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Russia: An Enemy, or an Anti-Hero?
Russia, Land of the Czars; or at least that may be what you might have called it a century-and-a-half ago. Recently, former Governor of Massachusetts and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney had a new name for the former Cold War superpower, calling it, “our number one geopolitical foe.” Is this title deserved, or is it too a holdover from an older time?
Some might see Russia as an enemy of the US because of all the feelings of animosity leftover from the years of the Cold War. Indeed, Russian soldiers are actually enemy combatants in many of the popular Call of Duty video games, one mission of which, Wolverines!, is a direct reference to the Cold War movie hit, Red Dawn , in which Russia launches a surprise attack on the United States.
Pop culture is not the only facet of our society that carries this “foe Russia” ideology. Prominent political figures like John McCain and Joe Lieberman recently criticized President Obama for comments he made to Russian President Dmityr Medvedev, in which he promised to offer “more flexibility” in future negotiations with Russia when and if he secures his second term in office.
In regards to this exchange, Romney has said “there is something terribly wrong with that.” McCain went further, saying "This should be a lesson to all of us who were worried about a second Obama term as president of the United States."
But why should more flexibility in negotiations with Russia be considered a bad thing? The Cold War is over and Russia is capitalist now. Both sides have made efforts to thaw the iciness of the past, and in fact, the New START treaty, which effectively reduced by half the number of acceptable nuclear weapons in deployment by both Russia and the US, was signed and ratified by Presidents Obama and Medvedev only two years ago. If anything, can't we assume that more flexibility would lead to further advances in nuclear disarmament?
Granted, Russia may not exactly be a country the United States can depend on to act accordingly with the US vision of foreign politics, particularly with incidents like the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008. Additionally, some of the comments made by Romney about Russia supporting Syria and Iran are not unfounded- Russia has in the past supported Iranian development of nuclear power, and current President Vladimir Putin has recently made comments that would seem to support the violent clashes in Syria.
But is this really the behavior of the “greatest geopolitical foe”? Russia and the United States spent decades staring across the chasm of potential nuclear annihilation, and now through negotiations and a mutual urge to bury the hatchet, we are progressively eliminating that threat through means such as the START treaties. Though the two superpowers may not always see eye-to-eye, mutual cooperation is hardly a trait an enemy might possess; at best, Russia is a peer, and at worst, an anti-hero.