Walking Back the Russia Response

So just after I posted this morning about how a confrontational stance with Russia ignored the reality that we need their cooperation on a host of important issues, I got a call from Bob Gates thanking me for tipping the internal Bush administration debate in favor of a more realist approach. Seriously, though, I might have been too quick to characterize the Bush response so far as confrontational, since this is about word for word what I was arguing:

Overall, the administration’s strategy reflects a desire to defend Georgia’s territorial sovereignty and its symbolic role as an emerging democracy, while not precluding cooperation with Russia on a number of important long-term national security interests, including counterterrorism, nonproliferation and efforts to halt narcotics traffic.

But the risk is still there. This, from Gates, is just plain smart:

In an interview, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates described the administration as having come to a unified position that calls for “a long-term strategic approach — not one where we react tactically in a way that has negative strategic consequences.”


He cautioned that “if we act too precipitously, we could be the ones who are isolated.”

I’ve argued before that isolation as a strategic approach in general is anachronistic. There’s just too much interwoven connectivity these days. But it’s even more anachronistic with regards to a country like Russia, which could easier find a broad and disparate collection of client states (Venezuela and Iran?) eager to frustrate American ambitions.

More World Politics Review