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Putin versus Cheney

May 19, 2006

The following article from New America Foundation Senior Fellow, and Coalition member, Anatol Lieven, provides a hard-hitting look at the similarities in the world views of Putin and Cheney and contrasts how these philosophical similarities lead to very different diplomatic styles.

In many ways, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney are rather similar characters. Both are highly intelligent, but both see the world above all through the restrictive prisms of security and national power.

Both are patriots, but -- like so many leaders -- with a tendency to see national power and their own power as one and the same thing. Both are capable of great ruthlessness in defending what they see as the vital interests of their countries. Both are publicly committed to democracy and human rights, but both have been responsible for policies that have called this commitment into question.

But to judge by their records, and especially their speeches of the past week, there is also an important difference between them. Putin is a statesman, and Cheney is not.

Cheney's tub-thumping speech in Vilnius, Lithuania, attacking Russia for lack of democracy and energy "blackmail," coupled with his attempts to create an energy alliance against Russia, invited a blistering response from the Russian president. With perfect fairness, and with the approval -- in this case -- of most of humanity, Putin could have torn Cheney's speech apart on a whole range of issues.

These include the hypocrisy of denouncing Russia over democracy and going straight on to lavish praise on the oil-rich dictators of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan; the general weirdness of Cheney talking about human rights at all; the insolence of an administration with the Bush-Cheney team's record in the Middle East daring to demand automatic Russian support against Iran in the name of "the international community," and so on.

If Putin had issued such a response in his state of the union address on Wednesday, he would have had the approval of the overwhelming majority of Russians -- while of course doing still further damage to U.S.-Russian relations.

It is hard to imagine a U.S. president turning down a domestic political opportunity like this, whatever the likely effect on his country's interests. But apart from a couple of mild and indirect comments, Putin said none of these things. Instead, he focused on the issue that is indeed the greatest threat to the Russian nation, namely demographic decline.

Putin's calm response to Cheney may be rooted partly in a new confidence in Russia's strength, especially when it comes to influence within the former Soviet Union. One of the marks of Putin's statesmanship is that with some exceptions (mainly with regard to Ukraine, about which Russians tend to be irrational) he has displayed an accurate feel for Russia's real strengths and weaknesses.

To give one example, Putin last year withdrew the remaining Russian military bases from Georgia proper, where they were provocative and vulnerable, while continuing the Russian military presence in the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where it enjoys overwhelming local support.

On critical issues like the Iraq war and Iran's nuclear program, Putin has tried to resist U.S. pressure while keeping Russia in line with China and whenever possible Western Europe as well.

This is statesmanship -- cynical maybe, but still statesmanship.

The Bush-Cheney administration, by contrast, has a record of grossly over-estimating American power. To judge by Cheney's speech in Vilnius, it may be repeating the same disastrous mistake with regard to U.S. policy towards Russia and in the former Soviet Union.

For if Washington's chief goal is to destroy Russian influence in this region and replace it with that of the United States, it needs to remember that whatever its weakness on the world stage, in its own backyard Russia has some tremendous latent strengths.

If, on the other hand, the more important factor behind Cheney's attack was Russia's role in the U.S. struggle with Iran, then his attack on Russia in Vilnius raises two possibilities -- one of them depressing, the other disastrous.

The first is that Cheney and other leading U.S. officials genuinely believe that the United States can gain support for its policies by abusing and threatening other major states.

If so, this reflects not only a Neanderthal approach to diplomacy, but a failure to grasp the damage to American power from the Iraq debacle, and the increased strength and confidence of Russia, China and other countries.

The other possibility is that Cheney is no more interested in a negotiated compromise with Iran than he was with a deal to prevent the Iraq war; and that by driving Russia into Iran's arms, he hopes to wreck any possibility of such a compromise and leave military action against Iran as the only apparent U.S. option.

If this is so, then given the potentially catastrophic implications of a U.S. attack on Iran, not only Russians but the world in general should be grateful for the statesmanship of Putin's response, and should hope that this Russian line continues.

Anatol Lieven is a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. His new book Ethical Realism and American Foreign Policy, cowritten with John Hulsman, will be published in October.

This article originally appeared in the International Herald Tribune (May 12, 2006), and is reprinted here by permission of the author.

The Coalition is grateful to the Committee for the Republic for calling it to our attention.

Posted by coalition at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

Of Mullahs and MADness

Paul Starobin's cover story in The National Journal (5/20/06) on the Iranian nuclear program gets at the heart of the matter: the United States managed to deter Chairman Mao during the height of the Cold War -- and deterrence is likely to work against the mullahs.

