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Former Nixon Foundation Fires Neo-con Broadside at Russia

Director Dmitri Simes navigates away from Nixon's legacy of Realpolitik


This post first appeared on Russia Insider


The author is the Brussels-based founder of the European office of the Committee for East-West Accord.  He writes frequently on Russian international relations.

Institutions shape people, but then again people change and, at times, subvert the institutions in which they sit. 

<figcaption>Simes with his mentor, who is probably rolling in his grave...</figcaption>
Simes with his mentor, who is probably rolling in his grave...

There is no better illustration of this than the just published booklet entitled Costs of a New Cold War: The US-Russia Confrontation over Ukraine from the publisher of The National Interest, which is now on the hot reading list of Washington insiders.

In the brief mission statement which NI places on all its publications, management reminds us that the institution began its life as the curator of the political legacy of President Richard Nixon. Indeed for years it operated under the name of The Nixon Center. And though its present interests are global hot spots, the Center’s core mission was reflected in its founder, Russian émigré Dmitri Simes, who had served as Richard Nixon’s go-to man on his post-presidential trips to Russia and became his designated president of the Center.

The booklet shows just how far the legacy of Realpolitik has been clipped and marginalized by the resurgent forces of Neo-conservatism in Washington and in the think-tanks spread across the country. 

Although this collection has authors expressing various points of view, I would draw attention to the introduction by editor Paul J. Saunders, and more especially to the essay by Thomas Graham, a director at Kissinger Associates, and probably the most powerful and influential of the contributors.

Graham’s “Dangers of a New Containment Policy for Russia” sets out without criticism the official American policy directed at degrading if not destroying Russia’s economy with further ratcheted up sanctions from which the only way back appears to be regime change.

While Graham does not take us to scenarios for assassinating President Putin, which has become an acceptable topic in some American media, he makes it plain that Washington is determined to break every bone in the Russian body politic. 

Both his essay and that of Paul Saunders are imbued with American triumphalism and assume as a given American global hegemony.  Such hegemony, of course, is the very antithesis of Realpolitik policies such as Richard Nixon pursued, where balance of power is the assumed script.

Kissinger Associates is now run by supporters of a political philosophy totally at variance with the much more nuanced views of its founder and namesake, who is highly critical of current US Russia policy.  It's ironic that the foundation of Kissinger's former boss is promoting this worldview.  

Also interesting is that Dmitri Simes regularly appears on Russian State television presenting views completely opposite to the material he is publishing in the US.

We live in a curious, but not inexplicable world.


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