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From Détente with the Soviet Union to Open Confrontation with Russia over Ukraine and Syria – Washington’s New Foreign Policy under Barack Obama

Posted by Scott Rohter on Sunday, August 30, 2015



Wrecking Russian-American Relations

Washington’s New Foreign Policy under Barack Obama


Someone has coined a new word to describe Washington’s reckless foreign policy vis a vis Russia under the last four American Administrations.  That word is “triumphalism”. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, American presidents have been treating Russia as if it was a “vanquished foe” rather than a friend and ally. The lone exception to this rule was Ronald Reagan whose administration reached out to Mikhail Gorbachev and enjoyed the good will of most Russians. Now we are squandering this good will and treating Russia as if was inferior…  as if it was our enemy.  It doesn’t make the Russians feel very warm and fuzzy toward us.


By Scott Rohter, September 2015


ReaganandGorgachev2American foreign policy toward Russia is rapidly evolving… not for the better, but for the worse. It has gone from good, to bad, to beyond belief… Gone is the end of détente and the thaw in relations that we enjoyed under Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. In its place Barack Obama has re-instituted a foreign policy of open confrontation on just about every issue from Ukraine to Syria. We are squandering all of the good will that developed under Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.  Barack Obama is  thumbing his nose at all of their accomplishments while he actively works to undermine their joint legacy of cooperation and good will. In its place we are reverting back to  the Cold War rhetoric and tactics of the 1960’s. What is so distressing about this to me is that many Republicans are okay with this new Cold War diplomacy. They don’t seem to mind the fact that they are undermining the legacy of one of America’s most beloved Presidents.

Just for the record Russia is not our enemy. It has been our ally during two World Wars and we couldn’t have defeated the Nazis without their help. Russia has never initiated any attack on the West, but the West has launched at least two all out attacks upon them. Both of these attacks were without provocation. France attacked Russia under Napoleon, and Germany attacked Russia under Hitler. Each time the Russians were attacked they rose to defeat their assailants. So why are we provoking the Russians without cause under Barack Obama? Why is NATO positioning troops along their border? Why are we targeting NATO missiles at Moscow?  Why is the United States poking a stick at the Russian bear? Why? Why? Why?

America has imposed tough sanctions on Russia while at the same time we have removed them from the Islamic Republic of Iran which is our real enemy.. Is Russia a greater threat to world peace and security than Iran? I don’t think so. We have installed NATO missiles along Russia’s western frontier and pointed them directly at Moscow. We are stationing soldiers in NATO countries and training them to ward off a potential Russian attack when no attack is forthcoming. The United States is deliberately provoking Russia. Why? We may not like to admit it but Russia is a great world power like we are. It is not in our best interest to keep antagonizing them like we are doing. They can make life very difficult for us in many different parts of the world. Why are we trying to destroy everything that Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev worked so hard to achieve just in order to usher in a new Cold War? Make no mistake about it… America is starting this new Cold War with Russia. The Russians aren’t starting it. We are. Just what is so important about Ukraine or Syria that Barack Obama is waving a red flag right in front of the Russian bull?

Oil and Gas

It was formerly known as the bread basket of Russia, but now Ukraine is flat broke. Their biggest creditor is Russia, the  same country they are blaming for all of their problems. Ukraine owes Russia over two billion dollars  mostly for natural gas which they purchased on credit to power their industry and heat their homes. Any other country that tries to bail them out will be taking on a burden for years to come. Europe barely has the funds to bail out Greece more less Ukraine which is many times bigger than Greece. So what is America’s fascination with Ukraine all about and what is our interest over there?  In two words… oil and gas.

