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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 12/10/2010

John McCain on Russia

By Jennifer Rubin

Senator John McCain gave an impassioned speech today at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. First, a bit of news: He and Sen. Jon Kyl are getting "close" on a deal on the New START treaty, with Kyl extracting promises on modernization and McCain working to clarify there is no hindrance to our missile defense plans. In other words, the idea is to improve the treaty, not prevent a vote.

But the bulk of the speech was devoted to an overview of our "reset" policy, which McCain sharply criticized:

The point, my friends, is that this administration's effort to reset U.S. relations with Russia, however well intentioned, is not new. The Clinton administration and then the Bush administration each came into office thinking that its predecessor had mishandled Russia. . . . And now here we are in the midst of yet another attempt to reset the U.S.-Russia relationship.

What we need most now is a greater sense of realism about Russia - about the recent history of our relationship, about the substantial limitations on Russian power, about the divergences in U.S. and Russian interests, and about the lack of shared values between our governments. We don't need Wikileaks to reach these conclusions, my friends. They have been staring us in the face for a very long time."

His use of the word "realism" is telling, for that was the term the Obama foreign policy team took as its own policy label. McCain points out, however, that instead of practicing realism, the administration has been living in a dream world and essentially giving away the store for little gain.

For example, whereas the United States has an interest in improving and deploying missile defenses in Europe, Foreign Minister Lavrov has called these systems 'absolutely inadmissible' and threatened to pull out of New START if we do so. Whereas we have an interest in beginning negotiations with Russia to reduce its stockpiles of tactical nuclear weapons, which are nearly ten times larger than ours, Russia is increasingly relying on those weapons as part of its military doctrine, as recent news reports may suggest. Whereas we have an interest in an open global energy market, Russia still uses its oil and gas as political weapons. And whereas we support the independence and territorial integrity of Russia's neighbors, Russia still treats these sovereign countries as part of its old imperial stomping grounds.

The most glaring example of this remains Georgia. Over two years after its invasion, Russia not only continues to occupy 20 percent of Georgia's sovereign territory, it is building military bases there, permitting the ethnic cleansing of Georgians in South Ossetia, and denying access to humanitarian missions - all in violation of Russia's obligations under the ceasefire agreement negotiated by President Sarkozy. Despite the constant threat from Russia, Georgia is deepening its democracy and growing its economy. The World Bank considers Georgia the 12th best place in the world to do business; Russia is 123rd. In a major recent step, President Saakashvili even renounced the use of force to end Russia's occupation, pledging only to defend non-occupied Georgia in the event of a Russian attack.

He then used of the occasion of International Human Rights Day to do what so many faux human rights groups refuse to do: cite chapter and verse on the long list of Russian human rights abuses. His point is simple: This is a country that doesn't share our values and that needs to be viewed with fresh eyes. But what is the alternative to "reset" that McCain argues has become a one-way street?

He suggests:

We need to stop overstating the successes of our cooperation. And we need to begin dealing with Russia more as the modest power it is, not the great power it once was. What that means, in part, is being more assertive in the defense of our interests and values.

For starters, we need to resume the sale of defensive arms to Georgia. Our allies in central and eastern Europe view Georgia as a test case of whether the United States will stand by them or not. Russia views Georgia as a test case, too - of how much it can get away with in Georgia, and if there then elsewhere. It is the policy of our government to support Georgia's aspiration to join NATO. And yet for two years, mostly out of deference to Russia, defensive arms sales have not been authorized for Georgia. This has to change. At a minimum we should provide Georgia with early warning radars and other basic capabilities to strengthen its defenses.

And he suggests sanctions for human rights abuses, using Russia's aspirations for membership in the WTO as leverage and pulling out of farcical exercises like the U.S.-Russia Working Group, which is led "by one of Putin's closest allies and ideologists."

What are the chances that any or all of this will come about? Here, I'm optimistic. The plethora of foreign policy failures -- Middle East peace talks, the growing aggression by North Korea, the unresponsiveness of China, and the inability to construct an effective policy to thwart the rise of a hegemonic Iran -- have created a sense that America is in retreat and that the president has been insufficiently assertive in advancing American interests. The lackadaisical human rights approach on everything from Burma to Egypt has unsettled foreign policy activists on the right and left.

So now, with the help of the new Republican House majority and a working center-right majority in the Senate, Congress may be able to push the administration in a more positive direction. "Engagement" per se is not bad, as long as while engaging we do more than utter sweet words and appease adversaries. The president is on the defensive at home; now is precisely the time for him, and America, to go on the offense internationally. Russia is the perfect place to start.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 10, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Human Rights, foreign policy  
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Comments

Jennifer, You're spot on about Russia's lack of human rights, but unrealistic about many other things. Instead of saying that the US has an interest in deploying and improving missile defenses in Europes, why not more accurately state that the US will be paying for upgraded defenses that are really no defense at all. Given the power of nuclear weapons, and the literal hit or miss aspect of defense, this is money simply thrown away for "good feelings".

