Posts Tagged ‘Russian Reset’

reset_buttonThe famed Russian reset, the defining foreign policy victory of the Administration, is dead. I’m shocked, shocked!

Why did such a thing happen?

Because the Russians have played the ‘reset’ out for all it’s worth (to them, anyway). They’re now staking out/probing regarding positions to take for either a new American president, or are pondering throwing more sand in the Vaseline of the security/diplomacy machinery of the administration, should President Obama win a second term.

In a market environment, the buyer gives up something (money, usually) for item(s) he wants at a price he’s willing to pay. Similarly, the seller sells at a price he’s willing to sell at. Everyone wins.

In a nation-state environment, win-win is not nearly so prevalent, perhaps because things are less transaction oriented and more promise oriented.

In fact, in the case of the Russian reset, the events (a New START treaty significantly skewed in Russia’s favor, promises of Russian support for Iranian sanctions, and promises of sustained U.S./NATO access to Afghanistan) were wins for Russia that provided benefits (cash, power, and prestige) and cost them literally nothing. The outcomes of the “reset” to the U.S. were temporary and mild benefits at best and a permanent and perhaps profound weakening at worst.

The lesson is that Russia is in it for Russia (or maybe better said, Russia’s leaders are in it for themselves). What’s so hard to understand about that truth?



It would appear at least some in the media start with an opinion they hold (for example, U.S. nuclear weapons are not useful at best, dangerous for certain, and evil at worst) and then attempt to build a selective reality which appears to confirm their opinions. Concurrently, there is often the mutually supporting appeal to authority (like arms controller hero Senator Sam Nunn), whereby an anecdotal story can be used for the same effect. These phenomenon are played out in an article in Foreign Policy (a part of the total Foreign Policy/Slate/Washington Post effort) called The nuclear bombs to nowhere.

Nunn has often told the story of his visit to Europe as a young senator in 1974… Nunn and his staff director, Frank Sullivan, [clandestinely] went to [a military] barracks. The sergeant [who Nunn had met earlier] and “three or four of his fellow sergeants related a horror story to me,” Nunn recalled. “A story of a demoralized military after Vietnam. A story of drug abuse. A story of alcohol abuse. A story of U.S. soldiers actually guarding the tactical nuclear weapons while they were stoned on drugs. The stories went on and on for over an hour.” Deeply worried about what he had heard, Nunn reported it to then-Defense Secretary James Schlesinger immediately on return to the United States.

I don’t doubt the veracity of the anecdote, but the modern questions from Nunn’s anecdote are profound: today, should we base our war plans (which might include tactical nuclear weapons) on a nearly 40-year old story, when the now highly-professionalized all-volunteer force was one year old, and before drug testing had been instituted?

To me, it seems wiser to make our war plans (again, to consider the possible use of nuclear weapons) based on the capabilities and intentions of the adversary than on Sam Nunn’s polyester-era observations.  

After discussing the significant draw down in both U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapon counts, the article’s author David Hoffman, offers this forehead slapper:

[Today,] Both the U.S. and Russia face new threats — terrorism, proliferation, economic competition, pandemics — for which these long-range or strategic nuclear weapons are of little value.

Ya got me there, big guy: nuclear weapons did not stop 9/11. However, nuclear deterrence exists to keep others from doing something we really don’t like as the costs to the attacker will exceed the benefits.

Carpenters have this rule, you see: use the right tool for the job. Strategic nuclear weapons were never intended to defeat terrorism, weapons proliferation, economic competition, nor pandemics: in fact, they’re of little value except for holding strategic targets at risk… a self-evident hypothesis without which, the whole point of the strategic arsenal is lost (as Dr. Strangelove might offer).

And of course, there are the tactical nuclear weapons.

NATO [today] has between 150 and 200 B-61 gravity bombs in Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey… Today, Russia has an estimated 2,000 useable tactical nuclear weapons, although it is not clear precisely how many nor where they are located…

Yet by many accounts, these [NATO] nuclear bombs have no military utility. Where would they be dropped? The war plans of the Cold War are defunct. Our modern nuclear-tipped missiles are plenty accurate and sufficient for any future contingency or target.

