The Huffington Post

Document Sample
The Huffington Post Powered By Docstoc
					The Huffington Post
       Amitai Etzioni| BIO | I'M A FAN OF THIS

Russia: The Wrong Priority
Posted July 6, 2007 | 11:13 AM (EST)

Read More: Breaking Politics News, George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, Dick Cheney,
Condoleezza Rice

Here we go again. President Bush meets with Putin. He pressures him to restore
democratic reforms that Putin has rolled back, which he is about as likely like to do as he
is to run for dog catcher in Texas. After all, such reforms may very well put him about of
business. At the same time President Bush -- once again -- fails to even mentioned our
first, second, and third most important interest in Russia: ensuring that loose nuclear arms
and materials do not fall into the wrong hands. Russia is considered, by practically all the
leading experts on nuclear terrorism agree that Russia poses, far and away way the
gravest threat to international security. The threat is not that Russia itself will attack the
United States or that its government will arm terrorists, but that Russia, as a failing state,
will be unable to prevent terrorists from obtaining and exporting nuclear weapons.

The Russian federal government is consistently unable to implement its policies..
Corruption is widespread, as are alcoholism and drug abuse. This leaves individual
entrepreneurs, "oligarchs,'" mafiosi, and military officers to wheel and deal in an
atmosphere reminiscent of the Wild West.

Securing Russia's numerous and sizable nuclear facilities is the mission of the Interior
Ministry, whose troops are drawn from the pool of people rejected for service in the army,
(which has very low standards to begin with). Chechen terrorists were able to bribe
Interior Ministry border guards so they could get, fully armed, into the school in Beslan,
leading to the massacre of 344 people, including many children. Two Chechen widows,
wearing suicide belts, bribed their way onto Russian airliners and blew themselves up. It
is only a matter of time before someone bribes his way into the poorly guarded facilities
in which material needed to make nuclear bombs is stored.

As if this were not troubling enough, many of Russia's ten thousand or so tactical nuclear
weapons are reported to be positioned close to Russia's the country's southern borders,
which it shares with several unstable, predominantly Muslim nations. Moreover, these
arms are under the control of unreliable local commanders.
In spite of all these threats, the United States in its dealings with Russia has put much
more emphasis on democratization and promoting human rights than on securing or
blending down nuclear materials and safeguarding or dismantling nuclear arms. U.S.
officials have kept up a steady drumbeat, at the highest level, on the liberal-democracy
theme, but and have remained all but silent struck but next to no notes on the matter of
nuclear security. For instance, Vice President Cheney declared at the Vilnius conference
in May 2006: "America and all of Europe also want to see Russia in the category of
healthy, vibrant democracies. Yet in Russia today, opponents of reform are seeking to
reverse the gains of the last decade. In many areas of civil society -- from religion and the
news media, to advocacy groups and political parties -- the government has unfairly and
improperly restricted the rights of her people."

In March 2006 President Bush said, "Recent trends [in Russia] regrettably point toward a
diminishing commitment" to democratic freedoms and institutions. A press report that
followed the speech stated, "Bush made clear he has differences with President Vladimir
Putin on his increasingly authoritarian stand on issues such as political, religious, and
press freedoms and the emergence of democracies on Russia's borders." And
Condoleezza Rice said in February 2006, "We are very concerned, particularly about
some of the elements of democratization that seem to be going in the wrong direction."

John V. Hanford III, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom,
stated that U.S. strategy in Russia is "to promote awareness of and respect for the entire
range of human rights, including freedom of religion." He also said, "Although the
majority of Russians feel free to worship, many religious minorities have encountered
restrictions and harassment, including some of those that are registered [in accord with
Russia's 1997 law on Freedom of Conscience and On Religious Associations]."

Barry F. Lowenkron, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor,
denounced Russia's new laws regarding NGOs:

The experience of nations worldwide has shown that a flourishing civil society --
especially the activism of NGOs--is essential to reaching democratic goals. The Bush
administration shares the concerns of this Commission that civil society in Russia is
under increasing pressure. Recent months have seen raids on NGO offices, registration
problems, visa problems for foreign NGOs, and intimidation of NGO leaders and staff.
These measures have disrupted the work of key NGOs and have had a chilling effect on
Russian civil society.