The article is available in its entirety to subscribers. Visit

Posted by coalition at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

Two Normal Nations 06.12.06

May 17, 2006

On Monday, June 12th, the Cato Institute hosted a discussion on the U.S.-Japan strategic relationship with Christopher Preble, a founding member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, and the director of foreign policy studies at Cato; Mike Green, formerly of the National Security Council, and currently Senior Adviser and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and Andrew Oros, an assistant professor of political science and international studies at Washington College and the author of the forthcoming book Normalizing Japan: Politics, Identity, and the Evolution of Security Practice.

For more details, and to view or listen to the event, visit the Cato web site:

Posted by coalition at 08:23 AM | Comments (0)

The Bush Administration Snubs Taiwan

May 16, 2006

Ted Carpenter points out the United States' confused and confusing policy toward Taiwan.

The article originally appeared on, and is republished here in its entirety:

Posted by coalition at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

Europe Undersells Diplomatic Expertise to U.S.

May 14, 2006

Writing in the Financial Times, Jonathan Clarke, a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy and a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, offers some advice for European diplomats trying to get out from under the U.S. shadow.

In spite of the rewards of more lucrative careers in business, the foreign services of Europe continue to attract the cream of each generation’s youth. With this sure supply of talent at her disposal, Margaret Beckett, the new British foreign secretary, might ask herself why European diplomacy seems to lurch from crisis to unresolved crisis. This is nowhere more marked than in relations with the US, where European policy swings between docile subservience and opportunistic pouting from the sidelines, forever falling short of the happy mean of assured self-confidence.

Docility and name-calling are soft options that fail to bring to bear Europe's vast experience of the most pressing security problems: religiously fuelled separatism and terrorism, insurgency, post-conflict civil society building and regional integration. Just think how the looming catastrophe in Iraq might have been mitigated had these skills, which the Europeans possess in abundance, been available to the US.

Now the Europeans seem to be sleepwalking into a repeat performance over Iran. In its recently published National Security Strategy, the US administration asserts that "the US may face no greater challenge from a single country than Iran". From their private comments, no one in European chanceries seems remotely to agree with that statement's implication that the U.S. should be focusing more emphasis on Iran than on any other global problem.

However, European actions lead in the opposite direction. By moving the issue to the UN Security Council without an agreed framework of what is likely to happen there, the Europeans have empowered the administration's most belligerent elements, who have been gunning for Iran for years. Even if the full neo-conservative democracy package is not under discussion for Iran, retired generals have already been out in strength on television -- much as they were in the run-up to the Iraq war -- discussing how the US can "take out" the centrifuge site at Natanz. This is perhaps the most likely scenario once it becomes apparent that a sanctions regime would only be a recipe for another decade of frustration and intra-alliance bickering.

A few years ago Fouad Ajami, a Lebanese emigre now living in Washington and an unrepentant enthusiast of the Iraq war, wrote a book called Dream Palace of the Arabs in which he bemoaned what he saw as the Arab predisposition to live by illusion. Events in Iraq show that the Arabs have no monopoly on illusion. It is clear that the US invaded an Iraq of its dreams rather than Iraq as it really is.

So, let the Europeans strip away the U.S. illusions over Iran. The U.S. has not had an embassy there for 25 years. The upper levels of the State department are devoid of Farsi speakers. Much of the information available to the US comes from technical surveillance or shadowy exile sources, including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, officially a terrorist group. By contrast, the Europeans have official relations with Iran and embassies in Tehran. On-the-ground knowledge abounds. A recent German ambassador in Washington spoke Farsi. The Europeans should be interpreting the recent Iranian letter to the Americans, not the other way around.

This information "edge" should allow the Europeans to demand something in return from the US supporting their negotiations with Iran. This could include a guarantee from the US that should Iran abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions, the US would move quickly to normalise relations. The Europeans seem not to have sought anything of this sort, so it is not surprising that their negotiations failed.

The lesson from this is not that the Europeans should adopt a confrontational approach but that they should make their strengths count. On Hamas, for example, if it turns out that some form of re-established EU funding is the factor that prevents the Palestinian territories from collapsing into a terrorist-ridden failed state and allows Hamas to mature, the Europeans should expect a substantial reciprocal policy move from Washington.

Experts fuss over the health of the transatlantic relationship, but it is so deeply embedded that it can take care of itself. The relationship is, however, not good per se. It needs to produce good outcomes in the real world. To that end the Europeans need to add a dash of self-belief to their interaction with Washington, justified by the fact that they have substantial assets to offer in areas of crucial importance.

The writer is a former British diplomat. He is a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy and a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. He is the author, with Stefan Halper, of America Alone: the Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order (Cambridge University Press).

This article first appeared in the Financial Times (5/10/06), and comes to us courtesy of the Committee for the Republic and the author.

