McFaul Nomination Will Require a Reevaluation of the Russia ‘Reset,’ Senate Says

On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee postponed the planned nomination vote for Michael McFaul as the next ambassador to the Russian Federation by request from GOP Senators. This is a common practice when Senators have concerns that they want the executive branch to address.

Foreign Policy says that this decision is completely unrelated to McFaul’s qualifications for the position. In fact, according to an unnamed committee staffer, McFaul is “about as good of a nominee as Republicans can expect from this administration.” As highlighted in a previous Heritage Foundation blog, the concerns with McFaul’s nomination originate from the problems Republicans have with Obama’s “reset” policy rather than the man himself. Nominating an ambassador to Russia who is the architect of this dubious strategy will have grim implications for the future of the U.S.–Russian relations and U.S. leadership in Eurasia.

A number of Heritage Foundation papers discuss the reasons for failure in detail. In simple terms, the Obama Administration is trying to implement a failing strategy by exaggerating the gains and ignoring the costs. The few “concessions” the Russians gave that are so often touted by the Administration were all in Russia’s self-interest.

Providing a transit route for American troops in Afghanistan helped maintain stability in the region so that Russia and its central Asian allies have an easier time after the American troops leave. In fact, as the U.S. contributes to stability in Eurasia by keeping the Taliban in check, Russia is reaping the benefits by preparing to launch a “Eurasian Union,” a deeply integrated economic and political sphere of influence.

The terms of New START arms control treaty actually gave Russia an opportunity to modernize and increase its nuclear arsenal, while the United States has reduced its nuclear capability by about 25 percent and was forced to abandon missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe proposed by the last Administration. This not only affected U.S. security interests but also harmed good relations with European allies like Poland and Czech Republic. According to Dan Goure, a prominent security expert writing for The Heritage Foundation, Obama’s vision of nuclear disarmament “undermines any notion of a system of alliances and our relationship with long-standing allies.”

Russia is quick to take advantage of this arms control weakness. Moscow’s actions speak for themselves; here is a list of events since last month’s McFaul nomination hearing, where he assured the Senate that the “reset” is a success.

  • Russia decided to sell its newest 4++ generation fighter jets to the highly unstable Middle East.
  • Russia is negotiating with Iran to provide more nuclear reactors to the rogue regime, even in the wake of the IAEA report that confirmed that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. In fact, the Russian foreign ministry has slammed the report with unambiguously hostile criticism.
  • If that were not enough, Russia decided to continue to provide Syria with military equipment. Assad’s repressive regime has now been condemned not just by the West but also by Arab countries for its brutal armed crackdown on protesters.
  • Finally, the Russian government reconfirmed the prohibition of foreign media outlets on its territory so that it can continue to rely on state-controlled media while its own Russia Today TV channel is broadcasting anti-American propaganda within this country.

Every one of those decisions directly challenges U.S. goals and values. They show Russia’s non-cooperation on nonproliferation, freedom and democracy, Iran, and missile defense. As House Speaker John Boehner mentioned in his recent speech at The Heritage Foundation, “International cooperation can only be transactional to a point. We cannot sacrifice values or get away with walling off our interests from our moral imperatives.”

The Senate is taking the right course of action. McFaul’s nomination notwithstanding, it should continue to pressure the White House to initiate damage control for the consequences of the “reset” and to come up with a new, workable strategy as the Kremlin turns away from the West.

Anatoliy Khomenko is a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. Click here for more information on interning at Heritage.

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