Brendan Simmons is an intern at PSA and a graduate of University of Maryland-College Park where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Russian.
Russia’s Debacle: The Military and Energy Crisis
Russia claims it is boosting its strategic rocket forces and revamping the military, but should the United States be worried? With the declining oil and gas revenues and antiquated oil industry, Russia will struggle to afford President Putin’s increased military budget while attempting to revitalize its oil and natural gas production. During the U.S. presidential campaigns, former Governor Mitt Romney believed Russia was America’s number one geo-political foe, and even after the election, people still believe Romney’s statement to be credible. But the U.S. should not overly concern itself with the Russian military improvements because they will likely not happen.
Recent history shows that Russia’s attempts to upgrade its military have fallen short time and again. Former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov was a casuality of this trend and was dismissed in November 2012 when he failed to meet expectations. Before he surrendered to corruption charges, both he and President Putin vowed to increase Russia’s military strength. Serdyukov was originally appointed Defense Minister because he vowed to take control of the rampant corruption in the military while engineering a military boost in spending and capability. But he failed to create the modern military demanded by Putin.
This article was written by two Spring 2012 Participants in PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program. All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Hill Staff who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
Putin’s Complicated Foreign Policy
Within weeks of being inaugurated in his third term as the President of Russia in May, Vladimir Putin announced his decisions to skip the G-8 summit at Camp David, and to send Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in his place to the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in London, sending commentators in the Western world into a frenzy. Many in the United States proclaimed (and mourned) the end of the Russia reset. This view only increased as Putin appeared to turn his attention to his immediate neighbor, Belarus, making his first international visit with President Alexander Lukashenko, and then attending a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Additionally, Putin has joined China in opposing UN efforts to sanction Syria, a move that has frustrated many, while Russia continues to supply the Assad regime with weapons. Although the Russian reset with the West technically took place during Dmitri Medvedev’s presidency, there is little doubt that then-Prime Minister Putin was heavily involved in this decision (as well as most others). What, then, explains this sudden and drastic shift?
This article was written by two Spring 2012 Participants in PSA’s Congressional Fellowship Program. All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Fellows who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
The Timing Just Isn’t Right
What is preventing the United States and Russia from pursuing further nuclear disarmament talks beyond the New START treaty?
In the U.S., a flurry of debate has taken place among elected officials and the arms control community since the enactment of the New START treaty. The debate has centered on determining the number of weapons needed to maintain a minimal deterrent, modernization of the strategic triad, the role of missile defense and what role and utility do nuclear weapons have in our defense strategy today. Skeptics of further disarmament have argued that larger reductions, without adequate modernization, will lead to instability by inviting aggression against allies who are considered protected by the U.S.’s extended deterrent. Those in favor of disarmament have countered that the current U.S. arsenal far exceeds what is necessary to deter nuclear attack and reducing the force level would be a smart way to meet defense spending targets set in the Budget Control Act. Despite the timeliness of the budgetary argument, the skeptics are clearly carrying the day, as both the House and Senate versions of the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act include robust funding levels for the nuclear triad and provide funding for large modernization projects not requested in the President’s budget.
Today the European Union announced an escalation of their sanctions against Iran. According to the new guidelines, the 27 member nations will end any oil contracts with Iran by July 1st and any assets held by the Iranian central bank within the EU will be frozen, with a limited exemption to continue legitimate trade. While this new oil embargo will go a long way in satisfying European public opinion, it is unlikely that it will have the desired effect on the Iranian regime and, most importantly, has huge potential to backfire.
Gary Hart is a member of the PSA Advisory Board, president of Hart International, Ltd. and chairman of the American Security Project. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1975 until 1987. This article originally appeared in The Hill on January 18th, 2012 and can be found here.
As an American with more than average interest and experience in Russia, it is a mystery to me why, unlike virtually every other country on earth, U.S. policy has tended to be so dependent on the personal relationship between the respective leaders.
This was especially true of Presidents Clinton, with the late Boris Yeltsin, and George W. Bush, with then-President Vladimir Putin (“I looked the man in the eye.”). This mystery of Russian relations is not totally confined to U.S. leaders: Remember Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s famous report to President George H.W. Bush on Mikhail Gorbachev as “a man we can do business with.” A humorist might call it the vodka syndrome, except Clinton was never known as a drinker and, of course, the second President Bush had sworn off alcohol.
