How to Confront Russia's Anti-American Foreign Policy

Report Europe

How to Confront Russia's Anti-American Foreign Policy

June 27, 2007 29 min read Download Report
Ariel Cohen
Ariel Cohen
Director, CENRG and Senior Fellow, IAGS
Ariel served as the Director of the CENRG and Senior Fellow for IAGS

President George W. Bush's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Kennebunkport, Maine, on July 1-2 may be the last opportunity to improve U.S.-Russian relations before the two leaders leave office in 2008-2009. In Kennebunkport, President Bush may find out whether Putin's proposal at the G-8 summit to cooperate on missile defense with the U.S. is real or a sham. The U.S. should seriously exam­ine this offer, which includes joint operation of the Russian-leased radar station in Gabala, Azerbaijan, because it may indicate a change in Russia's course toward Iran. It may also be a lever to salvage the frayed relationship between Moscow and Washington.

U.S.-Russian relations have deteriorated signifi­cantly since post-9/11 cooperation in 2001-2002, and Russian foreign policy is evolving fast. While Iraq, Iran, the war on terrorism, and the Middle East in gen­eral remain top priorities in Washington, the United States should pay close attention to a resurgent Russia because Moscow is trying to reorder the post-Cold War global security architecture, often in ways that are not in America's interests.

Moscow's Neo-Soviet Foreign Policy

Before the G-8 summit in Germany, President Putin issued an unprecedented threat to retarget Russia's nuclear missiles at Europe, returning to the Soviet strategic posture that existed before efforts by Ameri­can President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to end the Cold War. At the St. Petersburg Economic Summit in June 2007, Putin suddenly called for revising the global economic architecture, including the World Trade Organiza­tion (WTO). This unprecedented and dangerous initiative reflects the current anti-status quo mood in Moscow.

Russia's foreign strategy is driven by military and security elites who view Russia as the direct heir to the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union and who cherish its role as America's principal counterbal­ance on the world stage. Unlike the economic and business elites, the foreign and defense policy elites barely changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

To a great degree, contemporary Russian rheto­ric has come full circle and resembles the Soviet agenda before President Mikhail Gorbachev's pere­stroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness). In fact, many foreign policy initiatives undertaken by Gorbachev and Russian President Boris Yeltsin- such as ending the occupation of Eastern Europe, signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) arms control treaty and the Treaty on Con­ventional Forces in Europe (CFE), recognizing the former Soviet republics as independent states, and acquiescing to NATO enlargement-are often viewed in Moscow as treasonous or at least as undermining vital Russian interests. Current Bush Administration policies, such as democracy pro­motion, are viewed as part of a sinister plot to undermine the current Russian government through a series of "orange revolutions."

Despite the tens of thousands of Russians that have been killed by Muslim extremists in Afghani­stan and Chechnya and in terrorist attacks in Rus­sian cities, Russia remains obsessed with the U.S. as its "principal adversary." The current elites define Russian strategic goals in terms of opposition to the United States and its policies and de facto alliance with China and the Muslim world, particularly Iran and Syria. The Kremlin is reaching out to anti-sta­tus quo leaders like Hugo Chávez and views Rus­sians as culturally distinct from the West.

Russia is also using the issue of Kosovo's indepen­dence to assert Russian primacy on the international stage. Kosovo, a province of Serbia, has been under U.N.-NATO administration since 1999, when a 78-day NATO-led air campaign stopped the Serbian atrocities against ethnic Albanians. Russia has sided with the Serbs to oppose any immediate indepen­dence for Kosovo. Most recently, Russia threatened to veto and rejected a draft U.N. resolution-sup­ported by the U.S., the European Union (EU), and ethnic Albanians and opposed by most Serbs-that would give Kosovo supervised independence and extensive self-government.[1] Russia threatened to apply the precedent of Kosovo independence to rec­ognize the independence of Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia-Moscow-supported secessionist statelets seeking to undermine the sovereignty of Moldova and Georgia.

Moscow is using its full array of modern interna­tional relations and security tools to achieve its goals: from public diplomacy and weapons sales to putting foreign political leaders on the petrodollar payroll, from strategic information operations that depict America as an out-of-control hyperpower and a threat to the international community to cod­dling terrorist organizations. In the words of one incisive observer, Russia has left the West.[2]

To send Russia a message that they will not be bullied, the United States and its allies should:

  • Bolster relations with pro-Western regimes in the Persian Gulf;

  • Build bridges to potential Russian allies and former Soviet republics (e.g., Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Armenia) to prevent the emer­gence of anti-American blocs;

  • Create a global coalition of energy consumers to oppose oil and gas cartels and to apply market principles to the natural gas industry;

  • Continue dialogue and cooperation with Russia to demonstrate to Russian elites that the United States has much to offer Russia; and

  • Reach out over the heads of the Russian leader­ship to the Russian people through a compre­hensive public diplomacy strategy via the Internet, international broadcasters, visitor pro­grams, and exchanges to debunk the myth that the U.S. is hostile to Russia.

At Odds with the West

February 2007 marked a watershed in Russian- American relations. Two key events-Russian Pres­ident Vladimir Putin's speech at the Wehrkunde security conference in Germany and his trip to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan-announced that Russia has arrived as an independent pole of power in the post-Cold War world. For Russian security elites, this is a happy place where Russia and they have wanted to be since Yevgeny Primakov success­fully undermined Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev in 1995.[3]

The cold shower that Putin unleashed on the United States at the international security confer­ence in Munich on February 1, 2007, should not have come as a surprise. After all, Putin himself and a host of other senior spokesmen, including First Deputy Prime Minister and former Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov (one of the "official" heirs apparent) and military Chief of Staff General Yuri Baluyevsky, have said as much in the past. However, the sheer concentration of vitriol and the high-level forum were new.

Putin's list of grievances against the United States and the West is long. His main complaints are that the American "hyperpower" is pursuing its own unilateral foreign, defense, cultural, and economic policy while ignoring Russian interests, disregard­ing international law, and ignoring the U.N., where Russia has a veto on the Security Council. Former French President Jacques Chirac would be proud, but Russia takes its opposition much farther than France ever did.

Putin accused the U.S. of expanding NATO to Russia's borders and deploying "five thousand bay­onets" each in forward bases in Romania and Bul­garia. He blasted the plans for U.S. missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, mocking the stated goal of defending against missile launches from Iran or North Korea. Putin clearly stated that the missile defenses are aimed to neutralize Russian retaliatory nuclear strike capability, despite the fact that this is technically impossible.[4]

He further accused Washington of not meeting its obligations in nuclear disarmament treaties and attempting to hide hundreds of nuclear weap­ons in warehouses "under the blanket and under the pillow."[5]

Adding to the rhetorical overkill, Putin blamed U.S. foreign policy for the failure of nuclear non-proliferation, justifying or at least rationalizing North Korean and Iranian efforts to acquire weap­ons of mass destruction (WMD).

Putin lambasted NATO members that refuse to ratify the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, criticized the Organization for Security and Cooper­ation in Europe (OSCE) for democracy promotion, warned against Kosovo's independence, and rejected Western criticisms of Russia's track record on human rights.

Adding to his Munich criticisms, Putin obliquely compared U.S. foreign policy to the Third Reich's foreign policy in his May 9 Victory Day speech com­memorating the 62nd anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.[6]

What were Putin's guiding principles for interna­tional relations? He waxed nostalgic about the bipo­lar world in which the U.S. and the Soviet Union checked each other's ambition through a balance of nuclear terror known as Mutual Assured Destruc­tion (MAD) and referred to the collapse of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century."[7] Many Russian and Western experts perceive Putin's speech as further distancing Russia from the Euro-Atlantic community, if not as a declaration of a new Cold War.

Putin's Fulton. The Munich speech has a num­ber of domestic and international "drivers" that add up to a picture of a Russia craving strategic parity with the United States and defining its national identity in opposition to the West.

While Russians enthusiastically embraced pri­vate business, designer brands, and Spanish sum­mer vacations, they were slow to internalize pluralistic values, support freedom of speech and press, and defend human rights. The rule of law in Russia is a far cry from Western standards.

Several years of increasingly loud anti-American and anti-Western propaganda in pro-government and nationalist media have nurtured a generation of Russians who are ethnocentric and reject liberal val­ues. In a recent poll, 60 percent supported the slo­gan "Russia for Russians."[8]

The "America as the enemy" construct, pro­moted by Kremlin-funded "political technologists," bolsters the current regime's legitimacy as the defender of Mother Russia. It rejects fully integrat­ing Russia into the global economic and political community.[9]

Putin's visit to India, where he signed a deal for joint development of a stealth fighter, and the Middle East tour indicate that Russia is looking to play the role of a leading power in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Russia has focused particularly on the Muslim world, which is seething with anti-American and anti-Western discontent. Russia has provided arms and leadership in international organizations such as the U.N. This course of action is bolstered by Russia's observer status in the Arab League and the Organi­zation of the Islamic Conference. While it lacks the global reach of Soviet ideology and the Soviet Union's military muscle, Russian policy nonetheless limits Washington's freedom to maneuver.

Russia does not want to fall too far behind mili­tarily. It is planning to spend $189 billion over the next five years on rapid modernization of its military. On February 8, 2007, then-Defense Minister Ivanov announced the modernization program, which includes new nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, a fleet of Tu-160 supersonic strategic bombers, and development of a fifth-generation fighter jet.[10] Rus­sia is also restarting production of the Black Shark, a heavily armed attack helicopter.[11]

This military rearmament program, with its con­ventional and nuclear focus, is clearly aimed at bal­ancing U.S. military power, not fighting terrorists in the Caucasus Mountains. It needs the United States as the glavny protivnik (principal adversary).

