Cultural Revolutions

Obama Goes to Moscow

President Obama’s July trip to Moscow was intended to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations but also suggested that there is a continuing tug-of-war in the administration between realists and “democracy builders” regarding Russia policy.

The struggle was publicly kicked off by the March report of a commission headed by former Sen. Gary Hart and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), which reflected the realpolitik influence of Republican foreign-policy “wise men” such as Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft.  The realists favor deemphasizing democracy and human rights in U.S.-Russian relations, giving up a NATO expansion that would include Georgia and Ukraine, and rolling back plans to install missile defenses in Eastern Europe.  In exchange, the realists hope to secure Russian cooperation in pressuring Tehran over its nuclear program, tapping energy supplies in Central Asia that are in the traditional Russian sphere of influence, opening transit routes to Afghanistan for U.S. personnel and supplies, and concluding a new strategic-arms agreement on reducing nuclear stockpiles.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Michael McFaul, the Obama administration’s Russia expert on the National Security Council, are in the democracy-building camp and favor policies not unlike those of the Bush administration, which sorely irritated Moscow and fanned traditional Russian fears of encirclement.  It’s...

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