Strobe Talbott: Nothing to worry about in Russia

Strobe Talbott, who hasn’t been writing as much about Russia since fending off allegations made in spy’s memoir, has a new piece in the Financial Times which makes a Kissinger-esque argument for the growing area mutual interests and potential for cooperation between Russia and the United States.  The subtext of the argument is that Washington should back off any tough demands on democratic norms, rule of law, or human rights, and give up some ground on “troublesome” issues such as the missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.  About 75% of the article is dedicated to proving that Russia is harmless, friendless, and surrounded.

We expect to see these kinds of arguments about U.S.-Russia relations to become quite fashionable in the near term.

From the FT:

So in a very real sense, the political (as opposed to the geographic) “west” has Russia surrounded. That is a fact – and a formulation – that makes many Russians nervous, or worse, since “encirclement” is the English version of the word that they use for “containment”. But what is called for is emphatically not the cold war strategy based on a global chain of military alliances aimed at deterring or, if necessary, defeating Soviet expansionism. Of those pacts, only Nato survives precisely because it has – whatever the Russians may fear and say – taken on a post-cold war identity and mission.

Revitalising the Nato-Russia Council should, over thelonger term, ease Russia’s neuralgia about the alliance. In the nearterm, the council could provide a forum for dealing with troublesomeissues such as the Bush administration’s plans to base anti-missiledefences in Poland and the Czech Republic and the Russian threat tocounter those deployments with offensive rockets in Kaliningrad.

TheRussians have provided an opening for renewed diplomacy. Since lastsummer, President Dmitry Medvedev has been calling for a “newEuro-Atlantic security architecture”. So far, except for rehashing oldcomplaints and the unacceptable claim that other former Sovietrepublics fall within Russia’s “sphere of privileged interests”, MrMedvedev and Mr Lavrov have been vague about what they have in mind.

Thatcreates a vacuum that the US and its European partners can fill withtheir own proposals. The theme of those should be accelerating theemergence of an international system (of which Nato is a part) that isprepared to include Russia rather than exclude or contain it, and toencourage positive forces in Russia that want to see their nationintegrated in a globalised world organised around the search for commonsolutions to common problems.