Russia’s Neighbors Feeling Insecure

Today’s New York Times looks at a new report by the independent research institute the Center for European Reform, which suggests that Central and Eastern Europeans nations feel that NATO pays little heed to their security interests, and that this sense of lack of domestic security is hardly likely to endear them to the idea of participating in overseas NATO missions. This report doubtless confirms thoughts conveyed by David J. Kramer in a rather ‘told-you-so-ish’ op-ed in the Washington Post in which he argues vociferously that the interests of Russia’s neighbors have been entirely precluded in the reset process:

The most glaring example of this trend came this week. In a message accompanying the White House’s resubmission to Congress of a nuclear cooperation pact with Russia, President Obama declared that the situation in Georgia “need no longer be considered an obstacle to proceeding” with congressional review of the agreement. The Bush administration signed this “123” agreement in May 2008 but withdrew it from congressional consideration four months later, knowing it would be rejected in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Georgia that August. Russian forces continue to occupy separatist parts of Georgia in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in blatant violation of the cease-fire agreement between the two countries and are constructing bases in both regions, which Moscow has recognized as independent states. The situation remains tense and could easily explode again.

It would be one thing to resubmit the 123 treaty noting that the United States still has serious disagreements with Russia over Georgia. Instead, by stating so baldly that the situation in Georgia is no longer an obstacle to advancing Russian-American relations, the administration is essentially abandoning the Georgians and giving Russia a green light to continue to engage in provocative behavior along its borders.


In the interest of removing irritating issues from its agenda with Moscow, will the Obama administration sell out Georgia and Moldova by dropping insistence on Russian withdrawal from those two countries? Or will it do the right thing, treat “host-country consent” as a sacrosanct principle and use efforts to revive the CFE Treaty as a mechanism to facilitate eventual Russian withdrawal from Georgia and Moldova?
Obama and other senior U.S. officials have repeatedly said they do not recognize a
Russian “sphere of influence,” but actions, or non-actions, speak louder than those words.

Through its neglect of countries in the region except for Russia, the administration is ceding to Moscow exactly such a sphere. By some counts, Obama has spoken and met with his “friend and partner,” President Dmitry Medvedev, more times than with any other leader, including on Thursday. He should use those occasions to lay down clear markers that Russian aggression toward and occupation of its neighbors are unacceptable. He also should start making “friends and partners” elsewhere in the region. Some of these leaders aren’t the easiest to get along with, nor are they poster children for democracy and human rights — but then again, neither are Medvedev and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Read the whole article here.