Obama Administration officials have recently been going out of their way to describe Russia as a responsible, reliable, and cooperative treaty partner, despite the release of yet another U.S. State Deport report describing Russian non-compliance with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) treaty and numerous expert opinions stating otherwise.
As the recent Heritage Foundation Fact Sheet “Top 10 Reasons Not to Trust Russia” demonstrates, Moscow has a record of acting in bad faith with regard to treaties and has pursued policies undermining U.S. national security interest including the most important stated objective of this Administration—nuclear non-proliferation.
Russia has a long history of cheating on arms control treaties. It violated START I since its entry into force in 1994 to its expiration in December 2009 (as the State Department reports illustrate); Moscow is also in non-compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention.
Nearly 20 years after the end of the Cold War, Russia still heavily relies on its nuclear weapons and assiduously modernizes them. Russia’s 2010 military doctrine lowered the threshold for nuclear first strikes. Significantly, Moscow conducted a military exercise simulating a nuclear attack on Poland in the fall of 2009.
The current Russian leadership continues to view America and NATO with fear and suspicion and even regards them as its principal adversaries—a fact made clear through Russia’s nuclear posture, force configuration, and military R&D and procurement.
The recent discovery of the Russian spy network inside the U.S. and their celebration by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin upon their return to Russia, courtesy of President Obama, indicates that Russia is set in a Cold War mentality, viewing U.S. as an intelligence collection target, not a friend and a partner.
Russia’s strong ties with bad actors are also something to keep in mind when considering the big picture. Moscow provides diplomatic recognition for terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and political-military ties with anti-American “rogue states” such as Syria, Venezuela, and Iran.
While Russia voted with the U.S. at the U.N. Security Council to pass sanctions on Iran, it did so only after working hard to water them down and making them toothless.
This Cold War mentality is also reflected in Moscow’s attitude toward U.S. allies and friends. Russia has repeatedly broken its promises to withdraw military forces from Georgia and Moldova. It remains in grave violation of the August 2008 French-brokered Georgia War Cease-Fire agreement between Russia and Georgia (known as the Medvedev-Sarkozy Agreement). And it uses its newly created Customs Union to pressure Belarus and Kazakhstan to expand Russian sanctions against Georgia and Moldova.
In a response to U.S. plans for a defensive missile shield in Europe to protect against Iranian missile threats, Moscow has repeatedly threatened to deploy Iskander short-range and nuclear-capable missiles to target U.S. allies in Eastern Europe. It also uses Europe’s dependence on its natural gas as a foreign policy tool. In 2009, Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine and to Europe by extension, causing the International Energy Agency to deem them an unreliable supplier.
The Russian government has also tightened controls on political life, civil society, and the media. Disruption of political opposition’s activities, restricting access to state-controlled TV, human right violations, torture and murder of journalists and anti-corruption activists, and the abuse of the legal system for monetary and political gain—all illustrate this negative trend.
Thus, there is little reason to count on the “reset” and trust Moscow to abide by its treaty obligations. Russia’s past performance and current policies indicate that it will not be a reliable Treaty partner.
Co-authored by Michaela Bendikova. Bendikova is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm