Fewer and Fewer Lambs

The Americans do not understand why the Russians do not want to obey them.

Stephen Sestanovich of New York’s Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) does not like Russia’s foreign policy, and he plainly said so in his Financial Times article from Nov. 3. Needless to say, he is not alone in his views. In the United States, there are many others who are unhappy that the Russians stubbornly refuse to obey and think that Moscow should straighten out — the sooner, the better. This is what it says in the article: A fundamental course correction in Russia’s foreign policy is inevitable. What’s more, Sestanovich proposes ignoring the opinion of a majority of Russian citizens, who think differently altogether.

Indeed, the state of Russia’s foreign policy is simply awful. Just think! Moscow dares construct a joint integrative framework with its neighbors, instead of applauding Ukraine and Moldova’s rapprochement with the European Union. It cultivates good relations with China, when it ought to help the Americans contain Beijing. It refuses to engage in a regime change in Syria that violates the United Nations charter. Consequently, Barack Obama did the right thing, of course, in canceling his visit to Moscow in September, and a simple caprice over the fugitive U.S. intelligence contractor has absolutely nothing to do with it. After all, high-minded, long-term goals always guide the United States. Take the Middle East, for example. There, the U.S. supports the Islamists first, then those who overthrow them. First, it goes to war against militant extremists; then, it renders them every kind of assistance. First, it calls for the universal institution of democracy; then, it befriends absolute monarchies. A strategic approach becomes evident immediately.

Against this backdrop, naturally, it is upsetting to have to admit through gritted teeth that, in the Syrian affair, the Russians were right when they repeated stubbornly that the conflict could only be brought to an end through dialogue between the warring parties, whereas military strikes would just make an even bigger mess of things. And the chemical weapons, it turns out, can be disposed of peaceably, if the matter is taken up conjointly.

And then, there is Iran. It also turns out that negotiations, just like the Russians said, can do some good. There is but a single solace: If Washington truly manages to reach an agreement with Tehran, the Americans will be able to chalk it up to success of their own, and Russia’s influence will decline.

In general, it is not clear what has happened to U.S. leadership. Therefore, all those who say Russia has returned to the big leagues of world politics — if it ever left them at all — need to be put in their place. Otherwise, like in “The Wizard of Oz,” many will lose the lens preventing them from seeing that the world has changed: The Cold War ended more than 20 years ago, and equal partnership is the only serious way to solve international problems today.

By the Way …

It seems Sestanovich is very reluctant to part with the fanciful notion described in the fable by La Fontaine and Krylov about the wolf and the lamb. Remember? The one where might makes right? Only lately, things have not been going so well for the wolf, and that is probably why he is peevish. So Sestanovich’s boss, CFR President Richard Haass, writes about a “progressive weakening of the U.S. position in the world, which is more and more difficult to overcome by means of U.S. hegemony.”*

There are fewer and fewer lambs, and as for Russia, it has never been in that role and never will be, believe me. Deal with it.

*Editor’s note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be translated.

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About Jeffrey Fredrich 199 Articles
Jeffrey studied Russian language at Northwestern University and at the Russian State University for the Humanities. He spent one year in Moscow doing independent research as a Fulbright fellow from 2007 to 2008.

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