Lipman: We Need to Communicate More with Russia

Masha Lipman has a new column at PostGlobal addressing the tone of the Munich speech, NATO enlargement, and “malignancy in recession.” Excerpts:

Open Communication is Crucial The tone of Vladimir Putin’s Munich speech evoked memories of Cold War rhetoric raising understandable concerns about Russia’s foreign policy. But if the speech tells us anything about Putin’s vision, its that he’s looking backward rather than forward. In Munich, Putin presented a list of Russia’s previous grievances. He was not making a new policy statement. … Strobe Talbott, the architect of the U.S. Russia policy during this period of NATO expansion recalls in his book “The Russia Hand” the words of the Estonian president Lennart Meri who called Russia a “malignancy in recession” and insisted that it would relapse into authoritarianism at home and expansionism abroad. The view of Russia as a “malignancy” implied that Russia itself was evil, not the brutal Communist regime that exterminated its own subjects even more zealously than those of the countries it occupied. This view implied that Russia’s concerns were illegitimate. Talbott writes that he thought that Meri’s pessimistic view of Russia ”could be self-fulfilling” and that it would be wrong if NATO adopted “an anti-Russian rationale” for taking in new members because it would “tip the balance of forces in Russian politics in the direction that we — along with Meri, Walesa and Havel, not to mention many Russians…most feared”. … The Cold War is over and will not come back. The world has changed too much over the last two decades. But there are elements in today’s relations between Russian and the West that are reminiscent of the Cold War. One of them is the desperate lack of adequate communication. Unless this communication failure is overcome, the relations will be locked in a vicious circle of ad hoc moves and responses, tipping the balance of forces in Russian politics further in the authoritarian and anti-Western direction.

Read full article here.