"Russia Is a Business Masquerading as a Government"
Tom Barnett - strategist, consultant, Green Bay Packers fan
Thomas P.M. Barnett is the New York Times bestselling author of The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the 21st Century and Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating. Barnett's forthcoming book, Great Powers: America and the World After Bush will be released on February 5, 2009. In addition to writing books, Barnett works as a speaker and consultant, presenting his ideas to audiences around the globe ranging from top U.S. military commanders to Chinese businessmen. Barnett's consultancy, Enterra Solutions, among many other projects, has worked with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to open an IT support center in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Barnett recently gave an interview to the editors of the KatPol blog, a website focused on global foreign policy issues published in Hungary. It seems that if anyone should be concerned about Russia using energy as a political weapon, it would be the Hungarians. Like many of its Central European neighbors, Hungary experienced 45 years of less-than-voluntary membership in the Soviet bloc and to this day (in spite of some promising natural gas finds in the country) depends on Russia for over 90% of its oil and gas.
Click on the extended post to read the Russia-related excerpts from this interview.
The overlap between defense and offense - a map of U.S. and Russian radars and missile bases, both interceptors and ICBMs (source: GlobalSecurity.org)
While most Hungarians seem glad to be members of the European Union and NATO, Barnett's Hungarian interviewers agreed with him that building U.S. missile defense bases in Central Europe would be a strategic distraction for America. Barnett also doesn't shy away from suggesting which of the two major party American presidential candidates is more likely to adapt to the world's new strategic realities.
[KatPol]: OK, enough of the 'Old Continent', let's move on to Russia. In PNM you argued that NATO needs to keep expanding eastwards and will eventually include the entire territory of the Soviet Union. Today it seems that the path of Georgia and the Ukraine towards NATO membership won't be very smooth. Yet if there are any countries in Eastern Europe that will be made NATO members in the next 5-10 years, it would have to be these two. In your opinion, will they join NATO in the near future and what kind of incentives would the USA and other Western powers have to offer to Russia to achieve that?
[Barnett]: I think these states will join NATO before 2015. I think the incentives Russia seeks are mostly market-access issues (Russia is a business masquerading as a government).
I think America backing off its ludicrous missile defense scheme would help.
[KatPol]: Speaking of the missile defense scheme of the US, there is a much-discussed scenario: facing the hypothetical threat of a possibly workable future US missile defense system could drive Russia -- not being able in the long term to keep up with the costs of necessary strategic missile development - towards more "economical" medium and intermediate range ballistic and cruise missile programmes and the cancellation of the INF treaty. Is such a shift in the main focus of the Russian arsenal from America to Europe a serious possibility? If yes, would it make Europe dependent on US missile defense, thus essentially undermining any chances of an independent European foreign and security policy?
[Barnett]: Yes and yes.
Possibility drops dramatically, I would argue, with Obama presidency, and rises dramatically, with a McCain presidency.
McCain's "league of democracies" will likely do as much or more damage than nutty missile defense boondoggles in East Central Europe.
[KatPol]: We agree that McCain's proposal would cause further strains in the relations of the U.S. with Russia, China and Third World authoritarian regimes. A McCain presidency would obviously mean the revival of Cold War mentality.
However, we don't believe the foreign policy proposed by Sen. Obama offers much positive change either. His perception of the main security policy issues of the U.S. (Israel, Iran, Iraq, humanitarian interventions, with the exception of Cuba) appears to be idealistic but is nevertheless a lot like that of the neocons.
Do you see any chance of a realistic U.S. foreign policy in the future, one that (more or less) follows your proposed strategy, after either a McCain or an Obama victory this year?
[Barnett]: I see plenty of potential with Obama, but almost none with McCain. Obama will be forced to get more realistic on China, by far the biggest issue long term, and his instinct to de-escalate on Iran is smart. Obama's also attracted the best thinkers and leaders among the old Clinton crew. Easier for him to grow up than for old dog McCain to learn new tricks.
Click on the links below to read more of Barnett's thoughts on the New Russia.