Opinions : Column
Resurrecting a political boogeyman

Throughout the early 1990's and early 2000's, many American politicians have called Russia and other countries our geopolitical enemy. Yet, according to guest writer Nigel Alcorn, we should be nourishing positive relationships with other nations, abandoning years of tension for political resolution.
April 24, 2012

Remember when President Barack Obama was caught telling the leader of Russia that concerns over missile defense will likely have to be addressed after the November U.S. elections?

"I will transmit this information to Vladimir [Putin]," President Dmitry Medvedev replied. Sinister stuff, right?

Clearly, the exchange was too sinister for Governor Mitt Romney to keep his mouth shut. The presidential candidate declared it an "alarming and troubling development." The Russian Federation is "our number one geopolitical foe," after all.

The truth is, Russia should be a vital geopolitical ally. The fact that it's not should concern everyone, as should the fact that a candidate feels he can gain traction by vilifying this particular bilateral relationship.

Take weapons of mass destruction. In 2002-2003, we were oh-so worried that a Third World thug might be manufacturing them. Meanwhile, we acted as if those thousands of Russian nuclear warheads simply disappeared after 1991, as if a nation with degrading infrastructure and questionable control over its devices was irrelevant. What would a Romney administration do on that count, other than antagonize the only other country able to completely destroy ours?

It's not just Republicans, of course. The Clinton administration initiated the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the government's stance has remained largely unchanged, even under Obama's "reset." Indeed, NATO enlargement could be said to bear the post-Cold War Democratic Party's brand--Republicans have military unilateralism, and the Democrats have NATO and modern-day containment.

Even so, a Romney presidency can only worsen our relations with Russia. Under Obama, NATO membership may still be open for Ukraine and Georgia, but he isn't being excessively pushy about it. I can only imagine what Mitt Romney would do to change that.

"Overall, the presumptive GOP nominee seems to be trying to compensate for his socially moderate record as governor by taking his tough talk on national security to comically grandiose levels." -- Nigel Alcorn, Guest writer

But I can already see those Bush-era missile plans in Eastern Europe going forward--and then some. Also, remember Mitt Romney's novel take on New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)?

Forget about any further arms control efforts. Overall, the presumptive GOP nominee seems to be trying to compensate for his socially moderate record as governor by taking his tough talk on national security to comically grandiose levels.

But why bash Russia, which has reverted to a strategically defensive position over the course of my lifetime? Washington hawks always need some kind of mortal danger, something to justify spending $6.2 trillion more on "defense" over the next ten years, as the Romney-approved Ryan Budget calls for.

That means shielding the Pentagon from the kind of slashing that domestic programs are forced to incur. For boy wonder Congressman Paul Ryan himself, it means implying that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are withholding their "true advice" about the defense cuts they endorsed. And, in the absence of any existential threat that can be dealt with militarily, it means finding (or resurrecting) another international boogeyman.

This makes Romney's singling out of Russia particularly unfortunate. It's imperative that America's current militarized outlook be replaced by sensible policy coordination among cooperative nations and traditional allies alike. This applies to climate change, nuclear proliferation and terrorism. Russia is probably the only other nation indispensable for all three. Only by demilitarizing this relationship, mutually reducing reliance on nuclear weapons and forming a true partnership with the Kremlin can a more just and safe world order start to be realized.

Through all the destructive and distracting foreign adventures America has embarked on over the past decade, that hasn't changed. Mitt Romney is feeling alarmed and troubled for all the wrong reasons.

For more opinions, read the April 20 article Architectural business inspires junior.

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