Engagement With Russia: An Undeclared Cold-War

Keith Yost’s opinion column published in the Sept. 9 issue of The Tech titled “Eastern Promises” is fundamentally flawed.

His article begins by wrongly assuming that Russia’s neighbors are endangered and quickly moves on to assert that Russia invaded Georgia — a dutiful ally of United States, and annexed part of its territories. He advocates NATO expansion to include Eastern Europe (Ukraine) and Georgia, and carelessly labels them as “beleaguered states” who are defenseless against the big bad Russian bully.

Aware of his own extremist narrative, he dials down the rhetoric by conceding that the story is not as simple as it sounds. He then goes on to list some joint Russo-American efforts in the recent past on nuclear energy, international terrorism, Iran’s nuclear program, and laments that Russia could use its energy clout to harm the economies of Europe.  He then proposes realpolitik and encourages US to engage rather than contain and enrage Russia.  

His article is fundamentally flawed because it does not deal with the crises of American foreign policy in the post-cold war world and altogether ignores history. How do we face the hypocrisy of American values versus American imperialism; The constitutional spirit of non-intervention versus global American militarism that is especially hostile towards Russia.

Let us get our historical facts straight. At the end of the cold war, Americans made a solemn promise to Russia that NATO would never move beyond a united Germany. Yet, 20 years after the end of the cold war and dissolution of the Warsaw pact, 17 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, why does NATO, a cold war era alliance designed to defend against a Soviet attack, continue to expand and even exist?

The Russian army went home but instead of dissolving NATO and bringing our troops home, why are we doing just the opposite and aggressively bringing our military to Russia’s borders?

The European Union, which has 3 times the population, 13 times the economic power, and at least 6 times the military budget of Russia, has overwhelming superiority against Russia and is perfectly capable of defending itself. France and Britain possess hundreds of sophisticated up-to-date nuclear missiles, as opposed to the aging Russian nuclear arsenal. Our own military budget is 20 times that of Russia. Why then do we keep meddling in Europe’s affairs and dictating them our militaristic policy, constantly coercing them into hostile actions towards Russia?

How easily have we forgotten that Russians have centuries old history with Europe and they are part of the European family? Russian royal families and their cultural and business links with Europe go back more than a thousand years. The Russian state of Kievan-Rus was founded and led by Scandinavian Rurikids (Swedes, Danes, etc.) from ninth century onwards.

Russians have faced catastrophic invasions throughout their history from Turko-Mongols, Teutons, Poland, France, and the Ottoman empire, followed by two horrific world-wars in European theatre, with more than 25 million dead. After suffering roughly 75 years of communist dictatorship and lawlessness, punctuated by genocidal Stalinism, when millions were maimed and slaughtered in the gulags and famines engineered by Lazar Kaganovich and Lavrenty Beria, Russia faced catastrophic social and economic decline with 2500 percent inflation during the 1990s.

More than 80 percent of the country became pauperized overnight with famine-like conditions prevailing in large parts of the country as a result of Yeltsin era shock therapy. It has been a major victim of human-trafficking of young women and children for prostitution and is suffering from catastrophic mortality and population decline over the last two decades.

Russia’s population is decreasing by around 700,000 people every year, the worst peace time demographic decline in human history. According to United Nations, by 2050 Russia’s population of 90–100 million will be the same as that of Vietnam, but much older and weaker.

Please also refer to Nicholas-Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute who has spent his entire career researching Europe and Russian demographic issues. Against this tragic back-drop, the last thing Russians need is another confrontation, but — tempted by their weakness — we are doing everything to provoke them.

We accuse Russia, a two-decade old democracy, of authoritarianism. But what are we — a two centuries old democracy — doing around the world with more than 700 military bases? Under the garb of freedom and democracy, we are shamelessly pursuing our own imperialistic military agenda in the Caucasus and elsewhere, thousands of miles away from the American territory.

Consider the recent events in Georgia. Yost conveniently ignores the fact that Abkhazia and South Ossetia were never a part of Georgia until the 1920s, when Stalin, a native Georgian himself, forcibly incorporated them into the Georgian SSR, thus sowing the seeds of present conflict. After the fall of the Soviet-Union, Georgia waged war to annex these two regions resulting in Russian intervention, followed by a Russian peacekeeping effort under the aegis of the United Nations.

Russians have deep cultural links with Georgia, with over a million Georgians living and working in Russia. Yet, the United States continues to inflame Georgia by cultivating anti-Russian sentiments, fomenting Rose revolutions, installing the Saakashvili led puppet regime, and providing weapons and military-political training.

Georgia, a tiny country of 4.5 million which was never attacked or threatened by Russians since the fall of the Soviet Union, now spends a $1 billion military budget, the second highest in the world as a percentage of GDP, almost entirely financed by the American tax-payer’s money to protect that Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline.

The shameful manner in which our controlled media propagates lies was clear from the recent interview on Fox of a young American girl whose family fled from the South Ossetian war zone. Amanda Kokoeva was immediately suppressed and the interview was terminated when she told the truth about Georgian aggression on Ossetia and Russia’s timely help to protect the Ossetians.

Why do we keep encircling Russia with offensive weapons and regimes, unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty and waging an undeclared cold war. After 9/11, when the Russians extended us a hand of friendship and helped us in Afghanistan to pursue Osama bin laden, what did we do? We went on to install our own military bases in Central Asia and threatened Russia by encirclement and military build-up.

Ukraine is the spiritual and cultural ancestral home for the three east-Slavic nations of Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine. Millions of Ukrainians and Russians are bound by intermarriage, language, and culture. Ukraine is to Russia what New England and the original thirteen colonies are to us.

How would we feel if China fueled separatism within a Mexican-majority Southern California or tries to dismember Texas, Alaska, or New-England from us and finances political subversion and anti-American regimes in Mexico and Latin-America?  Would we not be outraged? Would we not invoke the Monroe Doctrine and do everything we could to thwart China’s designs?

It is clear from Keith’s post that he has been influenced by the same old war-drums which the neocons are notorious for. Blinded by their hatred for human civilization, they aim to pit NATO against Russia, needlessly militarizing the entire European theatre and fostering a tense and war-like imperial atmosphere, re-opening the wounds of a Europe shattered by wars. When will we say enough is enough? We must reflect on our own actions carefully and perhaps listen to the wisdom of Dr. Stephen Cohen, Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University, and let Europe engage Russia through business, cultural, and political means.

An EU-Russia partnership and interdependence free from NATO’s negative influence will enable peace and harmony and allow Russian democracy to develop its own natural course from its present infancy to a future maturity in a few decades. We must dissolve NATO, a cold-war era relic, bring our troops home from Europe, Korea, and Japan and rehabilitate our veterans who live in abominable physical and psychological agony.

We must also focus on maintaining and even enhancing our already strong national defense and strictly adhere to the constitution and the wisdom of the founding fathers. We must engage with the world through trade, tourism, and cultural links, and end this charade of advancing freedom and democracy as a cloak for imperialism and militarism.

Anurag Maheshwari is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Biological Engineering.