Washington Needs a New Policy Toward Moscow

Attempts to drive Russia into a geopolitical corner harm the security interests of the United States.

It is well known that the promotion of democracy is one of the main tools of U.S. foreign policy. If we analyze the results thereof over the last decade, some serious questions arise. Is such a policy beneficial to the countries where it is applied, and moreover, is it in the interest of America itself?

President George W. Bush had no doubt that the American model of democracy would be met with enthusiasm in every corner of the globe. He confidently predicted that color revolutions would soon sweep across all the countries of the former Soviet Union and beyond. Later, U.S. Sen. John McCain suggested via Twitter that Putin brace himself for the Arab Spring’s arrival in Russia. Not to be outdone by Republicans, U.S. Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised both moral and financial support to the Russian opposition.

All of these words and deeds are in many ways a continuation of the policy of Bill Clinton, who rejected the possibility of Russia’s admission into the Euro-Atlantic Alliance as an equal partner and additional guarantor of regional and international stability. The current pressure on Ukraine, with a view to weaken its trade and economic ties with Russia, shows that the West continues to adhere to the same short-sighted policy of trying to drive Russia into a remote geopolitical corner and keep it there. Following the collapse of the USSR and its communist ideology, Washington was engulfed in a state of euphoria, as the undeniable triumph of the Western model of democracy and free markets was at hand. To put it mildly, however, the current picture of things does not quite match up with this idea.

To begin with, let us look at what has happened in countries like Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Iraq and Libya, where color and “sand” revolutions have triumphed.

In 2003, a putsch called the Rose Revolution took place in Georgia, as a result of which Eduard Shevardnadze was deposed and Columbia University graduate Mikheil Saakashvili came to power. The new president said all the right words about freedom, democracy and the Russian “evil empire.” He also hired a few powerful public relations firms that quickly made him the darling of the west and of the most rabidly anti-Russian media.

Hiding behind this verbal smokescreen, however, was a very different picture. Saakashvili ushered in a repressive police state in Georgia, complete with the persecution of dissidents and torture of prisoners. Corruption came back with a vengeance, and there are serious reasons to suspect that it was he who gave the order to kill [Georgian] Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania.

The attack on South Ossetia in August of 2008 exposed Saakashvili’s dangerous psychological instability. If there had ever been a chance for a peaceful settlement in relations between Georgia and its breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, it vanished after he gave the order to open fire on Tskhinvali, killing innocent civilians, including Russian peacekeepers stationed there under a United Nations mandate. During the recent elections, an overwhelming majority of Georgians rejected Saakashvili and his colleagues, and he himself left the country in a hurry and is unlikely to ever return for fear of prosecution.

In 2004, the ever-advancing march of democracy promotion brought the leaders of the Orange Revolution to power in Ukraine, but their standard bearer, Viktor Yushchenko, has not been able to get even 5 percent of the vote over four years. Among his “achievements” are a sharp deterioration of the Ukrainian economy and the bestowal of the country’s highest awards to Nazi collaborators, including war criminal Stepan Bandera.

In Kyrgyzstan, the Tulip Revolution of 2005 only succeeded in replacing a corrupt leader in Askar Akayev with the even more corrupt Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Kyrgyzstan’s current leadership ordered the closure of an important U.S. military base in the country.

The process of promoting democracy in Iraq and Libya was not limited to the mechanisms of soft power, but rather was carried out using the most modern weapons at the Pentagon’s disposal. The result has been a universal catastrophe with unpredictable consequences, as al-Qaida and other extremist groups have turned out to be the only winners.

One might assume that in light of these obvious failures Washington would reconsider its foreign policy, but so far there is no sign of it. On the Russian front, President Vladimir Putin is still seen as the “biggest threat to democracy,” even though he not only enjoys the support of a majority of his country’s citizens, but was recently hailed by Forbes magazine as the most powerful politician in the world, leaving behind Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and David Cameron.

As can be seen from the examples above, the policy of promoting democracy, including Russia’s demonization, harms America’s national security interests. In the spirit of pragmatism, now is the time for substantial changes to it. It is no longer just about the failures of the crusade for democracy. More and more American officials and international experts recognize that the country is retreating on almost all fronts: from the string of disasters in the Middle East to the active advance of Islamic radicalism, not to mention the insuperable rise of China’s power and influence.

It is vital for America to create new, mutually beneficial relations with Russia without interfering in its internal affairs. An analysis of existing global threats convincingly shows that they are common to our countries and allies. The time for euphoria by the Cold War’s victors ran out long ago; it is time for Washington to look at the global situation with a more sober and rational view.

About this publication

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.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply