“Russian Reset”: Time to Listen to the Critics


In a well-reasoned broadside, The Washington Post’s editorial board blasted President Obama’s Russian policy and his Berlin speech this past Thursday.

The editorial justly criticized the naiveté with which Obama reached out to Russian president Vladimir Putin with a badly thought out proposal to cut a third of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, while ignoring Russia’s pointed lack of cooperation on a number of other key issues.

This desire to secure his “legacy” of nuclear disarmament and a nuclear-free world has roots in Obama’s days at Columbia University. There, the undergrad Obama penned a paper on the subject in 1983 calling for “global zero”—total nuclear disarmament.

To obtain this elusive goal, the President has remained mum about Russia’s truculence on Syria, support of Iran, implacable opposition to U.S. missile defense, and unprecedented human rights crackdown at home.

The Post wrote:

In an attempt to suppress swelling protests against his rigged reelection and the massively corrupt autocracy he presides over, Mr. Putin has launched what both Russian and Western human rights groups describe as the most intense and pervasive campaign of political repression since the downfall of the Soviet Union.… [I]ndependent civic and human rights groups are being systematically stripped of funding and legal protection.

Having lost the support of the urban middle class,…Mr. Putin has been fortifying his base among Russia’s nationalists and Orthodox Christians. That means basing his foreign policy on anti-Americanism. U.S. aid programs have been shut down and Americans banned from adopting Russian children. An intense propaganda campaign is being waged by the government-backed media.

Having recently returned from a trip to Russia, I can say that for the first time in 25 years, Russians are again living in fear for their freedom and their children’s future.

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Outspoken regime critics such as whistleblower Alexei Navalny face criminal prosecution on trumped-up charges. Opposition figure and world chess champion Garry Kasparov recently announced that he is going to emigrate. Overzealous government investigators have hounded Sergey Guriev, a prominent mainstream economist, into self-imposed exile. And no word on any of this from Obama.

As The Heritage Foundation has repeatedly pointed out since 2010, the Russian “reset” policy was doomed to failure from the beginning. It ignored Moscow’s outreach to America’s authoritarian foes from Caracas to Tehran as well as its massive military modernization, neo-imperialist policy, and Soviet-style suppression of dissent.

“See no evil” is bad foreign policy, and so is the abandonment of Russian democrats and America’s friends and allies in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. The revival of the czarist, 19th-century ideological trifecta of Russian Orthodoxy, autocracy, and populism—aggravated by rabid anti-Americanism—is bad news for the security interests of the United States and Europe.

It is time for Obama to recognize the facts and listen to critics of his Russia policy.

Source material can be found at this site.

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