Both John McCain and Hillary Clinton have new essays in the next edition of Foreign Affairs. McCain, who has spoke out in the past on Russia, uses the opportunity to call for Russia’s removal from the G8:
A decade and a half ago, the Russian people threw off the tyranny of communism and seemed determined to build a democracy and a free market and to join the West. Today, we see in Russia diminishing political freedoms, a leadership dominated by a clique of former intelligence officers, efforts to bully democratic neighbors, such as Georgia, and attempts to manipulate Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas. We need a new Western approach to this revanchist Russia. We should start by ensuring that the G-8, the group of eight highly industrialized states, becomes again a club of leading market democracies: it should include Brazil and India but exclude Russia. Rather than tolerate Russia’s nuclear blackmail or cyberattacks, Western nations should make clear that the solidarity of NATO, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, is indivisible and that the organization’s doors remain open to all democracies committed to the defense of freedom. We must also increase our programs supporting freedom and the rule of law in Russia and emphasize that genuine partnership remains open to Moscow if it desires it but that such a partnership would involve a commitment to being a responsible actor, internationally and domestically.
Not to be outdone, Sen. Clinton sounds off on Russia as well:
Statesmanship is also necessary to engage countries that are not adversaries but that are challenging the United States on many fronts. Russian President Vladimir Putin has thwarted a carefully crafted UN plan that would have put Kosovo on a belated path to independence, attempted to use energy as a political weapon against Russia’s neighbors and beyond, and tested the United States and Europe on a range of nonproliferation and arms reduction issues. Putin has also suppressed many of the freedoms won after the fall of communism, created a new class of oligarchs, and interfered deeply in the internal affairs of former Soviet republics. It is a mistake, however, to see Russia only as a threat. Putin has used Russia’s energy wealth to expand the Russian economy, so that more ordinary Russians are enjoying a rising standard of living. We need to engage Russia selectively on issues of high national importance, such as thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions, securing loose nuclear weapons in Russia and the former Soviet republics, and reaching a diplomatic solution in Kosovo. At the same time, we must make clear that our ability to view Russia as a genuine partner depends on whether Russia chooses to strengthen democracy or return to authoritarianism and regional interference.
Apparently, when we hear about U.S. policy toward Russia during the debates of the upcoming elections, we can expect candidates to 1) remark upon Russia’s energy manipulation, 2) talk about Russian intervention in former satellite states, and lastly 3) reiterate the need for partnership with the Kremlin to solve Kosovo, Iran, or [insert geopolitical crisis here]. It is not difficult to see which constituents the candidates are seeking to please with each of these points. Significant changes to the U.S.-Russia relationship do not feel very close, but at least some of the candidates are beginning to talk about it. Contributions in the same journal from John Edwards and Rudy Giuliani barely mention Russia at all, showing that unlike other more fashionable foreign policy issues that resonate with the American public, talking about policy toward Russia is challenging, unrewarding, and labor intensive.