Numerous other similar statements by U.S. officials could be cited.

In contrast to the extent to which Russian democratization has been promoted, issues
concerning nuclear security have been raised only rarely and in a low-key manner.

One of the few occasions on which this issue was raised on a high level was during
negotiations leading to the February 2005 U.S.-Russia conference in Bratislava, in which
presidents Bush and Putin participated. During these negotiations the United States
sought to include the conversion of civilian reactors in Russia that use weapons-grade
uranium (WGU) to low-grade uranium (LGU), from which bombs cannot be made. When
Russia demurred, this crucial item was omitted. Even this occasion was used to berate
Russia about human-rights violations rather than pressure it to safeguard its tactical
nuclear weapons and fissile materials or blend them down.

As I see it, Putin might be willing to agree to much tighter controls on Russia's nuclear
materials and arms if the proper incentives were offered; such controls add to his own
security and have only small political costs. He is extremely unlikely, on the other hand,
to reverse the numerous undemocratic measures he has introduced. The reason is
elementary: if he moves significantly in this direction, he endangers his own power and
the small amount of stability he has managed to secure for his country. Here we see
another major example of the ways wanton pursuit of democratization undermines
security. The opposite ranking of priorities should be followed.

Most alarming, funding for the Nunn-Lugar program, aimed to secure Russia nuclear
material, has not been increased since 9/11 and receives only about 20% of the amount of
funds which are devoted to ensuring that people will not carry box-cutters and pocket-
knives on commercial flights.

A typical American response at this point would be, "Why not do both? Why not
deproliferate and democratize?" The fact is that even superpowers have limited leverage
over failing states, and hence priorities must be set. Such prioritization calls for according
much higher standing to those measures that which directly lead to nuclear security than
to those measures which might possibly achieve security, but only at some unknown
future date via democratization.

Comments (11)
  KaneandAbel (See profile | I'm a fan of
The only way to security for US is to defang Israel and remove nukes from it. That will
remove the reason that all the Arab states and non-state actors, seek nukes for. Just like
drugs you need to remove the demand. As long as the nukes remain in middle-east in the
hand of one player, others will have the pressure of demand for it.

That is the most important action (among many others) to take if US wants to prevent
nuclear materials to fall into wrong hands.

Ths russian baiting by Amitai Etzioni is ingenous and is a red herring. Russia is very
much aware that a nuke falling into hands of terrorists could be more devastating for
Russia itself than United states because those terrorists could be the Chechen. Chechens,
who have shown absolute disregards even for women and children as the case was
demonstrated in the Beslan school case or the theatre. Putin being from KGB, I am sure
as anybody else, knows the implication of such a situation.

So Mr. Etzioni please direct your incisive brain towards where the security of US in the
context of Nuclear terrorism lies. In Israel being de-nuclearised
| posted 12:27 pm on 07/06/2007

     CaseyBabes (See profile | I'm a fan of CaseyBabes)
Taking away Israel's nukes is a preposterous idea, which will never happen anyway.
Israel ain't about to commit suicide. We are in a new time of warfare where the enemies
in shadows promise to destroy Israel and the USA as their objectives. Before, deadly
zealots merely wanted a return of land or "their interpretation" of liberty. Now a ferocious
religious ideaology powers their untiring paths of death for unsuspecting victims. The
zealots are worldwide, without uniforms, or any shred of moral rule to guide their beastly
warfare. Astonishingly, the murderers are aided within the targetted countries own
citizens. Political correctness, corrupt politicians, weak victims of their own consciences,
even self-deluders, enable the shadowy killers' successes.
Russia's inability to secure the nuclear stockpile probably means a nuke is waiting
delivery to Moscow from Chechnia. Only for the fact that Putin has slowed democracy
and installed draconian security in Russia has prevented a nukeCOD. I suspect
somewhere in the Middle East there is a band carrying a device meant for Israel's heart,
and as soon as a soft spot is located in the Jewish nation it will be delivered. Israel knows
it and I'm fairly certain their own nukes are strategically know, perhaps this
ensures a certain MAD policy once active between the USA and Russia. Speaking of the
USA, this country is most likely more vulnerable than Israel as we are tied in knots
through political correctness, opposite parties in Congress handicapping military actions
by condemning incoming wiretaps on suspected terrorists, the same parties self-
rightiously whining about "torture" and Gitmo. In fact, the USA is threatened from
without and within, and doesn't know where to aim, similar to Great Britain. Maybe, just
maybe Israel will automatically fire off their own nukes when witnessing our near
destruction, thereby settling the whole affair (until the next time). So for Israel to be de
fanged, forget about it.
| Parent | posted 10:54 am on 07/07/2007

