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Making the Best out of Cold Peace

Stanley A Weiss, founding chairman of Business Executives for National Security, writes about how the United States and Russia can make the most of its less-than-perfect relationship:

Going forward, Moscow and Washington should remember that, in many ways, they are made for each other. As the two largest nuclear powers – both victims of Islamic jihadis – there is no substitute for US-Russia cooperation in reducing nuclear arsenals, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and combating terrorism. Washington won’t succeed in curtailing nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran without Moscow. Russia won’t truly succeed in diversifying its oil and gas-dependent economy, or gain membership of the World Trade Organization, without American investment and assistance. For its part, Washington might win back some Russian hearts with a little empathy for their post-Cold War trauma. After all, how would Americans react if, having lost the Cold War, their country disintegrated, the Warsaw Pact expanded to Mexico and Russia proposed installing a missile defense system in Cuba? “In the Russian mind, their country was flat on its back after the Cold War, and the US walked all over them,” says Brent Scowcroft, the national security advisor to the president George H W Bush. “The facts are almost irrelevant. That’s how Russians feel.” To avoid fueling Russian paranoia, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should proceed slowly – if at all – with eventual membership for former Soviet states like Ukraine and Georgia. To show Moscow that the US welcomes a real economic partnership, Congress should finally repeal a Cold War relic – the Jackson-Vanik amendment, originally designed to promote Russian Jewish emigration – but which continues to block normal trade relations. For its part, Moscow must resolve its post-communist identity crisis and accept its 21st century post-superpower status rather than cling to illusions of a 19th century empire. This includes recognizing that zero-sum security thinking – including intimidation of smaller neighbors from the Baltic to Georgia – that ultimately leaves Russia more isolated and less secure.