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  • Putin Blames the West

    Vladimir Putin on TV (Photo by Alexey Sazonov/Newscom)

    In the latest anti-Western rant, the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has blamed the United States and the West for once again thwarting bilateral relations with Russia by deploying missile defense in Europe and “lying” about NATO enlargement. However, his statements are clearly political propaganda intended for internal consumption and distort the reality of events. Yet they raise questions regarding Russia’s commitment to President Barak Obama’s “reset” policy and broader Russian integration with the West.

    For example, Putin has chosen to criticize the current missile defense plan of the Obama Administration. “We had just come to terms that there would be no missiles [NATO missile defense systems] in Poland…but it was suddenly announced that the same [missile defense system deployment] was planned for other European countries,” Putin stated.

    However, Russia can hardly feign surprise. Nor this is “the same” system. The missile defense plans differ in technology but not in the purpose: to counter limited short- and intermediate-range ballistic missile threats from Iran. Moreover, neither the old Bush-era missile defense system called “Third Site” or the new “Phased Adaptive” system could counter an attack from the massive Russian heavy intercontinental-range ballistic missile arsenal, nor would they have the adequate range to reach Russia’s missile sites and flight trajectories.

    The Russians believe and have publicly stated that the treaty imposes significant limitations on U.S. ballistic missile defenses. The Russian unilateral statement to the treaty is clear: Moscow will withdraw from the treaty if there is any “qualitative” or “quantitative” change to American missile defenses. By this statement, the Russians are effectively forcing the U.S. to choose between improving its missile defenses and keeping the treaty intact. Also troubling, the Administration has refused to share the negotiating record of the treaty with U.S. Senate, leaving many to believe that negotiators gave the Russians private assurances on limits to U.S. missile defenses. It is also worth pointing out that the Administration promised domestically not to limit ballistic missile defenses on numerous occasions.

    Putin’s anti-NATO rant is even more bizarre. In his statement, “at time of the withdrawal from East Europe, the NATO secretary general promised the USSR it could be confident that NATO would not expand over its current boundaries,” Putin completely disregards the fact that there was never a written agreement between Russia and NATO members on this important subject. As a lawyer, Putin surely knows better.

    Membership in NATO has always been a decision of sovereign nation-states. It is independent of Russia or the NATO Secretary General’s will, and is in accordance with international law. Moreover, NATO expansion has been a major success story for the alliance as it has played a crucial role in stabilizing and reforming large parts of Europe devastated from decades of Nazi and Soviet rule. In addition, Russia and NATO are engaging in a twenty year long cooperation, including the NATO-Russia Council. With both Russia and NATO recognizing that membership is not in the cards at this stage, accusations about the lack of cooperation from the West are completely unjustified.

    Russia, instead, is voicing revisionist sentiments with regard to European and Eurasian security. In Europe, Russia wants to scramble time-tested frameworks, including NATO and OSCE, to launch new security architecture.

    In Eurasia, Moscow is using its entire geopolitical toolbox such as diplomacy (including recognition of the self-proclaimed republics), strategic-information operations, arms sales, status-of-forces agreements, base construction, and even regime change, to secure its “sphere of privileged interests” and to shift the balance of power in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Russia continues to be in violation of the Paris-brokered ceasefire agreement it signed with Georgia in August 2008, which stipulates that its military must pull back to its pre-war positions (status quo ante bellum).

    By all appearances there is an internal Russian political angle to the timing and the tone of Putin’s statement, one that is a poke in the eye of Medvedev-Obama’s “reset” policy. Russia will hold presidential elections in 2012 and Putin is clearly running. He is playing to the anti-Western sentiments held by the Russian elites. Putin himself has aired these sentiments, despite chummy relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French president Nicolas Sarkozy (who also brokered the Georgian peace agreement). And last but not least, anti-Western xenophobia justifies the continuation of domestic authoritarian policies.

