Obama, Romney, and Russia Ahead of Monday’s Debate

On Monday President Barack Obama and his contender Mitt Romney will have an interesting foreign policy debate where we will get to see who can do a better job not answering questions, but undoubtedly, Russia is likely to feature in at least a few questions. In this recent article by Ariel Cohen, we see some of the lines along which we can expect Romney to attack the president.  What will Obama’s response be?

Since Putin’s return to the Kremlin, a crackdown is on its way in Russia, conveniently ignored by the Obama administration. Free from concern about a serious U.S. response, corruption and abuse of power in Russia continue to rise as well.

The recent legislative developments have severe geopolitical implications. There are clear signs of an authoritarian reversal: Putin is implementing a “Fortress Russia” policy, which is based on repression at home and confrontation abroad. It is used to justify an already-decided-upon $700 billion, massive military buildup.

The “reset” needs a serious reassessment, and so does the overall relationship with Russia. The U.S. should pursue its national interests in relations with Moscow, instead of chasing a feel-good mirage.

Specifically, the administration should work to advance individual rights, dignity, democracy and free media through public diplomacy and pinpointed support of worthy causes. Washington should cooperate with those along Russian periphery and in Europe, who are concerned about the growth of Russia’s sphere of influence.

Finally, the U.S. and its allies should engage international organizations; expert communities; mass media and social media to draw attention to and counter the ongoing crackdown in Russia.

It is preferable to engage now, before the specter of an anti-status quo Russia once again haunts Europe – and the world.