The real solution to the extremely dangerous global confrontation looming between Russia and the West must come from Washington. But the prospects for this happening in the foreseeable future are negligible.
Major European nations are much more susceptible to suffer unanticipated blowback from the economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union on Russia. This is likely to lead to intense pressure on the governments of Germany and France in particular to dial down their participation in the sanctions regime.
However, even if Berlin and Paris break ranks with the Brussels bureaucrats in seeking to improve relations with Russia, the most dangerous issues generating levels of hostility unseen since at least 1982-83 remain carved in stone.
First, the United States continues to funnel massive military support to the Kiev government of President Petro Poroshenko, even as it increases its military action against the civilian population of the two breakaway regions of Lugansk and Donetsk. Russia will certainly respond to the ever-rising civilian death tolls in those provinces – now around 5,000, with almost a million refugees fleeing into Russia – stepping up its own military support for the regions and taking more active operations against Poroshenko’s ramshackle army.
Second, the United States continues to deploy its Ironhorse armored cavalry force in the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as protection for these three highly anti-Russian states. However, the Baltic states are the historic invasion route north to St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city, and well over a million people were starved to death their when the Nazi Wehrmacht took that very route to besiege the city in the fall and winter of 1941.
The fact that NATO forces are now deployed on the outskirts of St. Petersburg would have been inconceivable to any of the Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush administration policymakers who negotiated the end of the Cold War on the U.S. side.
Third, U.S. warships and aircraft remain deployed in the Black Sea in support of the volatile and unpredictable successive governments of little Georgia in the Caucasus. As long as they are there, potential flash point incidents with Russian naval air force units will continue.
The United States cannot hope to restore reasonable relations with Russia or to revive the US-Russian dialogue that is essential to both nations unless and until it unilaterally tackles these three core issues.
Fourth, the Obama administration should also launch a serious dialogue to share early warning space-based strategic intelligence with Russia to reduce the dangers of accidental thermonuclear world war. Russia’s failure to successfully establish its own space-based early warning system means that the world’s most heavily armed nuclear superpower is reduced to “only as far as the horizon” radar alerts to alert it of any potential preemptive first strike.
Serious figures ready to advocate such policies certainly exist in the United States. However, they are locked out of President Barack Obama’s National Security Council. His National Security Adviser Susan Rice has never shown the slightest indication that she even begins to understand any of these life or death issues.
Even worse, the results of the November 4 midterm congressional elections were a disaster for the President and his Democratic Party. The elections delivered the Senate into the hands of the Republicans who remain far more anti-Russian and a super-hawkish than the Democrats, and who seek to humiliate and pressure the president into a far more anti-Russian policy at every turn.
Rice’s ignorance and incompetence is replicated through the news producers and editors of the U.S. national broadcast and print media. No open debate and discussion on the different sides of the Ukrainian conflict is almost ever permitted to see the light of day. The president of Russia is routinely demonized in the most simplistic, cartoonish and ridiculous ways.
U.S. policymakers, pundits and media executives will have to wake up and grow up before there can be any hope of restoring the U.S.-Russian bilateral relationship – the most important strategic relationship for the entire human race.
Martin Sieff is a senior fellow of the American University in Moscow.