RUSSIA; CONFLICT & COOPERATION
Unafraid, Bi-partisan, Uphold U.S. and Freedom.
America and Russia: Towards a New Partnership?
PUBLISHED BY THE BESA CENTER FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES
Bar Ilan University, Tel Aviv
Dr. Jiri Valenta with Leni Friedman Valenta
November 28, 2016
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: A pragmatist like Reagan, President Trump will face three urgent foreign policy issues: renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal with a US-Israel military option and Russia’s acquiescence; resolving the human catastrophe in Syria in partnership with President Putin; and a Great Bargain with Putin on the Ukraine. At home, Trump’s challenge will be to bridge bitter political and racial divides. Establishing bipartisan commissions on the Middle East and Russia might help. So would the appointment of the non-partisan General David Petraeus as Secretary of State.
In the run-up to the US presidential election, the mainstream media, the democratic campaign, and even some Republicans repeatedly warned of the supposed endangerment of the US national interest by the apparent affinity between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. But how real is this threat? And wouldn’t American-Russian collaboration be conducive, rather than detrimental, to Washington’s international standing?
This is not a wholly far-fetched scenario. In his June 2001 meeting with President George W. Bush, Putin, seeking America’s support for the war in Chechnya, warned of an imminent attack on the US by al-Qaeda, then nesting with the Taliban. While this warning seemed to have been ignored, the two presidents developed a genuine strategic partnership after the 9/11 attacks against the Islamist foe in Afghanistan. Most essential was Russia’s arrangement of over-flight rights and logistical support for American forces through Central Asia. Had Washington finished the war in Afghanistan rather than proceed to Iraq, Putin, who found Bush “a decent man… someone with whom he could do business,” might have even sought NATO membership, as he rhapsodized in a BBC TV interview.
As events transpired, however, with the American intervention in Iraq creating a dangerous power vacuum that was eventually filled by Islamic State (IS), and with NATO embarking on what Putin perceived as a dangerous expansion toward the Russian border, he began to speak about a new “encirclement” of Russia. In August 2008, Putin invaded Georgia, ostensibly to protect two breakaway, Russian-speaking provinces, but also to regain valuable Georgian coastline (Abkhazia) that had been lost with the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Then, despite President Obama’s backing of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “reset” of US-Russian cooperation, relations quickly soured. As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who opposed the 2011 intervention, put it, “The Russians firmly believed they were deceived on Libya” by the expansion of the NATO intervention from the protection of civilians to the toppling of the Qaddafi regime, with the attendant loss of many Russian military and economic contracts. “They would subsequently block any future resolutions, including against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”
“If Libya breaks up and al-Qaeda takes root there,” Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev warned, “the extremists will end up in the north Caucasus.” After Qaddafi was killed and Libya disintegrated into an amalgam of rival Islamist militias, with weapons of the fallen regime exported to terror groups abroad and throngs of migrants using the country as a springboard for crossing into Europe, Putin was determined to ensure the survival of the Assad regime. Apart from shoring up Russia’s foremost regional ally vis-à-vis the US, which had made its removal a top priority, Moscow was heavily invested in refurbishing the port of Tartus and planned energy pipelines through Syria.
By the time of the US presidential campaign of 2015-16, Putin had concluded that, given Hillary’s foreign policy record in general and the Libya misadventure in particular, he could not work with her as president. He was likely aware of Trump’s Reagan-like strategy of reestablishing peace through strength by rebuilding the US military while at the same time rejecting large-scale foreign interventions aimed at regime change and nation-building and seeking cooperation and partnership with Russia. Reagan’s actions were rooted in pragmatism, not ideology. Trump seems to display a similar pragmatism, as well as a relatively positive view of Putin.
Rather than fight Russia, Trump must, and likely will, recognize that his most immediate task in the Middle East is to seek great power collaboration in ending the “geopolitical Chernobyl” that is the Syrian civil war (to use General David Petraeus’s words). The war is an Islamist hotbed radiating across the Middle East and attracting young jihadists from around the world. Even before his inauguration, the president-elect should present Putin with proposals for a joint Syrian policy. They should include: a) the immediate cessation of air attacks on the city of Aleppo; b) the creation of enclaves to protect innocent civilians, to be established with UN and international support; c) the removal of all Islamist groups from Syrian territory; d) a declaration of amnesty for anti-Assad resistance groups; e) a declaration of the Syrian regime’s readiness to cooperate with non-jihadist rebels in forming a unified government; and f) a purge of Assad generals found guilty of crimes against civilians.