Why don't we recognize that Russia has a sphere of influence similar to our own in countries such as Georgia and Estonia etc. You would be the first to holler if Russia invaded and we did nothing, yet in reality there is nothing short of protest and economic sanctions that could ever be done about defending these countries. The expansion of NATO to what is essentailly Western Asia has taken on genuinely ludicrous proportions involving committments to defend countries that are by their size and proximity utterly indefensible.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 10, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

so all numbers guy, it seems that your proposal is to simply cede hegemony to Russia.

What is it about Americans that makes them unwilling to defend nascent democracies? I abandonned the left when it abandonned its principled stand on the advancement of freedom.

that is certainly the thrust of your critique. What you, I'm sure, view as "realism" sounds just like "surrender".

I'm hardly surprised

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 10, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

@skipsailing28. Very well put. Great work,Jennifer. McCain is spot on about Russia in contrast to Obama and even George W. Bush. I wish McCain had been our POTUS, and not only for his foreign policy expertise. Come 2014,when I will no longer be able to choose my doctor, I will ruefully remember the health care policy he advocated in 2008 which was lost to the nation when he was defeated.

Posted by: hancock1 | December 10, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

@skipsailing28.. Come 2014,when I will no longer be able to choose my doctor,

In 2014,I'm going to be in charge of Doctor selection for everybody. Let me know what Doctor you want,and for a small fee,I'll take care of you.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 10, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

skipsailing:

That's a fair enough challenge. You would agree that both R and D's have supported non-democracies when it was in our interests to do so in the past I hope.

You might say that we are currently defending "nascent democracies" in Iraq and Afghanistan to the tune of a trillion or more dollars. (you would be wrong, but you might call them that)

So is this just a theoretical thing with you or have you ever looked at the map and considered the ACTUAL difficulties of fighting in these areas? If you say that we won't ACTUALLY fight, just threaten to, well we have tried that policy in the past, and are currently doing so in Iran and North Korea among other places. It doesn't seem to work very well.

I was going to pass on one other question, but that would be unlike me. Are you personally, or your son or daughter willing to fight and die for Latvia, Estonia, the Ukraine, or Georgia? If not, exactly whom are you proposing do so?

Enjoying the chat with you!

Posted by: 54465446 | December 10, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

McCain wants more war. We can't afford it.
Someone else needs to step in, in Russian Georgia. We need to make sure we have an arms structure to intercept anything that comes at us. We need to buy more American made products. We do need to accept that Putin would love to bring back the old glories of the massive USSR- he is bored with this rinky-dink little Russia. We can't hope that he won't deal bad, bad arms to those who would like to blow us up-because that would not hurt his feelings at all. But we don't need to incite anything by being big brother to the Georgians. WE CAN'T. That doesn't mean we are incapable- we just should not take the bait. But McCain can't win Viet Nam until he wins a war. Someone tell him that Viet Nam was unwinnable- any war today is essential unwinnable because there is not code or honor in most of those we would fight. So what for?- to protect more barren steppeland ? Really? To show we are the leaders of the "Free World"? Really? We can't even get our aid to Haiti right....child, please.....

Posted by: poppysue85 | December 10, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I thought the Cold War was over...

John McCain & a wide of number influential people have continued to support the containment of Russia. Especially when it comes to nuclear weapons! They have done everything they can diplomatically or otherwise to ensure the former Soviet Bloc
doesn't get back together, while the United Kingdom & United States of America are broadening the size of their alliance.

However, this policy just doesn't have its basis in the Cold War, folks! It goes all of the way back to the early 1800's when the British & Russians had their rivalries over who would control Asia (particularly Central Asia, which was close to India) and the Middle East.

Here's another thing to think about...The Revolutions in Russia, Germany, China & Cuba all share something in common. They were financed in varying degrees by Western (primarily British & American) business interests who had their reasons
for supporting them. Russia - to stop the Imperial ambitions of the Romanovs. Germany - to keep the Hohenzollerns (not sure about the spelling) from achieving their ambition to recreate the Holy Roman Empire. China - After deposing the Chinese Emperors, they wanted to have more "user-friendly" people in charge in order realize their business goals. Cuba -
After the Spanish were displaced, they wanted more control there too. Unfortunately, all of these folks wanted to pursue their right to self-determination
and kept Western powers from gaining control of them. That's Russia, China & Cuba wound joining in an alliance.

We need to get out of other peoples' business and take care of our own!!!