Russia has a virtual monopoly on the export of natural gas to Europe and the pipeline that supplies this gas runs right through Ukraine. As a result of recent innovations in the oil and gas industry back here in America, the United States is experiencing a vast surplus of natural gas derived from fracking. American oil companies would like to have a piece of the lucrative European natural gas market… They want to export American natural gas overseas to Europe, and the Europeans would love to see a little more competition in the oil and gas market which would help to bring down their prices… That’s why we are meddling in the internal affairs of Ukraine, and I can unequivocally say that it isn’t worth it. We are flirting with a new Cold War with Russia, and the one important lesson we should have learned from World War II is that competition among nations should not be allowed to lead to war.

ReaganGorbachev3The Cold War began just after World War II ended when the victorious Allies divided Germany into two parts, East Germany and West Germany. The German capitol was located in East Germany, but it was also divided. There was East Berlin and West Berlin. Almost immediately the United States began airlifting supplies into West Berlin.  The Cold War lasted for over forty years. It started because Russia and America would not cooperate with each other in the post war reconstruction of Germany.  We wanted their own separate sphere of influence in Germany, but all of that began to change in 1985 when Ronald Reagan met Mikhail Gorbachev in the first of five summit meetings and they agreed that we would begin cooperating with each other.  They agreed to cooperate instead of annihilating each other.

The hands of the nuclear clock were dialed back from two minutes to midnight and the whole world breathed a welcome sigh of relief. By the time of the fifth summit meeting in 1988 détente had proved to be good for everyone concerned. The decreased tensions were good for business too. The Cold War officially ended in 1991 with the breakup of the old Soviet Union and the creation of the new Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) of which the Russian Federation is the largest member. Mikhail Gorbachev who administered the breakup of the Soviet Union resigned his position on December 25th, 1991 and he was replaced by Boris Yeltsin who presided over the transition period…

One of the factors that led to World War II was competition… competition between nations for land, for resources, and for markets to sell their goods, plus the unfair terms of the Treaty of Versailles and the heavy reparations that were exacted upon Germany for its roll in starting World War I.  The lesson that we all should have learned from the carnage and the devastation of World War II is that competition should not be allowed to lead to war. Nations should and can learn how to compete with each other peacefully, and peace can be just as profitable as war. That’s what détente proved. Right now we are in the early stages of another Cold War with Russia that could lead to a real war if we are not careful. The cause of this freeze in relations is the current competition between east and west over Ukraine and Syria and it is not worth it.

Ukraine is a unique place. It is at the crossroads. It is a contradiction of sorts… a country that really isn’t a country. On the one hand it stands at the entrance of Europe.. On the other hand it is the gateway to Russia.  It stands at the crossroads of East and West… of two different cultural and political models and two different spheres of influence.  The nations of Europe have never been completely comfortable with Russia because of its sheer size and an unsubstantiated fear that if they ever welcomed Russia into the fold that it would dominate the much smaller nations of Europe so Europeans have always regarded Russia with some suspicion and always kept it at arm’s length.

The same thing isn’t true for Ukraine. Though Ukraine has a strong Russian past it does not pose the same threat to Europe because it is a much smaller country than Russia, but it is also the place where Russian history and civilization began so Ukraine has a special significance to Russians. Ukraine has one foot firmly planted in the future of Europe and the other foot firmly planted in the past history of Russia.

Ukraine has been an independent country for only about fifty years. The ties that hold it together are tenuous and weak. Before it became an independent country it was a part of several other empires.. the Russian, the Austro-Hungarian, the Lithuanian, and the Polish… That is why there is so much disagreement among Ukrainians. There is no common thread that binds all of its people together into one cohesive unit. Ukrainians are not united about virtually anything.  The only solution to the Ukrainian problem is to implement the Minsk Peace Agreement which was signed earlier this year, but the current government in Kiev does not want to do that because it calls for the federalization of Ukraine. That means more local control would go to the various regions…  In the absence of that the only other solution is to divide the country into two parts… Furthermore it is none of America’s business how the Europeans and the Russians settle this peculiar problem… We should mind our own business…  It is a distinctly European and Russian problem. Oil and gas are not worth another Cold War and they are certainly not worth another World War.

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