Eventually, Assad will have to be replaced with another, more acceptable, Alawite figure (the Alawites are essential for the protection of Syrian Christians). The Sisyphean and enormously costly rebuilding of Syrian infrastructure and civil society should become a multinational project with the participation of the UN, the great powers, the anti-Islamist Sunni governments, and perhaps even Israel.
It is essential that Trump recognize the unspoken linkage between the Syrian conflict and the Ukraine – his weakest foreign policy area. These conflicts will have to be approached separately and jointly at the same time, with tough deal-making required on both fronts.
Trump can begin with Henry Kissinger’s notion of the Ukraine as a bridge between Russia and the West, rather than a western bulwark. But the bridge must be bolstered by a Swiss-Austrian-type armed neutrality and US defensive arms. Trump was poorly advised to remove these arms from the GOP platform. Because Ukraine will never seek NATO membership, the arms will be used for strictly defensive purposes.
Trump has also highlighted his intention to revise, rather than shred, the nuclear deal with Iran. To accomplish this, he will likely reinstate a genuine military option for both the US and Israel, pending Tehran’s failure to live up to its provisions.
The new president will still be dealing with those bound by the traditional Cold War view that Moscow must be kept out of the Middle East and that containment of the Russian bear is preferable to persuasion. Here, too, he may be able to calm the naysayers by following in Reagan’s footsteps. While dealing with the then-controversial Central American issue that divided America in the 1980s, Reagan established a Bipartisan Commission on Central America, chaired by Kissinger, that helped to forge a national consensus. By taking similar action, Trump could benefit from the expertise of foremost authorities. One example would be General David Petraeus, who is not only a tested military commander but also a brilliant strategist. He can preside over US foreign policy-making as did General George Marshall in the late 1940s.
Trump is a new kind of president. He took on the entire establishment and prevailed. With his ascendancy, Americans can liberate themselves from self-imposed Cold War shackles. Partnership with Christian Russia is a necessary prerequisite for the saving of Western civilization, rooted as it is in Judeo-Christian beliefs.
Recall that Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill forged a close alliance with Stalin against the Nazi threat. Putin, a Christian autocrat, is no Stalin. Remember Churchill’s famous quip: “If Hitler invaded hell, I would at least make a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.” Americans would do well to remember which devils they can tolerate and which they must destroy.
Home » Archives for Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta
Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta
Russia’s Strategic Advantage in the Baltics: A Challenge to NATO?
An earlier version of this article was published by the Geostrategic Maritime Review, Paris, France, No.8 Strategic Baltic Sea, in the summer of 2017.
The updated version was published by the BESA [Begin-Sadat] Center for Strategic Studies, Bar Ilan University, Tel Aviv, Israel. Dr. Valenta is a Non-resident Senior Research Associate of BESA.
Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta | January 19, 2018
Because nations have complex histories that mold or mar them, what geopolitical lessons and historical lessons can we draw from Russia’s previous military interventions? Has the historical relationship of Russia with the Baltic states been conditioned by a clash of civilizations as claimed by some Baltic thinkers? If so, how does this factor into the present tensions? What role does the sizable minority of Russians in the Baltic states play in the Kremlin’s policy-making? How can strategic military savvy and diplomacy aid in preventing the escalation of present tensions in the Baltics into full-scale war? Read more
Trump Should Aid Czech President Zeman in Fighting the “Munich Attitude”
Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta | December 20, 2017
In a December 6, 2016 telephone conversation, then President-Elect Donald Trump and Czech President Milos Zeman agreed to meet in April 2017 – but the visit appears to have been indefinitely postponed. This is unwise. Zeman, like Trump, is a staunch supporter of Israel, opposes Europe’s “Munich attitude” of appeasement, and is a foe of Islamic terrorists. He should be treated by the White House as the ally he is. Read more
Are Americans Destroying Themselves from Within, as Lincoln Feared?
Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta | November 27, 2017
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves,” wrote Abraham Lincoln. Americans must keep his wisdom in mind. The wheels of two Russiagates – Trump’s and now Hillary’s – are deepening domestic conflicts, and calls for Trump’s impeachment grow. Where is the US headed? Read more
Trump: No More Nation-Building Abroad
Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta | October 17, 2017
The US was in the nation-building business for years, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. But on August 21, 2017, US President Donald Trump stated unequivocally, “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.” As he constructs policies towards Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan, as well as towards the rogue, nuclear-focused regimes in Iran and North Korea, Trump is drawing on the lessons of past follies. Read more
Russiagate: Another Watergate?
Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta | August 15, 2017
Just as occurred during the Watergate crisis of 1973-74, America – the world’s indispensable power – is again facing a constitutional crisis, with a paralyzed president writhing beneath the Damoclean sword of Russiagate. New evidence sheds fresh light on the origins and making of both “gates,” as does a closer exploration of the Nixon-Brezhnev and Trump-Putin bromances. Read more
What Trump Can Learn from Oliver Stone’s “Putin Interviews”
Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta | July 6, 2017
The July 2015-February 2017 interviews with Vladimir Putin by US filmmaker Oliver Stone, now streaming on Showtime, provide surprising insights into the mind of the Russian leader. “We like President Trump,” Putin admits, recalling that during the election campaign Trump was open to a new relationship with Moscow. Further progress was stalled by Russo-gate. Trump should not buy Putin’s reasons for his Ukrainian and Syrian interventions, but would be wise to be open to renewing a limited partnership with Russia against Islamic terrorism and Pyongyang’s rogue regime. Read more
Washington and Moscow: Confrontation or Cooperation?
Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta | June 20, 2017
Behind the ongoing media frenzy, America seems deeply divided over whether to pursue a hard line with Russia or to cooperate with it. With Donald Trump favoring the latter course, Moscow “voted” for him in the 2016 elections. But the Kremlin’s cybernetic interference in the election has led to ongoing Russo-gate and efforts by President Trump’s foes to paint him as a Manchurian candidate. Read more
The Emerging Trump Doctrine of Strategic Savvy
Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta | June 17, 2017
“America will not lead from behind. America First does not mean America alone. It is a commitment to protecting and advancing our vital interests…” So wrote President Donald Trump’s NSA, General H.R. McMaster, with Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council, in the Wall Street Journal. What follows is a discussion of US leaders’ failed strategies in several wars, Trump’s team of generals, and the emerging Trump doctrine, which is here termed “strategic savvy”.Read more
Decoding Flynn-gate: Russia, the Middle East, and the US Elections
Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta | March 6, 2017
The FBI has concluded that ousted National Security Advisor (NSA) Mike Flynn’s contact with Russian ambassador Sergei Kisliak was not, in fact, illicit. Prior NSAs, aware that the Kremlin can influence close elections, have courted its “vote” for their candidates. Flynn acted as his predecessors did while protecting his back channel and his loyalty to Trump. The ongoing witch-hunt is emblematic of an unprecedented political power struggle in the US that reflects widely divergent policies toward Russia, the Middle East, and Ukraine. Read more
America and Russia: Towards a New Partnership?
Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta | November 28, 2016
A pragmatist like Reagan, President Trump will face three urgent foreign policy issues: renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal with a US-Israel military option and Russia’s acquiescence; resolving the human catastrophe in Syria in partnership with President Putin; and a Great Bargain with Putin on the Ukraine. At home, Trump’s challenge will be to bridge bitter political and racial divides. Establishing bipartisan commissions on the Middle East and Russia might help. So would the appointment of the non-partisan General David Petraeus as Secretary of State. Read more
© 2018 Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies |
PUBLISHED BY THE NATIONAL INTEREST
Great Powers, Rogue States and Terrorism
Jiri Valenta and Leni Friedman Valenta
August 5, 2013
Forget Russia and China. Or at least don’t fall into the trap of thinking that they constitute the principal threats to American security, as so many nostalgic cold warriors in Congress and elsewhere seem tempted to do. Neither country has a real interest in challenging America, at least militarily. Frictions will always exist. But military clashes? No, the real threats to American security come from elsewhere. And Russia and China can play a vital role in helping to combat them.
The chief problems that Washington faces come from rogue states and terrorist groupings—Iran and North Korea together with jihadist groups in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Pakistan and Chechnya. North Korean and Iranian elites have much in common. Both hold to virulent anti-American ideologies; North Korean juche, or “self-reliance,” and Iranian extremist Shia Islam. Both have succeeded, for years, in taking advantage of Russian and Chinese grievances against America.