The indirect plea, of course, is for NATO to purge itself of these (useless, dangerous, or evil) tactical nuclear weapons, which according to stories, were guarded by depressed post-Vietnam stoners and winos in 1974. What’s to account for this disparity in numbers between NATO and Russia and how is it that tactical nuclear weapons appear to have value to Russia, but are security value-subtracted for the West, that is, for the United States?

[In Russia], tactical nuclear weapons are seen as a useful complement to conventional or non-nuclear military forces, which are declining. Eugene Miasnikov of the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies in Moscow laid out the Russian perspective in a recent paper.

But didn’t the U.S. just "pivot" to Asia, and away from Europe, power-wise? Aren’t U.S. forces in Europe (and elsewhere) going to be greatly reduced? And isn’t the Air Force today on track to be the smallest ever, the Navy the smallest since the beginning of World War I, and the Army and Marines the smallest since the start of World War II? In other words, it would seem the same circumstances the Russians use as justification to keep their tactical nuclear weapons are already facing NATO (read the U.S.).

It would also seem our tactical nuclear weapons have value, if nothing else, in negotiations. Russia is now locked into a tremendous advantage and since they’re already selling missiles to Syria (we must not have pushed that darn reset button hard enough), who knows what they might do with their nuclear weapons?

Maybe U.S./NATO tactical nuclear weapons could be useful in getting the Russians to draw down their stockpile, maybe not. But one thing seems obvious: expecting Russia to reduce their tactical nuclear weapons after we’ve already unilaterally gotten rid of ours is an intellectual bridge too far.

Iranian Missile WorksIt appears Iran killed at least 20 of its own in a secret missile test, including Revolutionary Guard Gen. Hasan Moghaddam. Details surrounding the disaster are not well known.

Given the observed outcome, all I can advise is this: keep working boys, keep working. You’ll know you’re fully successful when you’re all dead.

Of course, over time, practice makes perfect, especially when Iran is likely to be getting a fair amount of outside help.

In other news related to the foreign policy success of the so-called Russian Reset comes this from NTI:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday said his nation would target U.S. antimissile installations if the two nations cannot come to accord on the Obama administration’s missile defense plans, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Nov. 22).

The United States and NATO for the last year have sought to reach agreement with Moscow for collaboration on a developing Europe-based missile shield. Several rounds of negotiations have failed to produce a deal, with the sides remaining at odds over the set-up of a cooperative defense system.

The Kremlin has also demanded a legally binding pledge that the NATO defenses would not be aimed at Russian nuclear forces. The alliance has rebuffed the request but says the missile shield is intended to counter ballistic missile strikes from the Middle East, notably Iran.

Medvedev said that should the dispute continue Russia was prepared to deploy Iskander missiles in the far-western Kaliningrad region that could be fired at U.S. missile defense facilities in Europe. Additional missiles could be placed in the west and south of Russia, he added.

New long-range nuclear missiles would be equipped with technology enabling them to defeat antimissile systems, Medvedev said.

There is a potential upside to U.S. national security embedded within Medvedev’s threats:

The president also said that Russia could suspend participation in the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the United States and curb additional arms control discussions with Washington.

"The United States and its NATO partners as of now aren’t going to take our concerns about the European missile defense into account," according to Medvedev.

With security partners like Russia, who needs non-partners?

As relayed by the AP, Russian’s top military man says

Russia is facing a heightened risk of being drawn into conflicts at its borders that have the potential of turning nuclear

While it’s easy to dismiss this as vacuous saber-rattling (which it is), it’s also difficult to avoid drawing the conclusion that Russia will continue to use this as an excuse to avoid drawing down its massive inventory of tactical nuclear weapons.

Were it only possible that we could play a mulligan on the Russian reset.

