The Corner

Our Russia Experts

One of the more depressing things in watching Vladimir Putin is the manner in which Russian “experts” at home have for years now all but cheered him on. In the latest Nation magazine, Stephen Cohen has written one of the most embarrassing apologies of Putin’s imperialistic misadventures imaginable. A Russian state public-relations official could not have offered a shakier contextualization of Russian expansionism.

In the last few years someone named Mark Adomanis (who identifies himself as “I specialize in Russian economics and demographics”) has perhaps offered the most unfortunate apologies for Putin’s Russia and the serially excused reset as proof of a strong Obama foreign policy (“Perhaps I am a deeply unserious person, but I think it is not only possible to ‘seriously’ argue that 2012 Russia is more reasonable towards the United States but that it is quite easy to do so”.) He routinely chastised skeptics (me in particular in often ad hominem style) for suggesting that reset with Russia would only empower Putin’s authoritarianism, weaken our Eastern European allies, and project a dangerous sense of U.S. indecision and vulnerability. At the time (2012) Adomanis ridiculed any suggestion that reset was counterproductive. In a 2012 piece that unfortunately bragged “One does not need to be a proselytizer for “the reset” to note that American-Russian relations are better now than they were when Obama first took office,” he argued,

I’m very familiar with conservative critiques of Obama’s Russia policy, and the most frequent criticism is that improved relations with Russia weren’t worth the cost: coddling up to a thug like Putin was simply too high a price to pay for the relatively paltry returns. But Hanson is making a far more radical argument. He’s arguing both that our attempts to improve relations with Russia angered our NATO allies like Poland and the Baltics and that attempts to improve relations with Russia actually worsened relations with Russia. I suppose it’s possible to imagine a foreign policy initiative that is so horrifically planned and executed that it worsens relations with everyone, but while I have been critical of the reset since its inception it seems very hard to argue that it has backfired so catastrophically.

In reality, Obama’s foreign policy vis-a-vis Russia has failed not due to its cowering weakness and accommodation, but due to its significant overlap with the previous administration’s bullheaded and illogical insistence on pursuing ballistic missile defense in Eastern Europe. That’s a criticism I would love to hear made, but it’s one that Hanson is incapable of making because it would require that he recognize Obama as a persistent and forceful advocate of American power. (emphasis added)

I do plead guilty that I could not and do not yet quite sense the supposedly forceful Obama advocacy of American power, and also to arguing for the last few years that attempts to improve relations with Russia actually worsened relations with Russia.” But I think most shared that conclusion; it seemed obvious from that the way that Secretary Clinton promoted reset that it would lead to worsening relations by undercutting Russians who had legitimate complaints about Putin’s thuggery and thereby would only further encourage his absolutism, by our acquiescence green-lighting more Russian adventurism that could only in the future destabilize the former Soviet republics and lead to increased tensions with the U.S. and Europe, and by inflating Putin’s stature that was not otherwise earned by the Russian economy, political system, military, or morality and that might in other regions run counter to U.S. interests.

Most Popular

U.S.

Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots

The American flag’s place in our culture is beginning to look less unassailable. The symbol itself is under attack, as we’ve seen with Nike dumping a shoe design featuring an early American flag, Megan Rapinoe defending her national-anthem protests (she says she will never sing the song again), and ... Read More
Books

The Plot against Kavanaugh

Justice on Trial, by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino (Regnery,  256 pp., $28.99) The nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was the political event of 2018, though not for the reasons anyone expected. All High Court confirmations these days are fraught with emotion and tumult ... Read More
Politics & Policy

He Just Can’t Help Himself

By Saturday, the long-simmering fight between Nancy Pelosi and her allies on one side and the “squad” associated with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other had risen to an angrier and more destructive level at the Netroots Nation conference. Representative Ayanna Pressley, an African-American Massachusetts ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More
White House

On Gratitude and Immigration

Like both Rich and David, I consider it flatly inappropriate for the president of the United States to be telling Americans -- rhetorically or otherwise -- to “go back where you came from.” In consequence, you will find no defense of the president from me, either. What Trump tweeted over the weekend was ... Read More
Sports

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More
U.S.

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More