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Washington Pursuing ‘Dangerous and Losing’ Strategy With Russia

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US hawks want Washington to shape its Russian policy around mounting military and economic pressure along with tough rhetoric thrown in. President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations Leslie H. Gelb calls this a “dangerous and losing strategy.”

 Anti-Russian sanctions and NATO’s military buildup “merely invite Russian toughness and intransigence. That’s the story of the last two years,” he pointed out in an article titled America’s Losing Russia Strategy.
Estonian soldiers take part in an annual military exercise together with several units from other NATO member states on May 18, 2014 near Voru close to the Estonian-Russian border in South Estonia

Apparently, this approach is not working. Russia has long called the restrictive measures counterproductive (with many European countries echoing this sentiment) and slammed the enhanced military presence on it borders as jeopardizing European peace and security.US hardliners are far from embracing this reality, according to Gelb, but they also fail to admit that “Russia has military superiority on its borders with the Baltic States and Ukraine. Nothing the US or its European partners can do (or are likely to try) will change this fact. This means that whatever military move NATO makes in this region, small or large, Putin can trump it.”

Nevertheless, US hawks do not want to escalate tensions to the point when sparks could turn into a full blown war, meaning there is room for a realistic diplomacy.

The former senior Defense and State Department official urged US leadership to adopt a new diplomatic strategy he calls Détente Plus. The approach is aimed at exploring whether Russia is ready to cooperate with the United States on tackling challenges in Europe and around the world based on shared interests.

Détente Plus also takes into account that “Russia does have legitimate interests that should not be ignored … and remains a great power in many parts of the world, if no longer a superpower,” Gelb noted.

Russia's strategic bomber Tu-160 or White Swan

Key elements of the new approach include maintaining sanctions and continuing NATO military buildup, “as well as sustaining the non-provocative covert arms pipeline to Ukraine,” which reflects the current US strategy Gelb called losing.

However, Détente Plus does not end there. It also focuses on “working with Moscow on future joint economic trade and investment while ceasing European efforts to rip Ukraine’s economy away from Russia into Europe; and stepping up efforts to work with Moscow in Syria and Iraq, on non-proliferation (including the Iran negotiations) and on anti-terrorism,” Gelb explained.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and US Secretary of State John Kerry

Although the Détente Plus strategy presents a more balanced approach to dealing with Russia, its key premise goes in line with the dominant yet false US narrative that Moscow is a threat to its neighbors and is meddling in the Ukrainian affairs.Russian leadership has worked hard to help secure lasting peace in war-torn Ukraine within the framework of the Minsk II agreements, endorsed by Kiev, Berlin and France. The deal, inked in February, is generally seen as the only way to resolve the yearlong conflict.

Moreover, NATO’s increased military presence in Eastern Europe and the Baltics forced Moscow to increase its defense capabilities.