There is no doubt the relationship between the United States and Russia has been strained of late. Recent events like the Russia-Georgia crisis, the proposed third missile defense site in Europe, and the independence of Kosovo have pitted the two countries against each other at a time when cooperative action – on terrorism, Iran, energy, and nuclear proliferation – is needed most.
Former U.S. Secretaries of State George Shultz recently wrote an op-ed in which they argue against a policy that further isolates Russia and propose steps for a constructive U.S.-Russia relationship.
The two experts explain that Russian military action and brash rhetoric against Georgia sent shockwaves throughout that region – and around the world. The U.S. response, to isolate and chastise, however, is a “drift toward confrontation” and is “not a sustainable long-range policy,” as Russia is imtimately tied to Europe, Asia, and the volatile Middle East, and has a nuclear stockpile comparable to our own.
Kissinger and Schultz suggest that Russia’s recent actions are a result of a series of miscalculations, a desire for acceptance as an equal in the international community, and a somewhat defensive historical and psychological perspective.
Rather than pursue a policy of isolation, the authors – echoing Ronald Reagan’s 1983 approach after the Soviets shot down a Korean airplane – recommend a consistent approach of “strength and diplomacy.” Many members of Congress, who agree that the U.S. response to Russia must be measured and balanced to prevent future conflict, have also expressed that sentiment. Senator Hillary Clinton and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, among others, have stressed the importance of continued U.S.-Russian dialogue.
Kissinger and Shultz point out that the immediate crisis involving Georgia should not overshadow the many national security interests shared by the two countries. The Sochi document – a cooperative strategy outlined by President Bush and then-President Vladimir Putin in April 2008 – provides an effective roadmap for addressing those challenges. This roadmap, combined with an approach of “strength and diplomacy,” they maintain, provides the most constructive opportunity for both nations to confront issues from terrorism and Iran, to nuclear proliferation and energy.