Russia is also trying to corner the market in weapons sales, especially sales to rogue states and semi-rogue states. Russia is the largest arms supplier to China and Iran, has signed a $3 billion arms deal with Hugo Chávez's Venezuela over U.S. objec­tions,[12] and is courting Middle Eastern buyers.

Russia is happy to play into the Arab and Muslim street's anti-Americanism to signal that the U.S. does not exercise exclusive strategic dominance in the Persian Gulf and in the Middle East. Moscow is back with a vengeance in the world's most impor­tant energy region.

Moscow's Middle East Maneuvers. Russia views the post-Saddam Middle East as America's Achilles' heel. President Putin's February visit to the Middle East was exquisitely timed to coincide with Amer­ica's troubles in the region.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Putin delineated a new Russian Middle Eastern policy that is at odds with U.S. policy. Putin reiterated Russia's opposition to the Iraq war and disputed the justice of Saddam Hussein's execution. He similarly criticized Amer­ica's democratization efforts in the Middle East, cit­ing as examples parliamentary elections, which were encouraged by Washington, that empowered Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

At the same time, using somewhat faulty logic, Putin justified Russia's refusal to recognize Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations on the basis of their victory in democratic elections.[13] He conve­niently failed to spell out deeper reasons for embrac­ing Hamas and Hezbollah: Russia's burgeoning ties with Iran, the sponsor of the two organizations; attempts to build ties with major Islamic states and movements that are supportive of Hamas; and con­tinuing efforts to keep Islamist support from reaching Russia's volatile and increasingly Islamist communi­ties in the Northern Caucasus and beyond.[14]

During his visit to Riyadh, Putin stunned the world by offering to sell "peaceful" nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia. He invited Saudi banks to open wholly owned subsidiaries in Russia and offered 150 T-90 tanks and other weapons. Throughout his Middle East tour, Putin indicated Russia's willing­ness to sell helicopters, build rocket-propelled gre­nade (RPG) factories, and provide sophisticated anti-aircraft systems (e.g., the Carapace [Pantsyr], TOR M1, and Strelets). He topped off the trip by offering the Saudis expanded satellite launches and an opportunity to join GLONASS, the Russian sat­ellite navigation system.[15]

While visiting Qatar, the world's third largest nat­ural gas producer, Putin also indicated that the Ira­nian offer to form an OPEC-style cartel of gas producers was "an interesting idea" after his minis­ter had dismissed it out of hand.

Putin summed up Russia's new foreign policy and its Middle East policy as follows:

From the point of view of stability in this or that region or in the world in general, the balance of power is the main achievement of these past decades and indeed of the whole history of humanity, it is one of the most im­portant conditions for maintaining global stability and security.…

I do not understand why some of our partners [i.e., Europe and the U.S.]…see themselves as cleverer and more civilized and think that they have the right to impose their standards on others. The thing to remember is that stan­dards that are imposed from the outside, in­cluding in the Middle East, rather than being a product of a society's natural internal devel­opment, lead to tragic consequences, and the best example of this is Iraq.[16]

This realpolitik talk was praised in Arab capitals, where the old Soviet anti-Western and anti-Israel stance is remembered fondly. King Abdullah I of Saudi Arabia bestowed on Putin the King Faisal Award, calling him "a statesman, a man of peace, a man of justice."[17] This is quite an about-face from financing the jihad against the Soviets 20 years ago during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Mini­timer Shaymiyev, the pro-Kremlin secular ruler of Tatarstan, accompanied Putin and received the King Faisal award for his "service to Islam."[18] The Middle East visit was all smiles and economic ties-pre­dominantly weapons sales-bereft of any discus­sion of the deep divides between Russia and world of Islam.

A number of factors drive Putin's recent rhetoric and actions in the Middle East.

First, by embracing Middle Eastern monarchies and Islamist authoritarianism in Iran, he signals Russia's continued divergence from Western norms of internal political behavior. This has important implications, as 2007 and 2008 are election years in Russia.

Second, Russia is following the Soviet model of opposing first the British and then the American presence in the Middle East by playing to anti-West­ern sentiment in the "street" and among the elites. This is something that both Wilhelmine Germany and, later, Nazi Germany tried to do as well. Putin's Munich speech, Al-Jazeera interview, and press con­ferences in Jordan and Qatar solidified the Kremlin's public diplomacy message, amplifying its differ­ences with Washington.

Third, the Russian leadership is concerned about high Muslim birthrates in Russia, especially with the declining Slavic Orthodox population. Russia is facing an increasingly radicalized Mus­lim population along its southern "soft under­belly," particularly in the North Caucasus, where the two wars in Chechnya (1994 and 1999), even though the rebels were effectively crushed, led to the spread of Salafi Islam.

Many young Muslims in Russia view themselves more as members of the global Islamic ummah (com­munity) than as Russian citizens. Keeping Muslim powers such as Saudi Arabia and Iran at bay, pre­venting them from supporting insurgencies in Eur­asia, and toning down Islamic radicalization in Russia through Islamist education and propaganda are important policy items on the Kremlin's agenda.