  KaneandAbel (See profile | I'm a fan of
Security of Israel can be easily provided by US nuclear umbrella.
| Parent | posted 08:51 pm on 07/08/2007

     pkafin (See profile | I'm a fan of pkafin)
It never ceases to amaze me when the first comment in an article that doesn't even
mention Israel is about how it's Israel's fault.

Russia and the U.S. played a pan-global game of Russian-Roulette (pardon the pun) with
nuclear weapons over a 40 year period. Many states, including those in the middle east
were used as pawns in that game.

Tens of thousands of nuclear weapons were produced and put in the field by the U.S. and
The U.S.S.R. India, Pakistan and North Korea have had sustained nuclear programs that
produced deployable nukes. Additionally, Egypt, Iraq and several other countries (in far
away places like South America) embarked and failed in this endeavor.

It is true that Israel did develop (and does possess) nukes. It is true that Israel's very
existence irritates many sensitive points in the Muslim world. It is also true, however,
that, despite several nasty wars during which Israel has possessed these weapons, they
have shown the restraint not to use them. Moreover, hostility (and blame) towards Israel
predates their nuclear program.

Take Israel's nukes out of the equation and very little changes in the big picture. The most
changes that occur are ones that are to Israel's detriment.

The idea, for example, that Iran's only reason for developing these weapons is because
Israel has them is silly. Iran wants them because they are powerful weapons.

The U.S.'s security does not hinge on Israel's insecurity. To claim it does is to completely
ignore most of what is going on the world this includes: oil based economics; Religious
based struggles within the Muslim world; first vs. third world resource use; democratic v.
tryranical forms of government; and militaristic v. cooperative forms of dispute

The claim that defanging Israel is the key to improving U.S. security is the result of
specific hostility towards Israel and not of specific concern for the U.S.

People are free to exercise that hostility, but it makes more sense to do so in response to
an article that is actually about Israel.
| Parent | posted 09:11 pm on 07/07/2007

  KaneandAbel (See profile | I'm a fan of
"The U.S.'s security does not hinge on Israel's insecurity."

Security of Israel can be easily provided by US nuclear umbrella. Israel can be as secure
as the US itself that way
| Parent | posted 08:54 pm on 07/08/2007
     Incredulous (See profile | I'm a fan of Incredulous)
Did Putin ask Bush to roll back HIS attack on Democracy? Probably not. Those two are
like peas in a pod. Dictators, posing as democrats.
At least rekindling the Cold War might give the U.S. a chance of actually winning a war,
since the War on Terror and the War on Drugs have been lost.
Perhaps if the U.S. slowed down, even a bit, on their nuclear proliferation, they might
have a leg to stand on when trying to convince other countries to do the same. Otherwise,
they'll continue to look like mealy-mouthed hypocrites.
| posted 02:01 pm on 07/06/2007

     wars4profit (See profile | I'm a fan of wars4profit)

They say the three most effective ways to lead are,
1) example
2) example
3) example

It was wrong for Washington to unilaterally abrogate the ABM treaty. It needs to get
back on board.

Regarding civil liberties, Washington needs to repeal the Military Commissions Act.

Only after the above items have been completed can Washington begin to think about
criticizing another country.
| posted 06:07 pm on 07/06/2007

     FogBelter (See profile | I'm a fan of FogBelter)
Mr. Etzioni, I fear as dangerous as marginally protected nuclear, chemical, and biological
weapons may be, the instability of Russia long term is the truly critical issue here.

