In an attempt to “reset” relations with the former Soviet Union, President Barack Obama scrapped Bush-era plans to deploy missile defense shields to Poland and the Czech Republic that would have protected the region from Iranian attacks. The Heritage Foundation’s Ariel Cohen makes the case that despite our concessions to Russia, the country has pursued policies harmful to our interests. Let’s start with START:
“According to the Administration, New START is a direct result of its ‘resetting’ of U.S.–Russian relations. The Administration views New START as a part of its ‘getting to zero’ nuclear disarmament agenda while relying on unverifiable treaties to ensure compliance with a comprehensive nuclear weapons ban.
“Additionally, the New START limits the U.S. ability to develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect the homeland as well as America’s allies. There are concerns about the inadequacy of the New START verification regime: The degree of verifiability is low and the treaty fails to account for Russia’s 3,800-strong tactical nuclear arsenal. Additionally, the treaty appears to exclude rail-based ICBMs and their launchers from coverage and could permit Russia to circumvent the limits the treaty imposes on such.
‘The Near Abroad’
“Russia also increased its presence and pressure in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. As a result of the 2008 Russia–Georgia war, Russia recognized the independence of secessionist Abkhazia and South Ossetia, established five military bases there, and deployed long-range S-300 missile batteries, which allow aerial control over most of Georgia.
“In Armenia, Moscow recently extended the lease of the Gyumri military base until 2044 and made commitments to protect Armenia’s borders against Azerbaijan and Turkey. A recent Russian book on the Georgia war describes Gyumri as a staging area for an attack on Tbilisi, Georgia. The Russian–Armenian protocol makes Russia the dominant power in South Caucasus, as the U.S. and NATO are unwilling to commit to a long-term military presence there. This arrangement is similar to the renegotiated lease for the massive Sevastopol naval base in Ukraine as it, too, prevents the country’s future membership in NATO. Russia continues to keep a contingent in Transnistria on Moldovan soil.
“Russia is also expanding attacks on the authoritarian Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in order to replace him with a more pliant, pro-Moscow (but not necessarily more democratic) president.
“To further strengthen its dominance in Central Asia, Moscow used its media muscle in Kyrgyzstan to facilitate the overthrow of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. The move was payback for his refusal to evict the U.S. airbase at Manas airport. Russia now demands to be allowed to deploy an ‘anti-narcotics’ military base in Osh in Fergana Valley, the scene of brutal violence in the summer of 2010.
“Winning in Afghanistan is a vital U.S. national interest; the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, a major NATO refueling and transportation hub, has been critical to this effort. Nevertheless, the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan may negotiate a deal that would make Russia’s Gazprom a key supplier of jet fuel for Manas.
“The U.S. and governments of Central Asia recognize that Russia and China will have clout in the heart of Eurasia. Nevertheless, they have a critical common interest in checking these nations’ influence in the region as well as denying terrorists and drug lords sanctuaries in Central Asia, especially after 2011. This has to be a part of a comprehensive, long-term strategy. The Obama Administration, however, is doing little to secure long-term U.S. presence in the region.”
Read the full web memo.