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US Foreign Policy Veterans Say Washington Destroyed Relations with Russia

William Perry, Jack Matlock, and Henry Kissinger all say a lack of respect for Russia and its interests ruined the chance for cooperation

It was quite different in the 1990s — early 2000s. Significant improvements were achieved in the relations between the US and Russia, including in the sphere of military cooperation. Those days there was no doubt the Russia-US relationship had a great future.

The military met each other as friends and allies to discuss what could be done to boost cooperation and prepare for joint actions to counter terrorist threats. Then the process got stalled. The relations deteriorated. All the efforts applied went down the drain. What really caused it to happen? Today US foreign policy old timers and savvies have something to say about it.

Consistent disregard for Russia’s interests by the US, as well as Washington’s dismissive attitude towards Moscow in the post-Cold War era, have led to strained relations between the two, former US Defense Secretary William Perry told The Guardian on March 9.

Perry said that a complete lack of regard for Russia as a power or a dialogue partner from Washington officials played a crucial role in this reversal.

According to the opinion of former US Defense Chief, reckless expanding NATO, making plans to deploy a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, and supporting the so-called «color revolutions» in former Soviet republics were all steps in the wrong direction, which were all taken without ever even considering Russia’s concerns.

Perry also denounced the George W. Bush administration’s decision to station a US missile defense system in eastern European countries – particularly in Poland. He also emphasized that the US support of the so called «color revolutions», was another serious blow to bilateral relations between Moscow and Washington.

Jack F. Matlock Jr., ambassador to the USSR from 1987 to 1991 and the author of the book titled «Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended», has his own views on the matter.

According to him, after the USSR ceased to exist the United States insisted on treating Russia as the loser. The former ambassador writes that Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first foreign leader to call and offer support when terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. He cooperated with the United States when it invaded Afghanistan, and he voluntarily removed Russian bases from Cuba and Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. In return, he got further expansion of NATO in the Baltics and the Balkans, and plans for American bases there; withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; invasion of Iraq without UN Security Council approval; overt participation in the «color revolutions» in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan; and then, probing some of the firmest red lines any Russian leader would draw, talk of taking Georgia and Ukraine into NATO.

Speaking at the meeting of the Committee for the Republic, an organization established by former diplomats and government officials, Mr Matlock went on to lambaste Obama for using the State of the Union to personally attack Russian President Putin.

«His comments were totally out of place», Matlock said. He also attacked Congress for their own interference in passing the Magnitsky Act. «The Russians are reacting to a policy of insufferable arrogance and humiliation», he said. He criticized the whole policy with regard to Ukraine and «regime change». «If you can think that you can solve all problems by removing a leader, you’re wrong. Didn’t we learn the lessons from Iraq?» asked the former ambassador.

Henry Kissinger is clearly still one of America's foremost foreign policy gurus who served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as United States Secretary of State in the administrations of presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He believes that instead of trying to break Russia, America’s goal should be to «integrate» it into the international order taking Moscow’s interests into account.

According to the US foreign policy vet, that would begin with recognition of the realities of Russian power and interests, treating Russia like the great power that it is, and on that foundation exploring «whether their concerns can be reconciled with our necessities».

The opportunities to change the relationship for the better are here to stay.

On March 3, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that a policy of confrontation with the West is not something that Moscow wants. «We are not seeking confrontation with the United States, or the European Union, or NATO. On the contrary, Russia is open to the widest possible cooperation with its Western partners. We continue to believe that the best way to ensure the interests of the peoples living in Europe is to form a common economic and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so that the newly formed Eurasian Economic Union could be an integrating link between Europe and Asia Pacific», the Russian foreign policy chief wrote in an article.

US candidates in the presidential race (except Republican candidate Donald Trump), as well as many in the Obama administration, find the idea of trying to work with Russia appalling when they speak in public. There is a reason to believe they don’t entirely share that view, but at least that’s what they say. No matter who wins in November, a new president will have to shape new policy on Russia. He or she will have to make decisive choices. It presupposes immense responsibility. The Americans are normally reluctant to admit mistakes, but it’s important to understand what is the root of the problem. That’s when the opinion of foreign policy gurus stands one in good stead.

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