How Obama Can Convince Moscow He’S Not Out To Ruin Russia – Foreign


17:04 ~U 22.02.13

Barack Obama hopes to engage Russia in his effort to continue reducing
nuclear armaments. For the president, this is vital for advancing
his goal of a world less reliant on nuclear weapons, The Foreign
Policy writes.

For Moscow, however, nuclear arms remain the bedrock of military
security and a key component of Russia’s international status. This
does not necessarily doom Obama’s approach, but it makes further
reduction of U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals contingent on
Washington’s willingness to consider Moscow’s security needs. The
United States should examine those requirements in order to understand
not only what kind of a deal with Russia is possible, but how Russia’s
needs relate to its own security interests. Having reconciled itself
with the loss of both its outer empire in Eastern Europe and the inner
one in what used to be the USSR, Russia has no need to physically
control others and no interest in reabsorbing them within a new
imperial construct.

Psychologically, being one of two nuclear superpowers helped
the Kremlin overcome the trauma of imperial collapse and state
disintegration. As a result, Moscow’s present concept of a great power
is the reverse of the classical one. It aims not so much at dominating
others as not being dominated by the stronger powers. Given that the
Russian military is no match for the Pentagon — or soon the PLA —
the Kremlin believes nuclear deterrence is the best way of preserving
Russia’s strategic independence.

The United States, if it wants further cuts in nuclear weapons,
will need to credibly assure the Russians that U.S. missile defense
deployments, while effective against third countries (i.e., Iran), will
not diminish Moscow’s deterrence power. Washington will also need, when
discussing tactical nuclear weapons, to include non-nuclear systems
with a capability for precise strikes. Finally, both Washington and
Moscow soon need to reach out to Beijing to include it in the process
of limiting nuclear arms and enhancing strategic stability. None
of these tasks will be easy, but all of them will be necessary if
relations among the world’s major nuclear powers are to be further

Great-power stability is crucial for a number of reasons. One is
stopping further nuclear proliferation, mainly in Iran and North Korea,
for which Russia and China are key. Moscow’s assessment of the pace
of Tehran’s nuclear program may differ from Washington’s, but it
has zero interest in a nuclear-armed Iran. Russians might prefer a
different way of dealing with Pyongyang than the very uneven U.S.

approach to North Korea, but they clearly see the dangers of living
next to a country that is constantly testing its nuclear devices and
long-range missiles. U.S.-Russian cooperation at the strategic level
certainly creates a better prospect for coordinated non-proliferation

Moscow’s biggest benefit from Obama’s foreign policy reset has been
his downplaying of the NATO option for Georgia and Ukraine. Since
then, the domestic changes in Kiev and, more recently, in Tbilisi
have de-emphasized the NATO accession option even more. Russian
policymakers and strategic planners feel relieved: They no longer
have to account for the possibility of U.S. power projection too
close to their borders. In the South Caucasus, they are happy to leave
Georgia to deal with its own problems, and only worry that the long but
uneasy truce between the Azeris and the Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh
may be broken. As Yerevan’s formal military ally with forces on the
ground, and Baku’s economic partner, Moscow has a stake in keeping
the situation under control — an interest shared by Washington.

The Foreign Policy concludes that Americans should kick the habit of
seeing mainly through the prism of its past experience with the Soviet
Union, or through the optics of Russia’s domestic developments alone.

Obama’s nuclear bid, to be successful, requires an updated and
comprehensive look at Russia.

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