Finally, Russia is a high-cost oil producer that benefits disproportionately from high oil prices. As the largest oil and gas producer in the world and the largest oil exporter outside of OPEC, Russia is inter­ested in maintaining a high energy price environ­ment, which is caused by tensions and conflicts in the Middle East among other things.

Russia is perfectly willing to sell weapons to both sides of the growing Sunni-Shia divide. This was evidenced when Putin offered the same "peaceful" nuclear reactors and anti-aircraft systems to both Iran and the Arab Gulf states. As one Russian observer put it, weapons sales create allies.[19] Russia is using weapons and nuclear reactor sales today the way that imperial Germany used railroads before World War I-to attract allies, bolster influence, and undermine the dominant power in the Middle East.

Syrian Weapons Sales. The Middle East is not a new market for Russian weapons. The Soviet Union armed the region for decades, serving as a major arms supplier to Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, often in exchange for mere promises of future payment. It was this unpaid debt that led to a halt of weapons sales to Syria after the Soviet Union collapsed. Yet 1998-1999 marked the resumption of sales of weapons, such as the AT-14 Kornet-E anti-tank guided missile.[20]

Although re-establishment of ties between Rus­sia and Syria began in 1998, Syrian President Bashar Assad's January 2005 visit to Moscow proved to be a turning point, as Russia made a decision to write off 73 percent ($10 billion) of Syria's total debt of $13.4 billion. A sale of the Strelets air defense missile sys­tem was concluded the same year despite protests from Israel and the United States. At the time of the sale, Putin denied Syria's request for more robust air defense missiles, such as S-300 and Igla, and for the short-range ballistic missile Iskander-E, which some analysts interpreted as a demonstration of sensitiv­ity to Israeli security concerns.[21]

In the meantime, Syria was supplying Hezbollah with Russian weapons. In 2006, Israeli forces found evidence of Russian-made Kornet-E and Metis-M anti-tank systems in Hezbollah's possession in southern Lebanon.[22] In February 2007, Russia responded to accusations of arming terrorist groups by announcing inspections of Syrian weapons stor­age facilities with the goal of preventing the weap­ons from reaching unintended customers.[23]

For several years, Russia has been attempting to engage in military cooperation with both Israel and Syria. However, the levels of cooperation with the two states are inversely related, and escalating arms sales to Syria can only damage the relationship with Israel. Russian-Syrian military cooperation went through numerous stages, from high levels of coop­eration during the Soviet era to virtually no cooper­ation after the Cold War, until 2005 when Russia began to attempt to balance its relationships with Israel and Syria. However, Russia's recent return to the Middle East might indicate that Moscow is pre­pared to enter a new stage of military cooperation with Syria, even to the detriment of its relationship with Israel.

Gas OPEC: A New Foreign Policy Tool

Russia has been using its position as the world's leading natural gas producer to boost its role in the Middle East and beyond. Steadily and stealthfully, a new gas cartel-the Gas Exporting Countries' Forum (GECF)-is emerging.[24] The cartel is inspired by those that would benefit most from its future geopolitical muscle: Russia and Iran, specifi­cally President Putin and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Speaking to the Russian National Security Coun­cil Secretary Igor Ivanov on January 29, Khamenei called for the creation of an OPEC-like gas cooper­ation organization. The GECF took a step toward its unannounced emergence at an April 9 meeting in Doha, Qatar, despite the opposition of Azerbaijan, Canada, the Netherlands, and Norway.

Russia's Global Gas Strategy. Moscow is play­ing a complex and sophisticated game that will likely maximize its advantages as the leading gas producer with the largest reserves on the planet.

First, Russia's approach is gradualist. Moscow has never been openly enthusiastic about a gas cartel but has waited for an opportunity to launch one. The message in most of the Russian media after the summit was that "no 'gas OPEC' agreements have been signed."[25] This is exactly what Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas monopoly, wants everyone to believe. However, a careful examination of the official announcement and media reports reveals that there is reason for concern.

Second, Russia's approach is stealthy. Instead of prematurely proclaiming the cartel and alarming consumer countries, it is quietly putting the compo­nent parts into place. In Doha, Russia initiated the creation of a high-level group to "research" the pric­ing of gas and to develop methodologies toward commonly accepted gas pricing models. Conve­niently, Russia will staff this group.

Third, Russia looks reasonable. The immediate price-regulating function of the emerging cartel is supported by those Latin American countries (Ven­ezuela, Bolivia, and Argentina) that want to dis­pense with market principles in gas trade. With Iran and Venezuela (supported by Bolivia and Argentina) applying their OPEC-honed instincts to gas and demanding price regulation, Russia can afford to stand aside and let others do the talking. Neverthe­less, an unnamed "high ranking member of the Rus­sian delegation" to Doha told RIA Novosti that "as the gas market undergoes globalization, certainly such an organization (a gas cartel) will appear and is necessary."[26]

Fourth, and most important, a cartel by any other name is still a cartel. Members of the GECF agreed to discuss dividing up the consumer markets among them, particularly in Europe, where Russia and Algeria are major players. For example, if Rus­sia agrees not to challenge Algeria's position in Spain, Algeria will stay clear of Germany. This will clearly challenge the EU's energy liberalization and gas deregulation policy, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2007.

