The U.S. Risks a New Cold War With Russia

The Russian specialist, Stephen Cohen, contends that the U.S. is risking a new Cold War with Russia. He also laments what he sees as “virtually unanimous bipartisan and media approval” of current U.S. policy regarding Russia. Cohen says, in a somewhat contradictory way, that newspaper editorials “range from endorsing the administration’s inherently Cold War line to complaining that it is too ‘soft’ on the Kremlin.” [1]

Stephen Cohen blames President Bill Clinton for initiating the three basic components of Washington’s policy toward Russia and he cites the Obama administration as echoing it and even strengthening the Clinton policy. The three basic compoonents are: 1) expanding NATO (now including missile defense installations) to Russia’s borders; 2) “selective cooperation,” by which Obama means concessions by Russia without any meaningful U.S. concessions; and 3) interference in the name of “democracy promotion” in Russia’s domestic politics.

The concern that Cohen raises that resonates the most with me is the expansion of NATO. The Soviet Union had a major fear of Western encirclement and that fear has been implanted in Russia. NATO was created to prevent an invasion of the European Western-allied nations. Once the Soviet Union collasped there was no need for NATO anymore. Thus, starting with the first President Bush and continuing with President Clinton, U.S. policy should have been the dismantlement of NATO. Much effort has been expended to find a mission for NATO, with mass duplicate spending, because the nations in NATO have their own defense establishments.

There is a subtext to this matter of NATO expansion: it is a boon to Western arms manufacturers, especially the United States, which is by far the world leader in the export of arms. The new entrants to NATO membership must conform their military arms to NATO specifications and this creates a another big market for the arms industry.

The installation of missile defense systems in countries bordering Russia is a provocation to Russia, as Rusia perceives them as representing an offensive threat to their national security. There is an Alice in Wonderland quality to the installation of the missiles, because why in the world would Iran, theoretically armed in the future with nuclear weapons, launch them toward Eastern Europe and/or Russia?

Two actions that President Barack Obama could have taken to help make him a tranformative president would have been to work toward the dismantlement of NATO and reverse President George W. Bush’s fanciful action of installing defensive missiles in Eastern European countries.


[1] Stephen F. Cohen, “Cold War Follies,” The Nation, January 21, 2013.


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