    Instead of engaging in hostile rhetoric, Russia and the United States should cooperate on the key issues currently threatening the international community, e.g., Iran’s nuclear weapon program and the threat of Islamic radicalism—both challenges close to, or inside, the Russian borders. If the Kremlin rejects U.S. overtures and inflames anti-Americanism in Russia, the United States and Russia will face a continuation of friction and bickering neither of which are in either side’s interest. And regardless of the Russian opposition, the U.S. and its allies should vigorously pursue their interests in Eastern Europe and Eurasia.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    11 Responses to Putin Blames the West

    1. Russ Portland OR says:

      Putin is not a Lawyer,

      he's a former KGB agent, used to work in East Germany as an intelligence officer, just giving you a heads up :)

    2. Russ Portland OR says:

      Putin is not a Lawyer,

      he's a former KGB agent, used to work in East Germany as an intelligence officer, just giving you a heads up :)

      You mistaken Putin with President Dimitry Medvedev, he's the one who's the lawyer.

    3. S.Y - London says:

      @Arial Cohen

      Why have you not mentioned the Georgian matter in your article?

      Putin is blaming USA for arming Georgia, even after the consequences of the war.

      http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=1495411

      Putin as an ex-intelligent officer probably have a very good idea what’s going on in Georgia (full with spies working for Russians)

    4. Mark Adomanis says:

      "In Eurasia, Moscow is using its entire geopolitical toolbox such as diplomacy (including recognition of the self-proclaimed republics), strategic-information operations, arms sales, status-of-forces agreements, base construction, and even regime change, to secure its “sphere of privileged interests” and to shift the balance of power in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia."

      The United States has never, and will never, use any of these elements of statecraft. See for example the United States' refusal to recognize Kosovo, its complete unwillingness to target Wikileaks (and its non-funding of VOA, RFE, etc.), its prohibition on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, its lack of SOFA agreements with Korea and Japan, its non-construction of dozens of military bases in Afghanistan, and its refusal to invade Iraq.

      Now I suppose you could argue that it's just fine and dandy when the United States uses "strategic-information operations, arms sales, status-of-forces agreements, base construction, and even regime change" but completely unacceptable, evil, and authoritarian when Russia uses them, but those are just basic, elementary, and utterly banal aspects of great power politics that have always existed and, barring some dramatic change in the human condition, will always exist. It seems very odd to name them as some sort of indictment of Russian perfidity.

      "And regardless of Russian opposition, the U.S. and its allies should vigorously pursue their interests in Eastern Europe and Eurasia."

      Of course the Russians have said, and will continue to say, exactly the same thing, only with the word order switched. The hard part is finding the middle ground, but that is very hard to do when you explicitly admit that the other side's concerns are of no importance. "I'll do whatever the hell I want regardless of its effect on you!" is not a terribly effective way to start a negotiation.

    5. sam says:

      haha…

      thats funny that he thinks putin is a lawyer…… lol….just about dismantled your whole article all by yourself.

      embarrassing

    6. ZviadKavteli says:

      Putin's formal education is Lawyer, just like Medvedev's. He was recruited into the KGB from the law school. However, most Russian lawyers study law in order to brake it successfully. It is not surprising that the lawyer Putin joined KGB, worked as an agent in East Germany, later became the head of KGB, prime minister, and president.

      I agree with the author on most accounts, but the West should not be delusional about Putin's cooperation with the West. Like Osama Bin Laden, Putin might pretend to cooperate, but will backstab you when he has a chance. In fact, I think Bin Laden can be trusted more than Putin. Bin Laden killed thousands of civilians, Putin killed hundreds of thousands civilians, particularly Chechen children, women and elderly. Putin is worse than Saddam Hussein. I hope that Russians hold him accountable for his crimes.

    7. Richard says:

      Russ Portland OR, Putin is a lawyer too. He trained in international law and wrote his thesis on how Russia can use its energy resources to achieve its geopolitical goals.

    8. Randall Holland, Ari says:

      Don't turn your back on Putin or you will get a knife in it. Obama can't help himself but pander to these criminals.

    9. Drew Page, IL says:

      Don't get too upset with Putin. After all, he doesn't live here. We can't expect him to disbelieve everything Obama says. It takes a little getting used to. Not that I have any special concern for Putin, why should he be treated any better than the rest of the American public?

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