The group's members plan to "reach strategic understandings" on export volumes, delivery schedules, and the construction of new pipelines. They also plan to explore and develop gas fields jointly and to coordinate startups and production schedules. To continue their work, members will gather for their next annual meeting in Moscow and plan to develop a permanent secretariat. Despite protestations to the contrary, this sounds like a car­tel in the making.

Not Tomorrow. Oil is a global commodity, while natural gas is not-or at least not while it is piped and its prices are defined up to 15-20 years in advance through long-term contracts. However, liq­uid natural gas (LNG) is rapidly becoming a com­modity that is shipped worldwide.

By 2010, the LNG share of the world's total gas consumption will double. Thus, price gouging through manipulation of production quotas may come faster than many experts think if the GECF becomes a new OPEC and if the consumer nations do not unite and flex their muscle. Moreover, Russia and Iran are interested in increasing their geopoliti­cal leverage against the EU in areas that often have little to do with energy.

The Bush Administration barely reacted to the Doha meeting. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rank­ing Member of the House Foreign Affairs Commit­tee, wrote to the Secretary of State that the establishment of a gas OPEC would be a "major and long-term threat to the world energy supply" that the U.S. should "vigorously oppose."[27] Privately, officials express grave concern.

As the case of OPEC demonstrates, closing mar­kets to competition, promoting national oil compa­nies, and limiting production through a quota system results in limited supply and higher prices. In the long run, gas will be no different.

Asymmetric Response

Russia has been the leader in developing ballistic missile defenses and is the only country that oper­ates such a system around its capital. Russian oppo­sition to U.S.-led missile defense and Moscow's support for Iran's unyielding pursuit of long-range missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads have rekindled Soviet-era tensions between the United States and Russia over the deployment of missile defense systems in Europe and elsewhere.

U.S. Missile Defense Deployment in Europe. The United States has announced its intention to deploy 10 long-range ground-based missile inter­ceptors in Poland and a mid-course tracking radar in the Czech Republic. This system is designed to protect the United States from "nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) weapons delivered by ballistic missiles," specifically from the rogue regimes of North Korea and Iran, clearly poses no threat to Russian security, and has no offensive capability.[28]

Russia's current arsenal of 503 deployed inter­continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) could easily overwhelm such defenses. Additionally, missiles launched at the United States from Russian territory would pass over the Arctic region, not over Europe, making interception by the proposed Poland- Czech system almost impossible.[29]

Russian Opposition. Yet Russia has opposed U.S. plans for missile defense in Europe. After meet­ing with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on April 19, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Ser­dyukov said, "We believe that the strategic missile defense system is a serious destabilizing factor capa­ble of having a considerable impact on regional and global security."[30]

Russians have come to recognize that such a small deployment cannot counter the Russian ICBM arsenal. Strategically, however, Russia sees the ballistic missile defense issue as the most recent evi­dence of American and NATO efforts to chip away at its sphere of influence-a sphere that has been diminishing since the collapse of the Soviet empire.

Russian Asymmetric Responses. Russia's re­sponse is both military and diplomatic. On May 7, Russia announced the deployment of an upgraded Topol-1 ICBM missile system in the next two or three years. This would raise the number of Russian silo-based systems from 44 to 48 by late 2007.[31] Russian Air Force Commander General Vladimir Mikhailov declared that Russian warplanes would, if necessary, destroy any American ballistic missile defense system stationed in the Caucasus.[32] Finally, Russia is developing its own anti-ballistic missile air-defense system that, according to General Mikhailov, will be a considerable improvement over the current S-400 missiles.[33]

Over the years, top Russian officials have warned that Russia may renounce the INF Treaty and restart production of intermediate-range ballis­tic missiles. However, others point out that reopen­ing production lines to build new generations of intermediate-range ballistic missiles might be too costly for Russia.[34]

Russia's position represents an about-face since the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Before the United States quit the ABM Treaty in December 2001, Russians were intimating possible cooperation on a European ballistic missile shield. In February 2001, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev proposed a European ballistic missile defense program to NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson.[35] After continuous rejection of U.S. missile defense cooperation offers, Putin has suggested using Russia-leased, Soviet-era early warning radar in Gabala, Azerbaijan, for an ABM joint venture with the U.S.

Russian Response I: Withdrawal from the INF. On the diplomatic front, Russia has begun to chip away at two crucial building blocks of the post-Soviet balance of power: the INF and CFE treaties.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed by the United States and the Soviet Union on December 8, 1987, banned the deployment of nuclear and conventional ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 kilometers (310 miles) and 5,500 kilometers (3,410 miles) and related sup­port equipment.[36] The treaty remains in force.

