Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Ariel Cohen Thinks We Can’t Read Russian: Cohen’s Misleading Critique of Obama’s “Reset” of U.S.-Russian Relations

Posted by K.E. White on June 24, 2010

Yes, Ariel Cohen thinks I can’t read Russian.

Actually he’s right. But I can do a quick babblefish translation.

Why is this important? Because translating one of Cohen’s cites reveals his critique to be grossly misleading.

Ariel Cohen, a Heritage Foundation research fellow, launches this clumsy and fatally exaggerated data-dump on Sen. John Kerry’s defense of Obama’s “reset” strategy towards Russia.

But his most explosive charge against the “reset” seems built on little more than exaggeration. In return for sanctions on Iran and a new START treaty, Cohen suggests that Obama has given Russia a free hand in “the post-Soviet ‘near abroad’”citing to a Russian publication. Now that vague term triggers images of a new Cold War divide in Europe.

Unfortunately, the cited article states nothing close to Cohen’s implication. In fact, the article, written by a Russian researcher, actually extols America recognizing recent Ukrainian elections that brought a pro-Russian government to power.

That’s a far cry from giving Russia a free hand to the post-Soviet near abroad.

And that doesn’t even get to the article’s most egregious omission: Cohen criticizes a lot, but fails to offer any alternative.

Sloppy research and data-dumping shouldn’t be permitted by any think-tank, whether it’s a blog-post or article.

Here’s a recapitulation of Cohen’s exhaustive list of U.S. “concessions” to Russia:

1. “limiting the U.S. ballistic missile defense”

2. Recognizing “Russia’s exclusive zone of interests” in the “post-Soviet near abroad” (Again, this actually means recognizing Russia’s increased influence in the Ukraine, not a free-hand in Eastern Europe)

3. “new security architecture in Europe”

4. 123 civilian nuclear reactor agreement — $10-15 billion in new nuclear fuel reprocessing business

5. Support for Russia’s entry into the WTO

6. Secret deal to limit U.S. ballistic missile defense (how does one argue against the charge of a secret deal?)

7. Russia has allowed more U.S. and NATO traffic of Russian territory

And in return, according to Cohen, America has received remarkably little:

1. Russia still supporting Venezuela and Syria

2. Weak sanctions against Iran “In short, Russia will be milking the rest for all its worth.”

3. A new START treaty with one-sides terms in two significant ways: first, the U.S has to eliminate 80 warheads more than Russia; second, the United States must eliminate 150 delivery platforms, while Russia can add over 100.  (A somewhat biased view of the agreement)

I have two questions for Cohen. First, what concessions would he take back? Second, what pressure should America apply to Russia?

Cohen’s article acts as a rejoinder to Sen. John Kerry’s defense of Obamaland’s foreign policy towards Russia. In his Politico op-ed, Kerry endorses the “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations: heralding the new START treaty, and Russia’s support of new Security Council sanctions against Iran, decision to not sell Iran anti-aircraft missiles and open airspace to US and NATO flights to Afghanistan.

Ariel Cohen serves as Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy at the Katherine and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Policy at the Heritage Foundation. Owen Graham, Research Assistant to the Davis Center, contributed to the blog-post.

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