Even with the KGB pedigree that Putin has, the collapse of the Soviet Union occurred at
a much faster pace than anyone anticipated. The CIA supposedly didn't have the
infrastructure in place to deal with the abrupt change, It's questionable if the KGB, with
the wholesale reprisals its agents allegedly experienced across all regions of the Nation,
was in much better shape than the CIA.

I can see a situation where Russia is faced with its own wave of internal "balkanization"
which would leave the weapons in the hands of isolated groups of paranoid warlords
across Russia.

Would weapons be sold for cash? ... of course! Would the weapons be used by rival
warlords against each other? ... of course. The result of this would be a Russia in anarchy
where any intentions the US had at implementing controls of any kind in this chaotic civil
maelstrom would be a pipe dream.

Add to this that the West would find itself completely discredited in the eyes of the
Russian people, who heard, throughout the Cold War, the riches they would enjoy if they
threw off the Communist yoke, only to find their treasure chest filled with murderous,
corrupt, anarchy.

So, even as I agree with your concerns of uncontrolled Nuclear Weapons in Russia, I find
that to be the very tip of a very large iceberg dead ahead, in terms of international disaster.

| posted 10:39 pm on 07/06/2007

     semorg (See profile | I'm a fan of semorg)
Mr Etzioni,

The issue is not priority, but several years of mismanaging the Russian relationship. As
usual we saw weakness and wanted to take advantage of it. Not sure what we gained
from that, and now we only deal with them to press with our Iran policy.
The issue is not priority, but leadership with long term vision. Leadership without politics,
without special interest and greed and instead focuses on the longevity of our country.
| posted 03:47 am on 07/07/2007

     Ray_Brigt (See profile | I'm a fan of Ray_Brigt)
It is a rare pleasure to read an intelligent article.
How much better it is to focus on the important issues at hand, such as securing the
Russian Nukes, then on promoting (or rather acting as if promoting one’s ideal of
Indeed idealism is another word for stupidity and hypocrisy.
Whether it is the American Idealism about instilling Democracy everywhere in the world,
or the Communist ideal about spreading their myth of “classless society”, or the
Mohammedan ideal of World Caliphate, they all lead to disasters.

The war with Iraq could have been swift and practically bloodless if the US went there to
remove an ugly dictator and some 10 or so of his most bloody collaborators. Of course
Iraq would end-up with another dictator, perhaps a Shiite one, but that new dictator
would know well who is the boss. In case of the new dictator misbehaving we could go
right back and again with minimal losses get rid of him as well.
It is pure stupidity to pretend to be great do-gooder, we can as well claim the Iraqi oil as
our own. Nobody respects American ideals about “Democracy”, “Liberalism” etc. They
only respect American power. So let’s give them power and some real politics.
It is the inappropriate and unachievable ideal of instilling democracy in Iraq that got us in
this trouble.
This is also the case with Russia. We can have great relations with just about any Russian
government if we just focus on real politics. They have their needs which are not
necessarily contrary to ours. We never supported democracy in Latin America, why are
we so obsessed with Democracy in Russia?
| posted 09:07 pm on 07/07/2007

     TJTelecaster (See profile | I'm a fan of TJTelecaster)
The so called criticisms over Democracy and Civil Liberties in and over Russia were
really motivated by the Yukos Exxon-Mobil oil deal when Exxon was trying to buy either
all or half of Yukos..

That and the fact that he owned the only two other stations that were highly critical of
Putin is why Kordhokovsky was placed under arrest..and thus Bush went into Russia as
did Condi "The Oil whore of Babylon" Rice and poked Putin in the eye with a pointed

It was all about the pending purchase of a Russian natural asset by Exxon-Mobil of
Yukos then the largest Russian oil company..!

Putin unlike our "free traitors" was not about to sell a Russian natural resource to a
foreign power..!

By the way professor we've debated many years ago at Montclair State University at the
Philosophy Conferences there..

TJ Colatrella..
| posted 12:29 pm on 07/08/2007

Shared By: