Hagel&Kerry to positively impact on US policy toward Russia, but low hanging fruit picked

See below my preliminary analysis of (I) general trends in U.S-Russian relations; (II) possible impact of appointment of Hagel, Kerry and Brennan on U.S-Russian relations; (III) the three nominees’ individual views on Russia.

I. General trends in U.S-Russian relations:

Unless political will is displayed by leaders on both sides, further low deterioration of relations probable because

  • All low-hanging fruit already picked during Obama’s first term.
  • Since coming back to Kremlin Putin has taken a number of steps that have had negative impact on some of the less important issues on bilateral agenda (such as expulsion of USAID and ban of US adoptions of Russian orphans), but also on some that are central to the bilateral relationship (decision not to extend CTR agreement as it is.)
  • BMD issue remains unresolved, although greater hopes for compromise – now that Obama doesn’t have to face a popular vote again he may keep his 2012 promise made to Medvedev to show greater flexibility on the issue in the second term.
  • Sustainable improvement requires sound economic relationship, which is lacking:
    • Russia is No. 20 on the list of U.S.’ trading partners. &nbsp
    • US is No. 13 on the list of Russia’s trading partners.
    • US buys no Russian gas and Russia is No 13 in list of top sellers of oil to U.S. companies.

II. Possible impact of appointment of Hagel, Kerry and Brennan on U.S-Russian relations:

  • All the three are realists whom I expect to follow Obama’s lead in pursuing pragmatic constructive relations with Russia.
  • Their 1st priority would be prevent further deterioration of US-Russian relations by trying to shape a constructive substantive agenda for Obama’s visit to Russia in 1st half of 2013 that would at the minimum include replacement of the CTR deal that expires in June 2013.
  • All the three are strong believers in threat of nuclear terrorism and have advocated steps to reduce that threat in cooperation with Russia.
  • Both Kerry and Hagel are decorated Vietnam War veterans who know the price the intervening nation may pay, so more cautious on Iran and military interventions in general.
    • Hagel has no love lost for intervention in Iran while Kerry has described the coalition of the willing put together by Bush Jr. as coalition of coerced and bribed. Both voted for 2003 invasion of Iraq, however.
  • Both Kerry and Hagel enjoy good reputation among Russian policy-makers so expect initial interaction to be friendly and constructive, especially given that Hagel’s possible counterpart Shoigu is quite savvy in dealings with foreign counterparts compared to his predecessor.
  • Of the three it is Brennan whom I expect to be less enthusiastic in cooperation with Russia, given “where you stand depends on where you sit”; some of his publicly known experiences in dealing with Russia on issues on Russian espionage and roque arms trading and general decline in intelligence cooperation between US and Russia.

III. The nominees’ individual views on Russia.

In this section my comments are in Italics:

1. Hagel

General views on Russia/FSU:

  • Co-chaired Bipartisan Commission on U.S. Policy toward Russia, which produced a 2009 report:
    • “An American commitment to improving U.S.-Russian relations is neither a reward to be offered for good international behavior by Moscow nor an endorsement of the Russian government’s domestic conduct. It is an acknowledgement of the importance of Russian cooperation in achieving essential American goals: from preventing Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, dismantling al Qaeda and stabilizing Afghanistan, to guaranteeing security and prosperity in Europe.
    • Accept that neither Ukraine nor Georgia is ready for NATO membership.”
    • In spite of being formally affiliated with GOP, has generally more benign view of Russia than even some of Democrats have.

On nuclear terrorism:

  • Hagel met Obama and Lugar in Moscow during their 2005 trip to Russia and later co-authored nuclear security legislation with the future president. (Washington Post, April 2010).
  • On the need to secure loose nukes and materials:"This is truly a global issue." (Washington Post, April 2010).

On non-proliferation in general:

  • Called for US and Russia jointly to strengthen the international nonproliferation regime. (2009 report on US policy toward Russia.)

On Iran:

  • Called for seeking to make Russia an American partner in dealing with Iran. (2009 report on US policy toward Russia.)

On military intervention in general

  • When commenting on proposal for a US military campaign in Iraq warned against a "rush to war in the absence of a strong multilateral coalition." (AP, January 2003). But eventually voted to authorize the war.

On arms control in general/Global Zero:

  • Launching a serious dialogue on arms control, including extending the START I Treaty as well as further reduction of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. (2009 report on US policy toward Russia.)
  • The Senate should promptly vote to approve the New START treaty with Russia for one reason: It increases U.S. national security. (Washington Post, September 2010).
  • Advocacy group Global Zero, of which Hagel is a member, issued a report in May 2012 that said that the United States’ nuclear deterrence could be guaranteed with a total arsenal of 900 warheads, and with only half of them deployed at any one time. (IHT, May 2012).

Missile defense:

  • Taking a new look at missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic and making a genuine effort to develop a cooperative approach to the shared threat from Iranian missiles. (2009 report on US policy toward Russia.)
    • I would expect Hagel to be as inventive as Gates was in inventive BMD compromises.

Op-eds related to Russia

“It's time for the Senate to vote on New START,” by George P. Shultz, Madeleine K. Albright, Gary Hart and Chuck Hagel, WP, 09/10/10.