On February 15, 2007, Army General Yury Bal­uyevsky, chief of the Russian General Staff, said that "It is possible for a party to abandon the [INF] treaty (unilaterally) if it provides convincing evidence that is necessary to do so. We currently have such evi­dence," referring to U.S. missile defense plans in Eastern Europe. The next day, Russian Foreign Min­ister Sergei Lavrov moderated but did not contra­dict Baluyevsky's comments: "We are not speaking about a decision that has already been made. We are just stating the situation."[37] General Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of Russian Strategic Missile Forces, said on February 19: "If a political decision is taken to quit the treaty, the Strategic Missile Forces are ready to carry out this task."[38] Thus, Rus­sia stands determined to destabilize the status quo.

Russian Response II: Withdrawal from the CFE. Russian rejection of the Treaty on Conven­tional Forces in Europe has been similar to its mis­sile defense rhetoric, despite General Baluyevsky's insistence that "those who think that the Russian position on the U.S. missile defense and [its posi­tion on] the CFE are tied are mistaken."[39]

The CFE Treaty, signed in 1990, imposed limits on the numbers of tanks, artillery, armored vehicles, combat helicopters, and warplanes that could be deployed in Europe by the members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.[40] Russia nevertheless repeatedly violated its flank quotas when it deployed weapons to the North Caucasus region during the 1994 Chechen War.

The United States revised the CFE Treaty at an OSCE summit in Istanbul in 1999 to legalize Rus­sia's arms concentration in the Caucasus. In return, President Boris Yeltsin promised to remove all Rus­sian troops from Georgia and Transnistria, a break­away region of Moldova, by 2004. Nevertheless, Russia has not yet withdrawn troops from those regions. In turn, NATO member states have refused to ratify the revised CFE Treaty, making the treaty functionally ineffective.

During their April 23 discussions about the pro­posed U.S. missile shield in Eastern Europe, Rus­sian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the CFE Treaty was "increasingly ineffective." President Putin solid­ified this position in his annual address to the Duma on April 26, when he announced a "moratorium on Russia's implementation of the CFE Treaty until all NATO countries ratify it and start to strictly adhere to it, as Russia does today."[41]

Finally, while speaking to NATO representatives at Oslo the following day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "No one in NATO is complying with CFE Treaty and we do not want too," to which NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer re­plied that "first Russia must honor its Istanbul com­mitments," referring to Yeltin's promise to remove Russian troops from Georgia and Moldova.[42]

Together, the INF and CFE treaties are the linch­pins of European security. Russia's withdrawal from one of them raises concerns about the regime's intentions. Withdrawing from both would create a dangerous potential of re-establishing Europe as a battleground between two competing, albeit cur­rently unequal, military powers. Russia's possible withdrawal from these treaties must be taken seri­ously, as it threatens to derail the very purpose of the U.S. missile defense initiative-enhancing Euro­pean and American security.

Looking to the Future

From Washington's perspective, the timing of Putin's Munich speech and the steps that followed could not be worse. With Iraq in limbo and Iran remaining truculent, the chances for Russian coop­eration in taming Tehran's nuclear ambitions are in doubt. Russia was recalcitrant in applying the nec­essary pressure to Iran during the December 2006 negotiations on U.N. Security Council Resolution 1737 and may refuse to do so again.

Moreover, Putin has been signaling that Russia is willing to be the vanguard of the anti-American camp in Europe and the Middle East and from Car­acas to Beijing.

Clearly, the new Middle East, where U.S. power and prestige are threatened in Iraq and where Mos­cow is challenging America's superpower status, is becoming a more competitive and challenging envi­ronment. Today's Middle East needs to be viewed with the realism and toughness that its history and cultures require.

What Washington Should Do

The image of a new Cold War may be too sim­plistic to describe the emerging relationship with Russia. In fact, Russian foreign policy has a distinc­tive late 19th century czarist, post-Bismarckian tinge: muscular, arrogant, overestimating its own power, and underestimating the American adver­sary that it is busily trying to recreate. This policy is likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy with dan­gerous consequences and a high price in treasure and ultimately in blood.

Clearly, the post-communist honeymoon is over. A realistic reassessment of the relationship is in order.

The United States does not need a new Cold War. The U.S. is engaged in two regional conflicts-in Iraq and Afghanistan-and in the global war on ter­rorism. On the horizon, relations with China may one day become more complicated. With that in mind, U.S. policymakers would do well to remem­ber that Moscow values certainty in relations and respects power and action. Deeds, not words, are needed to send a message to the Kremlin that the U.S. and its allies will not be bullied.

Specifically, as the status quo power in the Mid­dle East, the U.S. should:

  • Seriously examine Russian proposals for a joint missile defense radar station in Azer­baijan. If possible, the U.S. should use missile defense cooperation to salvage and improve the strategic relationship between Moscow and Washington. Russia should be enticed to change its stance toward Iran, cooperate in the U.N. Security Council to tighten economic sanctions, stop its weapons sales, and participate in other measures to terminate the Iranian nuclear pro­gram. This would be a major change in the Rus­sian position and beneficial for the United States.