At some point, will the Global Zeros accept self-evident reality, history, and human nature?

Continuing Russian anxiety regarding missile defense is also telling. With Iran poised to open the floodgates of worldwide nuclear weapons proliferation, being able to stop an adversary (that is, having a robust missile defense capability) from the most consequential of all actions (that is, releasing a nuclear weapon for effect) is an important competence for the U.S. and its allies to continue to build out.


What’s the difference between the U.S. and Russia?  Well, one difference is the U.S. is not a yet a well-recognized kleptocracy oligarchy.  According to former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, Russia has become:

"an oligarchy run by the secret services," and according to unsubstantiated State Department cables, Russia is a virtual "mafia state."

Another difference is the U.S. interest in promoting human rights.  And when the administration issues a proclamation “declaring it U.S. policy to bar officials guilty of violating human rights and humanitarian law from entering the United States,” how do the Russians respond?  By creating a list of U.S. officials who will be banned from Russia.

Why would the administration feel compelled to issue such a proclamation?  To likely “head off legislation known as the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act.”  Proclamation?  No big deal.  Legislation?  Bigger deal.

That Russian leadership would feel compelled to create a ‘banned in/enemies of’ list suggests several possible things: a reset on the Russian reset; a newfound lack of respect towards the U.S. the Russians now feel more comfortable placing on parade; a move towards nationalistic Putinism and the creation of an external enemy by Medvedev in anticipation of upcoming elections (and likely power-struggle with Putin).   

It’s also suggestive that the good-cop/bad-cop routine employed by the Russians with the U.S. (and NATO) to try and get their way on missile defense is being recognized as a failure.  Now, Russian political action is being generated for consumption by an internal audience.  If so, this means it’s become a game of who can best defend the Russian honor; that means we can expect the belligerent Russian rhetoric to increase.

The Russian reset, the crowning glory of the administration’s foreign policy, seems to be fading like a cut flower.  Evidence?

In an interview Friday that was timed to the third anniversary of Russia’s war with Georgia, President Dmitri A. Medvedev said top United States officials played a key role in events that touched off the war, and offered a withering assessment of a recent Senate resolution on Georgia’s behalf, which he said reflected “the personal tastes of certain elderly members of the Senate.”


Mr. Medvedev dismissed as “pure provocative nonsense” the notion that a Russian military intelligence officer was linked to an explosion outside the American Embassy in Tbilisi, a charge that was tentatively corroborated by a United States intelligence assessment that was described to reporters last week.

Then there’s this:

"The very fact of deploying U.S. military missile defense infrastructure in the Northern seas is a real provocation with regard to the process of nuclear disarmament", said [Russia’s ambassador to NATO Dmitry] Rogozin at a press conference.

As well as Vladimir Putin’s statement that the U.S. is a ‘parasite’ to the world’s economic well being.

There’s lots more, of course, so is this a crumbling reset?  New normal?  Same as it ever was?

For missile defense, the system that critics say (in order) won’t ever work, costs too much, is easily defeated with countermeasures and (finally) would be destabilizing to international relations, the Russians sure seem to take it seriously.  (By the way, there’s a final question to ponder: why weren’t we doing this before?)  From Defense News:

Russia cautioned the U.S. and its NATO allies Aug. 8 against plans to extend an anti-missile shield into northern European seas.


"The very fact of deploying U.S. military missile defense infrastructure in the Northern seas is a real provocation with regard to the process of nuclear disarmament", said [Russia’s ambassador to NATO Dmitry] Rogozin at a press conference.

(Begin sarcasm font) A part of the Russian disinformation campaign, I’m sure. (Close sarcasm font)

Rogozin holds out “the process of nuclear disarmament” as both a stick (nuclear disarmament is at risk unless missile defense plans change radically) and carrot (the nuclear disarmament process can continue if the missile defense plans are radically revised).  Of course, only the U.S. is disarming under New START, so maybe Rogozin’s threat could actually benefit U.S. national security.