Posted by: theseeker1952 | December 10, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Who says we and Russia don't hold shared values? Don't we both arrest journalists who report news that we don't want them to report? Take the case of the RT crew arrested covering the annual protest outside the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GA. What's that, you never heard of it? Indeed. Don't both countries engage in news suppression? Google "RT crew arrest."

Posted by: dcdave2u | December 10, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"For starters, we need to resume the sale of defensive arms to Georgia."

Gee, isn't that what got Georgia in trouble? Saakashvili promised to take back South Ossetia (even though the Ossetians hate Georgia). He's elected in 2004, and the US, Ukraine, and NATO begin sending arms his way. Drunk with power (that wonderful parade of arms in June 2008 in Tbilisi) and the desire to commit GENOCIDE in South Ossetia left the US on the flip side of another Kosovo disaster, except this time the Russians prevented a genocide (yes, and the Europeans confirmed that Georgia attacked South Ossetia first...what a bummer to those that hold to the narrative that's being sold in the US).

Expanding NATO to the Russian border was/is a bad idea. Supporting the inept thug Saakashvili is also a bad idea.

Posted by: johnhiggins1990 | December 10, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

"Russia not only continues to occupy 20 percent of Georgia's sovereign territory"

Russia occupies South Ossetia, which has fought for and won independence three times. I guess Kosovo is granted independence from the "international community", but South Ossetia isn't so lucky.

Posted by: johnhiggins1990 | December 10, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

"President Saakashvili even renounced the use of force to end Russia's occupation, pledging only to defend non-occupied Georgia in the event of a Russian attack."

Saakashvili is a liar and a thug. The moment that Russia leaves South Ossetia, he will send troops in to mop up.

Posted by: johnhiggins1990 | December 10, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

"President Saakashvili even renounced the use of force to end Russia's occupation, pledging only to defend non-occupied Georgia in the event of a Russian attack."

Saakashvili is a liar and a thug. The moment that Russia leaves South Ossetia, he will send troops in to mop up.

Posted by: johnhiggins1990 | December 10, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

dcdave2u:

Sorry, you're way over the top all by yourself on that one. There is no comparison whatsoever.

Also, there are no such thing as defensive arms, and no historical nation of Georgia. It's great that these people want democracy but nothing we can do for them will ever secure it. They HAVE to deal with Russia to remain independent.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 10, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

"Whereas we have an interest in an open global energy market, Russia still uses its oil and gas as political weapons"

ROFL!

Let's see. Prior to the Orange Revolution, Ukrainian bought gas from Russia for mere kopeks, then resold it to Eastern Europe at global market prices. How do you think Tymoshenko became so rich? Then after the Orange Revolution, the Ukraine basically gave Russia the middle finger, stating that it was going to be part of the EU. Russia said, fine, but then you will pay EU prices for our gas. Russia gave the Ukraine 8 months. But Tymoshenko and other cleptocrats couldn't pry their greedy fingers off the pipeline, and Russia shut down the gas on 1 January. In steps the EU, and tells the Ukraine to allow the gas to flow through to Eastern Europe. Russia opens the spigot, and Ukraine siphons off 5%, basically stealing from the EU. Russia turns off the spigot again. This time Putin steps in, and agrees to sell the Ukraine a lower-grade crude at a cheaper price. The EU force the Ukraine to play by the open market rules.

But McCain thinks this is blackmail by Russia. Does he understand ANYTHING that is happening in the Russian hemisphere?

Posted by: johnhiggins1990 | December 10, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

At least Obama didn't say, like Bush, that he had looked into Putin's eyes and seen his soul. Most important thing about Russia? You can see Alaska from there.

Posted by: Sutter | December 10, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

johnhiggins:

Greenspan said the Iraqi war was all about oil, until they tranquilized him, but I wasn't going to go there. LOL

Posted by: 54465446 | December 10, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

johnhiggins1990: please share your sources. I study the Caucausus to take my mind off the Middle East.

McCain and J-Ru, with all due respect, NFW should NATO extend into the Caucausus, and NFW should ANY EU nation look at Georgia as some sort of test of America's will, and the USA should NOT sell weapons to Georgia or any other kleptocracy.

Estonia and Latvia were once and are now European countries who have earned their independence.

Russia is hard for anyone to get right. Just ask Angela Merkel. Ask the Finns - they still want Karelia back. Putin will have his moment of truth in 2014, at Sochi, on the 150th anniversary of Tsarist Russia's genocide/expulsion of the original residents, the Circassians. I am so looking forward to 2014.

The more interesting angle with Russia today is that Israel is doing a better job of relations than anyone. Maybe Obama should hire Avigdor Lieberman for the reset button - at least it would have the correct translation :)

Posted by: K2K2 | December 10, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse


Once again John McCain at his current age makes the late Robert Bird in his 90's seem like a beacon of intellect and integrity!