  • Bolster relations with pro-Western regimes in the Gulf. While some weapons sales and busi­ness projects will inevitably take place, only by maintaining a security umbrella in the Persian Gulf can the U.S. have greater influence than Russia in the region. The Department of Defense should expand relations with the Gulf Coopera­tion Council by providing military and security assurances to Gulf countries against Iranian encroachment-assurances that Russia is inca­pable of giving-and expand cooperation in the fight against terrorism, which threatens Amer­ica's Middle Eastern allies.

  • Build bridges to potential Russian allies to prevent the emergence of anti-American blocs, especially to the former Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Armenia. The State Department and the Department of Energy should also appeal to America's traditional allies in Europe and elsewhere to recognize the chang­ing geostrategic balance in the Eastern Hemi­sphere, to boost mutual defenses, to coordinate energy policy, and to cooperate on energy secu­rity among the consumer states.

    In addition to EU members, the U.S. should expand relations with key emerging markets into which Russia is attempting to encroach (e.g., Turkey, India, Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa). For example, the U.S. should encourage Latin American leaders to recognize the threat posed by Hugo Chávez's cooperation with Mos­cow, especially his massive weapons purchases from Russia.

  • Create a global coalition of energy consumers to oppose oil and gas cartels and to apply mar­ket principles to the natural gas industry. The Bush Administration needs to develop a clear global policy to limit cartelization of the gas mar­kets and to oppose the OPEC policy of produc­ing too little oil too late. Without buyer solidarity translated into action, energy consumers and economic growth will suffer worldwide. The National Security Council and National Eco­nomic Council should take the lead in develop­ing this policy.

    Specifically, the U.S. should work with EU member states, Japan, China, India, and other countries to prevent the cartelization of the gas sector along OPEC lines. This can be accom­plished through cooperation in the International Energy Agency and by applying anti-trust legis­lation worldwide against companies that are actively involved in cartel-like behavior in the energy markets. Finally, the U.S. should liberal­ize its own regulations to allow exploration in the Arctic, in the Rocky Mountains, and along the Pacific and Atlantic Continental shelves.

  • Continue dialogue and cooperation with Rus­sia on matters of mutual concern. This is nec­essary to demonstrate to Russian elites that the United States has much to offer Russia. Fields of cooperation may include energy (especially nuclear energy), non-proliferation of WMD, and space exploration. Specifically, cooperation on interdicting drug trafficking from Afghanistan and Central Asia, anti-terrorism cooperation related to the North Caucasus, and WMD disar­mament programs under Nunn-Lugar funding should be continued.

  • Reach out to the people of Russia through a comprehensive public diplomacy strategy via the Internet, international broadcasters, visitor programs, and exchanges to debunk the myth that the U.S. is hostile to Russia. Congress should increase funding for such programs from $40 million in fiscal year (FY) 2007 to $100 million for FY 2008. The Department of Commerce, the U.S. Trade Representative, and the business community should reach out to the Russian business community, which may be interested in improving international economic and business cooperation, particularly through WTO acces­sion and repeal of the Jackson-Vanik Amend­ment (at least in relation to Russia).


After a 20-year hiatus, Russia is forcing its way back onto the global stage as an adversarial actor. It is flush with cash, bolstered by a market economy, and expects respect, recognition, and influence.

Washington decision-makers can no longer afford to take Moscow for granted and must design better strategies to cope with this renewed geopolit­ical challenge in Eurasia. The Kennebunkport sum­mit may be the last chance for the two leaders to reverse the downward spiral that has characterized U.S.-Russian relations since 2003.

Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. Michael Belinsky, an intern at The Heritage Foundation, contributed to the preparation of this study.

[1] Associated Press, "Russia Rejects Kosovo Independence," CNN, May 12, 2007.

[2] Dmitri Trenin, "Russia Leaves the West," RealClearPolitics, July 9, 2006, at (June 26, 2007).

[3] Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., "The 'Primakov Doctrine': Russia's Zero-Sum Game with the United States," Heritage Foundation FYI No. 167, December 15, 1997.

[4] Vladimir Putin, speech at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy, February 10, 2007, at (May 21, 2007).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Andrew Kramer, "Putin Is Said to Compare U.S. Policies to Third Reich," International Herald Tribune, May 9, 2007.

[7] BBC News, "Putin Deplores Collapse of USSR," April 23, 2005, at (May 21, 2007).

[8] RIA Novosti, "Poll Shows Trust in Authorities Falling," at (March 5, 2007).

[9] Clara Ferreira-Marques, "DAVOS-Top Kremlin Official Medvedev Woos World Forum," Reuters, January 27, 2007.

[10] Vladimir Isachenkov, "Russia's Defense Chief Plans to Build New ICBMs," The New York Sun, February 8, 2007, at (March 5, 2007).

[11] Maria Gousseva, trans., "Russia Resumes Production of Legendary Black Shark Helicopters," Pravda, February 1, 2007, at (March 5, 2007.

