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 reports that the Russian economy is unraveling and changes to the Russian Constitution are planned that will probably return Putin to office and make him president for life. Not only is Russia threatening to target American anti-missile installations in Eastern Europe but also to interfere with them electronically which Satter describes as “unquestionably the action of a hostile power.”
Satter, an expert 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:
1. Don’t Treat the Russian leader As a “Friend.”
U.S. policy toward Russia must be based on principles not personalities. It is not possible to “charm” Russian leaders into ignoring what they regard as Russia’s national interest and the attempt to do so at the expense of our principles will destroy our moral capital with the Russian people. Under Clinton, the emphasis on Yeltsin as the symbol of “democracy” led the U.S. to ignore and become complicit in the eyes of Russians in their country’s complete criminalization. Bush’s supposed friendship with Putin freed Putin to build an authoritarian regime and pursue a genocidal war in Chechnya without fear of U.S. political pressure or moral censure.