Ms Albright is former US secretary of state and a member of PSA’s Advisory Board. Mr. Kohut is president of the Pew Research Center. The original editorial appeared in the Financial Times, you can find the article here.
Tomorrow in Munich, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will exchange instruments of Ratification for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), thus immediately rendering the treaty into force. The exchange is the final step in a ten-month process that began last April in Prague, when Presidents Obama and Medvedev met to sign the treaty. After lengthy and thorough consideration, the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty in a bipartisan vote this past December, followed in January by the Russian Parliament.
The importance of this treaty is reflected in the widespread and politically diverse support it has received from the military and policy establishments. The Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, and seven former heads of U.S. Strategic Command and Strategic Air Command have come out in support of the treaty. In addition, this past June, thirty top national security leaders signed a PSA statement on New START, including ten former Senators, four Secretaries of State, four Secretaries of Defense, and three National Security Advisors, as well as the Chair and Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission among others.
Broadly speaking, the treaty requires both Russia and the U.S. to decrease their amounts of deployed strategic nuclear weapons, thus reducing the threat of “doomsday” scenarios of nuclear exchanges between the two countries. More specifically, New START gives both the United States and Russia seven years in which to reduce their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 – down from the current numbers of between 1,700 and 2,200 – and limit the number of deployed delivery systems to 700 and the total delivery systems to 800. Upon entering into force, the treaty immediately instates a series of verification and inspection measures designed to provide each country with a sophisticated database of information on individual warheads and 18 physical on-site inspections per year. (more…)
The only element of uncertainty in Belarus’s 2010 presidential election was supposed to be the percentage of votes resulting in Lukashenka’s victory. However, the unexpected happened: tens of thousands of people came into the streets in protest of the election results. The unusually high turnout at the protest is a sign that political changes are near. This may be the time when the US and the EU support could make a real difference in reshaping the domestic balance of power in Belarus. The protesters were brutally beaten by the riot police, but their display of courage should not be allowed to fail.
Given the weakness of civil society, the consequences of challenging Lukashenka’s power, and the sizes of protests at the previous presidential elections, the number of people who came out on the cold winter streets in Minsk is truly remarkable. The Belarusian people stood up in the largest act of protest since 1996 at the time when the West began to praise Lukashenka as a guarantor of stability and seemed ready to give up on reforming the authoritarian country. Stability indeed is what they are getting with Lukashenka in power as there is no doubt of who wins elections and what happens to the regime’s opponents. But in a country like Belarus it is not stability, but change – and a big one — that the West should be hoping for.
Lukashenka won 79.7 percent of the votes, according to the election results released by the government Monday. One can only speculate to what extent the election was rigged. Prevailing over nine opponents who have no media access seems easy enough even without cheating. However, it is notable that the people known for falsifying the election results in 2001 and 2006 have remained in charge of counting the votes in 2010, and the playing field is far from level. (more…)
Late yesterday, CNN released the results of a nation-wide poll gauging public support for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). The poll showed strong support for the treaty, with 73% of the public supporting ratification. Significantly, support for the treaty was not limited to one party or political affiliation, but was spread across the political spectrum and, according to CNN Polling Director Keating Holland, ”majorities in all major demographic groups support the treaty.”
This public support for New START reflects the strong bipartisan backing the treaty has from top national security leaders such as the thirty signatories of PSA’s statement on New START, who include ten former Senators, four Secretaries of State, four Secretaries of Defense, and three National Security Advisors, as well as the Chair and Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission among others.
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As one of the final priorities for the 111th Congress, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty has the “unanimous support of the United States military” and enjoys strong, bipartisan support from our nation’s most respected national security experts.
New START is an urgent national security priority—and should be divorced from partisan bickering and the electoral process. As Secretary Clinton reminded reporters yesterday, “When it comes to foreign policy, it is important to remember that politics stops at the water’s edge.” Key Republicans and Democrats from the past seven administrations have strongly endorsed this treaty. The Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of the service chiefs, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, six former secretaries of state, five former secretaries of defense, the chair and vice chair of the 9/11 Commission, seven former heads of U.S. Strategic Command and Strategic Air Command—and countless others, all agree that the Senate must ratify New START. The elections do not alter this support. (more…)
All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.