Posted by coalition at 09:22 AM | Comments (0)

'Comrade Wolf' and the Mullahs

May 12, 2006

Pat Buchanan weighs in on the benefit of negotiations with Iran. We have a lot to talk about.

The article appears in its entirety here:

Posted by coalition at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)

America Against the World: How We Are Different and Why We Are Disliked 05.16.06

May 10, 2006

On Tuesday, May 16th, the New America Foundation's Steve Clemons chaired and moderated a panel discussion on "America Against the World: How We Are Different and Why We Are Disliked" featuring Andrew Kohut, President, Pew Research Center; and Bruce Stokes, with the National Journal and the German Marshall Fund.

America's image has been steadily deteriorating over the past five years, with a slight recovery in some countries in 2005. Yet overwhelmingly, anti-Americanism is on the rise. Why is this so? Pew pollster Andrew Kohut and journalist Bruce Stokes use surveys from more than 91,000 people in 50 countries to explore this deeply unsettling finding in their recently released book, America Against the World: How We Are Different and Why We Are Disliked.

Kohut and Stokes argue that some of our defining values, such as strong individualism and optimism, have actually set us apart from the rest of the world.

- Most people around the world believe that America ignores their interests in making foreign policy, yet 67 percent of Americans believe that the United States pays attention to the interests of other countries -- a disconnect of a major order.

- Americans take enormous pride in their way of doing business and practicing democracy, but citizens of other nations rank Australia, Britain, and Canada higher than the United States as places to go for economic opportunity and freedom.

But the world's perception of America is not inflexible, and their research also suggests how we can positively influence that perception. In Indonesia, the recent rise in favorability seems to be a product of America's tsunami relief effort, demonstrating how American generosity and cooperation can have an enormous positive impact. Kohut and Stokes explored their findings to explain the roots of this global discontent and reveal how America's core values shape its image around the globe.

Posted by coalition at 08:17 AM | Comments (0)

Stability in Iraq and the Middle East 05.17.06

May 09, 2006

"Stability in Iraq and the Middle East: Building a Successful U.S. Foreign Policy"

A Panel Discussion

Sponsored by the Foreign Policy Leadership Council

With additional support from
The U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association, Cincinnati Chapter
The World Affairs Council of Cincinnati

Panelists included: Christopher Preble, Founding member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, and Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute; Col. Mantford C. Hawkins, Director of Commanders’ Advisory Group, U.S. Central Command; Richard Harknett, Chair and Executive Committee Member, Taft Research Center; Harvey Tharp, with Iraq Veterans Against the War; and Adeed Dawisha, Professor of International Relations, Miami University

The event was moderated by Nelson Lees, Sr. Adviser, Center for Economic Initiatives; and a Retired Combat Intelligence and Special Ops Officer, U.S. Army

May 17, 2006, at 7:00 p.m.

Schiff Family Conference Center at the Cintas Center
Xavier University
Cincinnati, Ohio

Posted by coalition at 09:35 AM | Comments (0)

Christopher Preble Discusses Democracy Promotion 05.18.06

May 04, 2006

Democracy Promotion

with Christopher Preble, PhD

Founding member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy
Director of Foreign Policy Studies at The Cato Institute

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Dr. Preble shared an alternative framework for promoting democracy, one that relies on individual initiative and person-to-person contacts among and between private citizens in order to build institutions of civic society.

The event was held at Raymond Walters College of the University of Cincinnati, with generous support from the World Affairs Council of Cincinnati, and additional support from The Dorothy Steiner Fund of the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area, Raymond Walters College, and Raymond Walters College Department of History.

Posted by coalition at 12:35 PM | Comments (0)

Announcing the Launch of Across the Aisle - A New Blog

The Parnership for a Secure America's new weblog features nine regular commentators, including Coalition scholars David Isenberg, Eugene Gholz and Christopher Preble.

To learn more, visit:

Posted by coalition at 08:01 AM | Comments (0)

Military Muscles Bulging in SE Asia

May 03, 2006

David Isenberg reports from Kuala Lumpur on military spending in Southeast Asia.

The article appears in its entirety at Asia Times Online:

Posted by coalition at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

The United States May Have to Live With a Nuclear Iran

May 02, 2006

The Independent Institute's Ivan Eland surveys the prospects for diplomacy, and the costs and risks of military action, in dealing with Iran. Deterrence and containment may be the only reasonable option.

The article appears at

Posted by coalition at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)

Free Speech for Generals

May 01, 2006

Ted Galen Carpenter explains why there is nothing wrong with military officers speaking their mind, particularly when it comes to the debacle in Iraq.

This article was first published in the Baltimore Sun on April 27, 2006, and is available in its entirety here:,0,7194335.story?track=rss

Posted by coalition at 09:00 AM | Comments (0)