  • The Senate should promptly vote to approve the treaty with Russia for one reason: It increases U.S. national security:
    • It reduces and caps the Russian nuclear arsenal.
    • It reestablishes and makes stronger the verification procedures that allow U.S. inspectors to conduct on-site inspections and surveillance of Russian nuclear weapons and facilities.
    • It strengthens international efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism, and it opens the door to progress on further critical nonproliferation efforts, such as reducing Russian tactical nuclear weapons.

2. Kerry

General views on Russia/FSU:

  • Would
    expect Kerry to have biggest impact on US policy toward Russia, given
    his position as Secretary of State and Coordinator of Bilateral
    US-Russian Presidential Commission. I would also expect Kerry to be
    more conciliatory and less feisty than Susan Rice who clashed with
    Churkin over Syria in a very vocal way at UNSC. I don’t expect Kerry to
    bring up re-Sovietization rethoric that Clinton fired up in her swan
    song.
  • The United States should not hesitate to acknowledge Russia as the great power it was and is.”  (Speech, March 2009).
  • “Russia’s call for a new Euro-Atlantic Security Architecture is noteworthy, and
    we look forward to exploring it and fleshing out more details.”
     (Speech, March 2009).
  • Mitt Romney talks like he’s only seen Russia by watching Rocky IV.” (Washington Post, 09.07.12).
    • Didn’t mention his views on policy toward Russia in his 2004 speech on
      acceptance of nomination as the presidential candidate for Democrats.
    • In March 2012 Kerry said that he supports joining replacing longstanding
      human rights sanctions on Russia with new human rights sanctions on
      Russian officials. But in April 2012 he decided not to put the Sergei
      Magnitsky bill on the agenda, delaying consideration of the bill until
      May at the earliest, after the visit to the U.S. of Putin. So ready to acccomodate Obama’s wishes.

On nuclear terrorism:

  • “Without question, the single most important partnership we can create—one that
    would contribute to our relationship as well as the world at large—is a
    serious joint effort to dramatically confront the threat of nuclear
    weapons and nuclear terrorism… Nothing is more urgent to our mutual
    security than doing all we can to prevent nuclear terrorism.” (Speech,
    March 2009).

On non-proliferation in general:

  • As a Democrat presidential candidate: “We need a president …who knows that
    we should be buying up the loose nuclear materials in Russia and making
    the world safer from potential nuclear dirty bombs.” NBC News, January
    2004).

On Iran:

  • “We must also confront – jointly – the immediate challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear program. … Russia’s ongoing supply of civilian nuclear fuel for electricity remains an important incentive for Iran to do the right thing.  But Russia needs to be prepared to fundamentally alter its
    relations with Iran.” (Speech, March 2009).

On military intervention in general

  • Called Bush’s coalition of willing “coalition of coerced and bribed,” but
    voted to support beginning of war in Iraq. (Free Republic, November
    2006).

On arms control in general/Global Zero:

  • Led effort in Senate to ratify New START.
  • “We should set a near-term goal of no more than 1,000 operationally
    deployed warheads—and experts affirm this can increase our national
    security, rather than diminish it.” (Speech, March 2009).
  • Ratification of “the test ban treaty in the current atmosphere is a very, very difficult process.” (Foreign Policy, 12.22.10).

Missile defense:

  • “Russia and the United States should put more effort into jointly developing effective defenses against medium- and intermediate-range missiles.  And Russia should also seek, for its part, to minimize the need for missile defense in Europe by helping to convince Iran to change its nuclear and missile policies.” (Speech, March 2009).

Op-eds related to Russia

“How New-START will improve our nation's security,” by John F. Kerry, WP, 07/07/10.

  • Romney
    says that New START impedes our ability to build missile defenses
    against attack from rogue countries – the treaty will have no impact on
    our ability to build ballistic missile defenses.
  • Romney
    warns that Russia could use language in the treaty's preamble as a
    pretext for withdrawal if the United States builds up its missile
    defense. In a word, baloney. The preamble is not legally binding.
  • When it comes to nuclear danger, the nation's security is more important than scoring cheap political points.

“A Friend to Georgia And Russia,”   by John F. Kerry and David Dreier, WP, 05/07/09.

  • As
    the Obama administration seeks a fresh start in our strained
    relationship with Russia, the case for cooperation with Moscow on
    everything from nuclear terrorism to global finance is clear and
    compelling. So, too, is the case for protecting the freedom and
    sovereignty of the fledgling democracies on Russia's borders. We must do
    both.
  • e need to use both to build closer ties with Russia even as we continue to support our friend and ally Georgia.

3. Brennan

General views on Russia: Most of his publicly known dealings with Russia must have had a negative impact on his general view or Russia:

  • Joined the CIA in 1980 as an analyst and rose to be Saudi Arabia station chief.  (New York Daily News, January 2013).
  • Was the first chief of the National Counterterrorism Center under Bush (New York Daily News, January 2013).
    • So
      must have coordinated with Russian agencies after Putin reached out in
      wake of 9/11 to offer intelligence sharing, but also must have
      experienced the deterioration of the relationship late in Bush’s 2nd term.
  • Led the June 2010 Oval Office briefing of Obama on exposure of Russian sleeper agents. (NYT, July 2010).
  • "We're very pleased" that the Thai Appeals Court granted the extradition of Viktor Bout to the United States. (AFP, 2010).

Nuclear terrorism

  • “Al-Qaeda
    has been engaged in the effort to acquire a nuclear weapon for over 15
    years, and its interest remains strong today.” (AFP, April 2010).

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