Twelve years ago this past Sunday, then Vice President Biden was in Munich to deliver the Obama administration’s first major foreign policy speech to world leaders.
He said, “It is time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia.”
The premise was that the Bush administration had been too tough on Russia and a more conciliatory approach was needed.
Beyond the rhetoric, this involved abruptly scrapping planned missile defense cooperation with our allies the Czechs and Poles on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.
Keep in mind, this was six months after Russia had invaded and occupied territory of our ally, the Republic of Georgia, an occupation that is still ongoing today.
It was a year after the publication of the book, The New Cold War by Edward Lucas detailing the dangerous nature of the Putin regime.
The Russia reset was not just a failure, it was ill-conceived and counterproductive from the start.
Putin’s Russia, like the Soviet Union before, only understands strength.
Unilateral concessions actually encourage further aggression, like we saw with Ukraine.
I appreciate now President Biden’s more recent tough talk on Russia. I like his rhetoric better than many things President Trump said.
However, I like Trump’s actions, like sanctions against the Nord Stream Pipeline, arming and training the Ukrainian military, and partnering with our frontline allies.
The Biden administration no longer talks of a Russian reset. But, it has already announced the extension of one legacy of the reset policy.
The New START treaty with Russia gutted important monitoring and verification measures that were included in the predecessor agreement.
President Reagan famously quoted a Russian proverb, “Trust, but verify” when he was negotiating with Mikhail Gorbachev.
New START cut out the verify part, leaving only trust. But, surely we have all learned by now that we cannot trust Vladimir Putin.
He has been caught red handed violating other arms control treaties.
Extending the New START treaty without trying to improve it is a missed opportunity.
I hope President Biden’s future actions more closely match his words and he scraps all vestiges of the Obama Russia reset policy he announced twelve years ago.