In Obama and Russia, international law expert witness David Satter writes that finding a way to keep an aggressive Russia under control is “one of the most serious challenges facing President Obama.” Satter, an expert witness on Russian politics, society and the Russian legal system, offers basic principles for dealing with Russia that can help cut the learning period short for an American president:
2. Don’t Assume Sincerity.
The Russian leaders defended the right of the Abkhaz and South Ossetians to secede from Georgia but leveled Grozny when it was a question of Chechnya trying to secede from Russia. They denounce the U.S. anti-ballistic missile system in Eastern Europe while facilitating the threat from Iran against which the systems are intended to defend. As for the passionate denunciations of Western encirclement, Russians understand that NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine poses no military threat but they are loath to give their real reason for opposition which is that the example of democracy in former Soviet republics could inspire demands for democracy in Russia itself. For seven decades, the need to feign belief in Soviet ideology turned Russia into a nation of actors. President Obama should keep this in mind when confronted with Russian “outrage” over some aspect of Western behavior.