Both countries have engaged in nuclear cooperation with Pakistan. Besides North Korea’s attempted nuclear blackmail of the United States and South Korea, there is its long history of drug smuggling by land, sea and air, as well as terrorist attacks on South Korean officials. Similarly, Iran in 2011 plotted unsuccessfully to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir.
But one place that is not actively threatening America is Russia. On the contrary, the two nations have common security interests, at least when it comes to terrorism. A largely Christian nation, Russia is hobbled with the Achilles heel of Dagestan, Chechnya and the Muslim revival in neighboring south Caucasian republics, as these writers witnessed during their 2009 visit to the region. In 1996, Osama bin Laden proclaimed Chechnya’s integral role in global jihad. Adopting Taliban dress, the Chechen jihadists, like Al Qaeda, embrace martyrdom in the global war against not only Christians and Jews, but also all non-believers.
Russia has fought two bloody wars with Chechnya and is bracing for future trouble. "This may seem surprising, but a war has been virtually declared on us," declared Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov after a 2002 hostage crisis in which one hundred and fifty rebels and hostages died. "It has neither fronts, nor borders, nor a visible enemy. But war it is."
That was before terrorists downed two Russian planes and then murdered six hundred innocents at a Russian school in 2004. "We have to admit,” said Russian president Vladimir Putin, “we did not pay much attention to the complexities and to the dangers of this process of what was going on in our own country and the world as a whole."
Like former czarist prime minister Pyotr Stolypin, Putin deals harshly with dissidents, but is also pursuing, as far as possible, Russian modernization and economic reform. His continuous concern with international terrorism was manifest in Russia’s warning to us about Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. It was not properly heeded. Also noteworthy is that the captured North Korean ship in Panama was not bearing Cuba’s Soviet-made missile parts to post-Communist Russia. Though he may tweak the U.S., Putin is unwilling to fully antagonize us. He has also referred to the interests of his American “partners.”
Rather than confront Russia and China, it is essential to establish a joint effort to combat terrorism. Certainly China can do more to interdict North Korean flights and shipments of military equipment and components to its network of unsavory clients. And despite Putin's decision to give a year of asylum to Edward Snowden in Russia, we should forcefully continue our dialogue with him in the future; particularly on our mutual concerns over terrorism.
Perhaps there are other possible areas of cooperation as well. Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan has suggested we take into account Russia’s interests in Syria to create real negotiations. So far, Russia has evaded the inconvenient truth that by shipping arms to Syria, it is also aiding Iran. An Assad victory would embolden Iran’s terrorist proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, and might result in serious repercussions for neighboring Turkey, Iran, Jordan and Israel.
Above all, we must work towards some sort of partnership with Russia and China focusing on our prime great-power responsibility to maintain a stable world order, protect vital interests and avoid nuclear Armageddon. While it was wise not to get involved directly into the Libyan conflict and to shoot from the hip in the Syrian conflict, the zigzags of U.S. foreign policy, much reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s policies towards the USSR in the 1970s, together with still-unresolved Benghazi-gate, have clearly undercut the effectiveness of the Obama administration. The perception of America’s rival great powers is surely affected by America’s present domestic and economic problems, continuous scandals, and Washington gridlock for which both parties are responsible. The task facing American policymakers, while working towards partnership with Russia and China to cope with international terrorism, is to change the belief of our partners and foes that they are dealing with a weak and hapless Washington.
Jiri Valenta is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He and his wife, Leni, are the principals of jvlv.net, The Institute of Post-Communist Studies.
Dr. Jiri Valenta
TRUMP’S WAR WITH THE CIA OVER RUSSIA
Jiri and Leni Friedman Valenta
January 20, 2017
Unafraid, Bi-partisan, Uphold U.S. and Freedom
Today is Donald’s inauguration. Sadly, some in the CIA are conflating Trump’s dispute with them over whether Russia hacked the DNC with a charge that Trump is, in the words of former acting Director of the CIA Mike Morell, “an unwitting stooge of Russia.”
The CIA is likely right about the Russian hacking. With his landslide, electoral college victory, Trump should accept it and move on. But the fact that Trump has had business connections with Russia in the past does not equate to proof of Donald’s being in Putin’s pocket, and the words “unwitting stooge” imply speculation rather than fact.
Most importantly, when some like Morell speak out on behalf of the whole CIA or the “intelligence community,” they are misleading the American people. There are plenty of CIA officials as well as military brass who support Trump and unlike the outgoing appeaser-in-chief, want him to build up our depleted military and not let the worst terrorists out of Git-mo so that they can go back to killing us.