McCain at this point is far more senile, more duplicitous, more self-serving and devoid of integrity that the late Robert Bird ever was - even as a young man.

McCain is an excellent argument for term limits!

Posted by: dotto | December 10, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Who says we and Russia don't hold shared values? Don't we both arrest journalists who report news that we don't want them to report? Take the case of the RT crew arrested covering the annual protest outside the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GA. What's that, you never heard of it? Indeed. Don't both countries engage in news suppression? Google "RT crew arrest."

Posted by: dcdave2u | December 10, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

------

Move to Russia if you see no difference. This has to be one of the funniest posts ever. No, no, efface is actually conspiracy theorist extraordinaire Oliver Stone. Yup, the US arrests journalists all the time. The NYT publishes info the gov does not want in the public domain and the entire staff was rounded up and thrown in jail. Oh, yeah, that did not happen.

Posted by: sagedutch | December 10, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

K2K2, I'm wondering if you had "a moment of truth" in 1996, at Atlanta, on the 174th anniversary of Democratic America's genocide/expulsion of the original residents, the Cherokee and Creek Indians.

Posted by: Stranger12 | December 10, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Маккейн никак не может простить тот факт, что русский сбил его самолет во Вьетнаме, успокойся уже дед! Худший по успеваемости в лётном училище, он уже там разбил первый свой самолёт.Второй разбил во время визита эскадрильи в Испанию. Ещё один самолёт он бросил, катапультировавшись, поскольку не смог запустить заглохший в полёте двигатель. Не раз при нём случались пожары на авиабазах, чуть не сгорел авианосец "Форрестол". Я думаю, что во Вьетнаме он тоже катапультировался заранее: вряд ли он надеялся уйти от ракеты. Такой президент просто необходим США, случись что, он катапультируется.

Posted by: Samuil | December 12, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Молодец, Samuil. Боятся они правды. В правде сила. Только, конечно, не в той что в "Брат 2".

Posted by: EUGrrr | December 12, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Why do "team McCain" did not help Georgia to kill all Ossetians in 08.08.08?
The first day of the Olympic Games have chosen so boldly ...
Night attack on Tskhinvali was so fast and so successful ...
Where was the real US support?

Posted by: LuckyBarker | December 12, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Translation (Posted by: Samuil):
Mr. McCain can't forget the fact that he was downed in Vietnam by a Russian pilot. OK, old man, time to calm down!
Earning the worst grades, McCain, still a cadet in the aviation school, managed to loose his first plane. He lost his second during the visit to Spain. He catapulted from the third, not being able to re-start the engine during the flight ... Several times in the places where he served the fire outbreaks were recorded, including the fire on the "Forrestall".
In my opinion, in Vietnam he catapulted prematurely, being afraid to be shot down by a rocket.
The USA is in a dire need of the president like McCain. He would left the helm and "catapult" at the first sign of danger ))))

Posted by: irene_g_2001 | December 13, 2010 3:40 AM | Report abuse

"...The president is on the defensive at home; now is precisely the time for him, and America, to go on the offense internationally. Russia is the perfect place to start."

What a bright idea, Jennifer! Fighting two never ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - is not enough. All we need now is to start confronting...(not even N Korea)... Russia! Nevermind that Russia has a nuclear potential capable of detroying our entire continent in a matter of minutes.

Maybe MacCain being 74 doesn't care about how much more time he has left in this world but I personally am not looking forward to wintess World War III.
God save America and the world from people like the AZ senator!

Posted by: dkrants | December 13, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

We can't give Georgia enough weapons to defend itself against Russia unless we are going to give them a nuclear capability. Second, any hints of direct US support in such a confrontation would be as hollow as our hints or support to the Hungarians in the 1950s. Surely our allies in Central Europe recognize there are limits to what we can do in the region - that is realism.

Russia may no longer be a super power but it is a nuclear armed regional power with whom we do share many interests - in Asia as well as Europe. Don't set up hair trigger agreements with smaller countries that would draw us into a situation reminiscent of 1914.

Posted by: mgferrebee | December 13, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

McCain is absolutely right!
Russia became the terrorist state with the help of Obama administration. Russian security operatives committed terrorist acts in Georgia last week blowing up several bombs. One of the bombs was blown close to US embassy in Georgia. With the Obama appeasement policy toward russia (he calls it “Reset”), next bomb will go off inside the US embassy.

Posted by: gsharia | December 13, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

McCain is absolutely right!
Russia became the terrorist state with the help of Obama administration. Russian security operatives committed terrorist acts in Georgia last week blowing up several bombs. One of the bombs was blown close to US embassy in Georgia. With the Obama appeasement policy toward russia (he calls it "Reset"), next bomb will go off inside the US embassy.

Posted by: gsharia | December 13, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

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