Peter Brookes: U.S. finally getting Russia policy right
I think we’re finally doing it: Putting together a hard-nosed foreign policy that will send a strong signal to Russia that the status quo just isn’t cutting it.
In the last week or two, we’ve seen some significant steps in which the Congress and the White House are putting the Kremlin on notice about its bad behavior.
Of course, Moscow’s moves give us plenty to be mad about.
Russia has been a serious source of trouble – well beyond its sensational cyber capers. You can start with the annexing of Crimea, the insurgency in eastern Ukraine and the military intervention in Syria.
Then there’s the violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, large “snap” (that is, unannounced) military exercises near NATO’s borders and Russian pilots “hot dogging” it around U.S. planes.
Plus, Russia is allegedly supporting our enemy, the Taliban, in Afghanistan and targeting the West with Kremlin-controlled, troll- and bot-powered fake news factories.
You can add to that list last month’s naval cruise with the Chinese – yes, the Chinese – in the Baltic Sea and the upcoming annual “Zapad” (Russian for “West”) military exercises.
These maneuvers are causing concern among Eastern European and Baltic states that “Zapad” – expected to involved up to 100,000 troops – is a cover for another land grab (like Crimea) or, worse yet, a real invasion.
Of course, this week Russia announced that it was slashing personnel (diplomats and local employees) at the U.S. diplomatic and other American facilities in Russia.
Talk about the Bad News Bears!
But Washington, D.C., is pushing back on Moscow’s attempts to muscle us around. For starters, President Trump signed a punitive economic sanctions bill from Congress, targeting the Russian energy sector for its attempted interference in U.S. elections.
It’s a big deal. Russia is one of the world’s largest oil and natural gas producers; energy provides some 40 percent of the Russian government’s annual income, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Add to this: Vice President Mike Pence was just overseas expressing solidarity with, and providing assurance to, allies and friends who have seen more than their fair share of Russian roughhousing.
Pence visited Estonia, a former Soviet state that borders Russia and suffered a significant Russian cyber attack in 2007. He also stopped in Georgia, a former Soviet republic in the Caucasus, a portion of which Russia still occupies dating back to a 2008 war.
On this trip, Pence popped into Montenegro, too, a Balkan country that just recently joined NATO; it was also reportedly the target of a Montenegrin/Serbian/Russian coup plot to prevent Podgorica from joining the Western alliance.
And now, The Wall Street Journal writes that the Pentagon and State Department are proposing that the White House authorize more advanced arms to Ukraine to fight the Russian-fueled insurgency in its East.
Washington should approve of this, not only supporting Kiev’s right to self-defense, but also telling Russia that the redrawing of national boundaries – which violates existing agreements (that is, the Budapest Memorandum) – is a nonstarter.
It has taken a while for Washington to get around to really dealing with an unruly Russia, but if there’s one thing Moscow has always – and will always – understand and respect, it’s strength.
Let’s make sure we continue to show it.
This article first appeared in the Boston Herald. Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a Fort Valley resident. Follow him on Twitter @Brookes_Peter. Email: BrookesOutdoors@gmail.com.