Our National Interest article, “Who is Mike Morell,” was also posted on Linkedin. Reading it, our possibly assigned critic, Giles de Mourot, (usually the first reader of any article we write) concluded “Morell is the pretext: the target is the US intelligence community as we know it.”
As who knows it? Under no circumstances will we let the Hillary-ites define us as attacking the CIA. We have the greatest respect for the CIA or intelligence community. But we don’t respect those misguided, disgruntled officials who are leading a CIA campaign against our new president.
It goes further. After we were critical of Morell for wanting to “keep us safe” with a plan to “kill Russians” in Syria, we received some interesting comments posted at Linkedin. It seems that, to some of what could well be CIA, if you defend Trump as the better choice over Hillary, you too can be investigated as an agent of Russia.
Let them investigate me. For a decade, I taught Soviet and East European Studies to military intelligence officers of three armed services at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, and I am very proud of it! Deputy DCI Ray Cline came to visit my course on CIA 101.
Then the late DNI, Lt. General USA, William Odom, who used to send his officers to my courses, wrote, “President Reagan's strategy of military competition, economic denial, regional competition, and ideological struggle…did not enjoy popularity among many Sovietologists, though, to be sure, there were notable exceptions (p. 9), such as Richard Pipes, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Thomas Hammond, and Jiri Valenta… Yet the results of the Reagan approach have been precisely the opposite of what the majority of Sovietologists expected.”
I was involved regularly with academics, but also State Department, U.S. military and CIA experts at scholarly conferences and seminars under Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush ‘41 administrations.
I grew up in communist Czechoslovakia, was a member of the class of ‘68, and watched some of my friends get killed during the Soviet invasion. It shaped my life. Much later, I engaged in disciplinary studies and reports for the U.S. government, analyzing the Russian brutal war in Afghanistan (1979-89) and Russian, Cuban and Vietnamese support for Leninist regimes in Grenada, Nicaragua, Angola, Ethiopia and Cambodia. Mr. Mourot from Switzerland doesn’t need to teach me about the Russian threat
In the past, I consulted with four former DCI’s and had a close working relationship with leading academics who worked in CIA research divisions. Incidentally, this is where one of the best CIA Directors ever, Robert Gates, began his career.
Thankfully, the intelligence community has not only skillful, ambitious bureaucrats like Morell, but outspoken and daring officials like counter-terrorism expert Cofer Black. Cofer surely risked his career on July 10th, 2001, exhorting Condi Rice to put the country “on a war footing” against an al Qaida attack. Sadly, she didn’t so risk hers. He was also a powerful voice in the 2001, CIA -run war against al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan --. fought with the help of interesting bedfellows -- Putin’s Russians.
I say “CIA- run” since DCI George Tenet, with Cofer’s help, did an outstanding job of overseeing the operation with some special forces.
The problem is the unfortunate politicization of the CIA and the resulting, new and unusual obsession of some with Trump and the Russian threat. Why be upset that Trump and Putin are making noises about possible limited partnership against Islamists terrorists? It surely beats wanting to keep us safe” by “killing Russians” in Syria as proposed by Morell and endorsed by Hillary.
True, we don’t know exactly what Trump is liable to do. Likely he doesn’t either since he’s still learning on the job. He must surely dump part of the GOP platform and insist on providing defensive weapons to a neutral and free Ukraine. Time will show if he will or if his deal-making wins Putin’s agreement.
But Trump is a true patriot, is tough, has good instincts, and is moving in the right direction. What Morell proposed was foolhardy and extremely dangerous -- particularly facing our crushing national debt and continued involvement in two other wars.
The relationship between Trump and the intelligence community will surely improve under formidable new director, Mike Pompeo if, as he has testified, he pursues independent thinking rather than toadying to presidential politics.
As Trump takes his oath today not to aid and abet domestic and foreign enemies, our outgoing president has pardoned Chelsea Manning and unrepentant terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera -- but forgot to give one to deposed CIA Director General David Petraeus, our national hero.
Dr. Andrey Kortunov
PUBLISHED BY THE NATIONAL INTEREST
Can Russia and America Work Together to
Crush the Islamic State?
Jiri Valenta and Leni Friedman Valenta
August 22, 2014
While Moscow and Washington face off over Ukraine, a much bigger and longer-term challenge presents a possible opportunity for collaboration.
