment of meaningful land and banking reforms. It also means a free press that can be critical without fear or shutdown.

"If Putin is responsive to these issues, the United States can do much to help his country grow stronger," Cohen says. "If he isn't, President Bush should make clear that this posture will carry economic consequences the Russian people truly can't afford."

About the Author

Related Issues: Russia