[12] Stephen Johnson, Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., and William L. T. Schirano, "Countering Hugo Chavez's Anti-U.S. Arms Alliance," Heritage Foundation Executive Memorandum No. 1010, September 6, 2006, at

[13] Vladimir Putin, "Interview with Arab Satellite Channel Al-Jazeera," February 10, 2007, at (March 5, 2007).

[14] Spengler, "Russia's Hudna with the Modern World," Asia Times, February 21, 2007, at (March 5, 2007).

[15] Ilya Bourtman, "Putin and Russia's Middle Eastern Policy," Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 2 (June 2006), p. 8, at (June 25, 2007).

[16] Putin, "Interview with Arab Satellite Channel Al-Jazeera."

[17] Al-Jazeera, "Russia Seeks Closer Saudi Ties," February 12, 2007, at
(May 16, 2007).

[18] The King Faisal Award was given to Shaymiyev "in recognition of his role in the service of the noble Islamic values." Saudi Press Agency, "King, Putin Grace King Faisal Award Function for Shimiyev," February 12, 2007, at (March 5, 2007).

[19] ITAR-TASS, "Putin's Tour of Mid-East Countries Boosts Cooperation with Them," February 19, 2007.

[20] Oksana Antonenko, "Russia's Military Involvement in the Middle East," Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 5, No. 1 (March 2001), p. 5, at (June 25, 2007).

[21] Mark N. Katz, "Putin's Foreign Policy Toward Syria," Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 1 (March 2006), p. 59, at /static/reportimages/2528F2CEA59760BEAE00FF4909AC1786.pdf (June 25, 2007). Iskander E is the export version of the Kolomna-designed 9M72 short-range missile currently in service with the Russian armed forces. Iskander-E has a range of 280 kilo­meters, which is 120 kilometers less than its Russian Army analog but still sufficient to reach Haifa and Tel Aviv.

[22] "Israel Finds 39 Russian Missiles in Lebanon," World Tribune, October 19, 2006, at (June 25, 2007).

[23] "Rossiyskie spetsialisty proinspektiruyut voennye sklady Sirii" (Russian specialists will inspect weapons storage facilities in Syria), Rosbalt, February 10, 2007, at (June 25, 2007).

[24] The forum was created in 2001 by Algeria, Brunei, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Russia, and Turkmenistan.

[25] RIA Novosti, "What the Russian Papers Say," April 27, 2007, at (May 16, 2007).

[26] Fedor Chaika, "Will the 'Gas OPEC' Be Announced in Russia?" trans. by Elena Leonova, Izvestia, April 11, 2007, pp. 1-2.

[27] Igor Tomberg, "Will There Be a Gas OPEC?" RIA Novosti, April 11, 2007, at (May 21, 2007).

[28] Embassy of the United States, Prague, Czech Republic, "Missile Defense Cooperation: U.S. Missile Defense Factsheet," April 16, 2007, at (May 7, 2007).

[29] Sam Black, "Russia and the Future of the INF," Center for Defense Information, March 16, 2007, at (May 7, 2007).

[30] Andrei Kislyakov, "Should Russia and the U.S. Cooperate on Missile Defense?" RIA Novosti, April 26, 2007, at (May 8, 2007).

[31] RIA Novosti, "Russia to Upgrade Topol-M ICBMs to Counter Defense," May 7, 2007, at (May 7, 2007).

[32] Richard Weitz, "Russia's Missile Defense Fears Driven by More Than Security," EurasiaNet Commentary, March 6, 2007, at (May 8, 2007).

[33] Kislyakov, "Should Russia and the U.S. Cooperate on Missile Defense?"

[34] Andrei Kislyakov, "In Defense of the INF," United Press International, February 21, 2007, at (May 8, 2007).

[35] Nikolai Sokov, "Russian Missile Defense for Europe: The February 20 Proposal Is More Serious Than It Seems," Center for Nonproliferation Studies, March 14, 2001, at (May 7, 2007).

[36] Black, "Russia and the Future of the INF," and Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, signed December 8, 1987, at (June 26, 2007).

[37] Martin Sieff, "BMD Focus: Russia's INF Threat Not Bluff," United Press International, February 16, 2007, at (May 7, 2007).

[38]Martin Sieff, "Russia's New Missile Debate," United Press International, March 1, 2007, at (May 7, 2007).

[39] RIA Novosti, "Baluevskiy: strany NATO ispugalis' zayavleniya Putina o peresmotre DOVSE" (Baluyevsky: NATO is scared by Putin's declaration of CFE revision), May 7, 2007, at (May 7, 2007).

[40] Pavel Felgenhauer, "Putin Cancels CFE Until NATO Countries Properly 'Adhere' to Its Provisions," Eurasia Daily Monitor, May 2, 2007, at (May 7, 2007).

[41] Ibid.

[42] Kazakhstan General Newswire, "NATO Will Ratify CFE When Russia Honors Istanbul Commitments-NATO Head," April 27, 2007, Nexis-Lexis (May 7, 2007)


Ariel Cohen
Ariel Cohen

Director, CENRG and Senior Fellow, IAGS