For many, the collapse of Russo-U.S. relations over Moscow’s (bloodless) invasion of Crimea and proxy war in eastern Ukraine points to the beginnings of a new Cold War. However, Russia has not irrevocably transformed itself from limited partner into implacable foe. Washington and Moscow still have many points of shared mutual interest that should not be easily thrown aside in the heat of the moment. Indeed, it’s often forgotten that post–Communist Russia has been engaged with America battling the forces of global terrorism along with efforts to prevent the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) to rogue states. Recent happenings elsewhere may create the basis for such a collaboration to be renewed.
For More: htttp://nationalinterest.org/feature/can-russia-america-work-together-crush-the-islamic-state-11117
Andrey Kortunov: These days many American foreign policy pundits consider a potential US – Russian rapprochement under President Trump to be a challenge rather than an opportunity for the United States. The predominant assumption seems to be that Trump might be willing to get back to business as usual with the Kremlin to the detriment of US partners and allies all over the world and, in the end of the day – to the detriment of fundamental US interests. Do you share these concerns?
Jiri Valenta: Indeed, in the run-up to the US presidential election, the mainstream media, the democratic campaign, and even some Republicans repeatedly warned of the supposed endangerment of the US national interest by the apparent affinity between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. However, how real is this threat? And wouldn’t the US-Russia collaboration be conducive, rather than detrimental, to Washington’s international standing?
This is not a wholly far-fetched scenario. In this June 2001 meeting with President George W. Bush, Putin, seeking America’s support for the war in Chechnya, warned of an imminent attack on the US by Al-Qaeda, then nesting with the Taliban. While this warning seemed to have been ignored, the two presidents developed a genuine strategic partnership after the 9/11 attacks against the Islamist foe in Afghanistan. Most essential was Russia’s arrangement of over-flight rights and logistical support for American forces through Central Asia. Had Washington finished the war in Afghanistan rather than proceed to Iraq, Putin, who found Bush “a decent man… someone with whom he could do business,” might have even sought NATO membership, as he rhapsodized in a BBC TV interview.
Andrey Kortunov: Yes, for some time in early 2000s it seemed that we were entering an entirely new era in the US – Russia relations. Nevertheless, the euphoria did not last for too long. What went wrong, in your
Jiri Valenta: As events transpired, the American intervention in Iraq created a dangerous power vacuum that was eventually filled by Islamic State (IS). This and the crisis in the South Caucasus were serious tests for the US – Russia relations. NATO also embarked on what Putin perceived as a dangerous expansion toward the Russian border, and he began to speak about a new “encirclement” of Russia. In August 2008, Putin invaded Georgia, ostensibly to protecttwo breakaway, Russian-speaking provinces, but also to regain valuable Georgian coastline (Abkhazia) that had been lost with the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Andrey Kortunov: So these tests apparently outweighed good personal relations between George Bush and Vladimir Putin. In fall of 2008, many of us believed that we were doomed to a long period of the US-Russia
Jiri Valenta: True, but despite President Obama’s backing of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “reset” of US-Russia cooperation, relations quickly soured. As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who opposed the 2011 intervention, put it, “The Russians firmly believed they were deceived on Libya” by the expansion of the NATO intervention from the protection of civilians to the toppling of the Qaddafi regime, with the attendant loss of many Russian military and economic contracts. “They would subsequently block any future resolutions, including against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”
“If Libya breaks up and al-Qaeda takes root there,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned, “the extremists will end up in the North Caucasus.” After Qaddafi was killed and Libya disintegrated into an amalgam of rival Islamist militias, with weapons of the fallen regime exported to terror groups abroad and throngs of migrants using the country as a springboard for crossing into Europe, Putin was determined to ensure the survival of the Assad regime. Apart from shoring up Russia’s foremost regional ally vis-à-vis the US, which had made its removal a top priority, Moscow was heavily invested in refurbishing the port of Tartus and planned energy pipelines through Syria.
Andrey Kortunov: There are reasons to believe that Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was more hawkish on many foreign policy matters than President Obama. She supported the US intervention in Iraq, lobbied for an active US engagement in Libya and later on entertained the idea of a no-fly zone in Syria. Do you think that with President Clinton in charge, Russia would find it very difficult, if possible at all, to cooperate with US on security matters? For moreCLICK HERE.