American Opportunity
A/O Global Intelligence Weekly: Remembering The End Of The Soviet Empire
From time to time, AO/FCF invites guest commentary on topics of importance.  Norm Kass is a senior fellow at American Opportunity/Free Congress Foundation, and is the founder and president of Drywit LLC, a consulting service aimed at identifying opportunities for marketing innovative technologies on a competitive basis and ensuring their successful integration in the global marketplace. 

As the calendar year draws to a close, one may reflect upon a now fading historical occurrence that once garnered much media attention: Resolution 142-N issued in Moscow by the Supreme Soviet on December 26, 1991 announcing that the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

A seven-decade long sociopolitical experiment consigned to the proverbial dustbin of history.  Yet what relationship followed in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union once the old bipolar arrangement came to an end?  Did the relationship get better?

While numerous speculative ideas surfaced suggesting what the successor regime in Moscow would or should look like, no definitive concept of governance was offered by the Russian leadership.  No template appeared showcasing alternatives to the political and social ideals enshrined in the failed yet pervasive teachings of communist doctrine.  No effective relief measures were put in place for many former Soviet citizens reduced to poverty with the disappearance of retirement benefits and other forms of public assistance.  

Rather -- at least in the West -- there reigned a naive thought that the newly liberated nations comprising the former Soviet Union would eagerly add their names to the list of those respecting and adhering to democratic principles and basic human rights.

In short, Moscow would somehow morph into a second Monticello, with the various bumps and setbacks of the 1990s eased by the moral encouragement and financial support of erstwhile supporters.

Sustaining this premise was an oft heard belief that the notion of ever returning to the dark days of tension and conflict of the Cold-War period was inconceivable.  Yet twenty-seven years after the Soviet collapse, what might we say about the insightfulness and accuracy of the ebullience and euphoria ushered in with the USSR’s collapse?  The simple answer is that initial expectations that the Cold War would not recur were largely correct.

The label we assign to our current relationship with the Russian Federation is a secondary factor.  What matters is a stark reality.  When measured by the extent of enmity, mistrust, and potential for confrontation, today’s approach to dealing with Moscow is far more volatile and less effective than past policies pursued during the Cold War.

To a large extent, this is so because current interactions between Washington and Moscow are lacking the elements of clear communication, particularly in contentious areas of mutual concern.  

Our readiness to establish and assure the viability of such interactions kept past conflicts from reaching critical mass.  The Cuban missile crisis in the fall of 1962 is but one case in point.

Dissimilarities with the Cold War period also surface on issues where both the United States and the Russian Federation served as pillars of stability.  Nuclear agreements comprised just such a category.  Today, this basic component of past cooperation is merely symbolic.  Intelligence sharing once meant working together to identify common threats before the scourge of terrorism had a chance to inflict further harm on either side. Engagement in this sphere also seems to be having become a relic of a distant past.

The same may be said for initiatives aimed at cooperation and information-sharing among military organizations in those instances where our interests converge.  They, too, have all but disappeared.  Even in the area of humanitarian assistance, programs formerly hailed by the White House as having the “highest national priority” languish, further weakening our communication link.

Many of these former U.S.-Soviet lines of communications were to have been preserved and reinvigorated through a series of bilateral working-groups, each with priorities and time lines determined by U.S. and Russian participants. Yet the working-group framework quickly became mired in bureaucratic confusion, its continued existence left to open speculation.

Those unimpressed by the need to restore proactive engagement with the Russian Federation will undoubtedly point to endless examples of misconduct.  How can we expect to enter into an active dialogue and cooperative programs with a nation that recklessly annexes territory?  Severely restricts dissent?  Meddles in the political life of its opponents?  Pursues a series of destabilizing foreign-policy activities intended to exacerbate rather than defuse international conflict?  

The response to such a contention is that it is specifically this type of climate which makes engagement with Russian an imperative.

Agreement on all issues where our positions diverge is an impossible metric to achieve. Nor will engagement cause Russia’s behavior to change in ways that we would find either predictable or compatible with all of our objectives and values.  

Rather, such an approach would end a protracted period of drift and disengagement where the likelihood for miscalculation and potential harm to national interests looms large.

Most importantly, such engagement would provide a welcome and needed vehicle for accurately assessing what is taking place in Russian policy circles -- and more importantly, what role American ideals and principles might play in shaping and encouraging constructive change.

More after the jump. . .
Joim American Opportunity

This week, the AO/FCF offices will be closing in preparation for the Christmas holiday.  This is a good time to remember what makes this season special -- not just family, friends, and presents... but the reason why we celebrate that small child in a manger born some 2,000 years ago.   

From all of us here at American Opportunity/Free Congress Foundation, a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Some news and articles we recommend for information and discussion purposes, none of which necessarily represent the position of A/O:​

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