Encouraging Dangerous Miscalculations

There’s an interesting letter to the editor in the Washington Post today from two former Ambassadors disputing Henry Kissinger’s recent article. Garry Kasparov has also recently clashed with Kissinger, whose renewed interest in the Russia debate has been followed closely on this blog.

Misreading Russia Tuesday, July 15, 2008; Page A18 In his July 8 op-ed, “Finding Common Ground with Russia,” Henry A. Kissinger made two questionable points. He asserted that the emergence of two centers of power under President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin may herald “an evolution toward a form of checks and balances.” But that will depend far more on a strong civil society, with private property rights and an independent press, judiciary, legislature and nongovernmental organizations.

Mr. Kissinger argued that so as not to “generate emotions” in Moscow, NATO should not “accelerate” implementation of the pledge made at its April summit to admit Ukraine. Would this not reward Russia for bad behavior toward its neighbors?Although it agreed to the eventual admission of Ukraine and Georgia, NATO declined to launch membership action plans for concrete steps. A few weeks later Moscow sent more troops into the Georgian separatist region of Abkhazia, shot down a Georgian drone flying over Abkhazia and took other steps pointing toward possible annexation. The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that behind closed doors at the summit, Mr. Putin questioned Ukraine’s right to exist as an independent state.Aborting NATO’s careful procedures for admitting new states would encourage dangerous miscalculations that are out of place in modern Europe.WILLIAM COURTNEYKENNETH YALOWITZWashingtonWilliam Courtney is a former ambassador to Kazakhstan and Georgia. Kenneth Yalowitz is a former ambassador to Belarus and Georgia.