Amid all the hubbub about corporate corruption, Martha Stewart
and an impending attack on Iraq, the biggest development of the last decade
is being overlooked: Russia is renewing her relations with America's
enemies. Fire up the time machine because we're returning to the Cold War.
Even amid widespread speculation of an American invasion of
Iraq, Russian President Vladimir Putin will soon ink a $40 billion trade
deal with Saddam Hussein's regime. For years, the Russians have been strong
trade partners with Hussein, ignoring U.N. sanctions and continuing to
consume Iraqi oil. As Iraqi Foreign Ministry official Abbas Khalaf explains,
"We give Russians full priority. Over 200 Russian companies are now working
in our country." This relationship is nothing new, but to revitalize it
pending America's upcoming attack on Iraq is surprising.
Russia opposes any plans to topple Hussein's regime, so placing
thousands of Russians in Iraq in the face of an American offensive might be
a desperate attempt to stave off a new Gulf War. Putin's effort to prevent
war will fail; as one Washington insider said to me, "It's not a question of
if but of when." Still, Putin could come out looking rosy to the Arab
nations surrounding Iraq.
A Russian-Arab alliance would help both sides. Russia could use
its protection as leverage to pressure Arab countries to end support for the
Chechnyan War. Russia also could corner the world's oil market, causing oil
shortages in the United States and plunging us into a deep recession.
At the same time, Arab countries fearing America's opposition to
terrorism could use a valuable ally like Russia. Politically, Putin's
support for the War on Terror has been priceless to President Bush, and he
could pressure Bush to go easy on Russia's Arab allies. Militarily, Russia
is still a force, possessing vast arsenals of nuclear weapons.
Russia's emerging international power is not mere speculation.
The Russians are binding themselves tightly to Iran and North Korea, as well
as Syria and Egypt.
Putin announced in March his intention to reinstitute sales of
weapons to the Iranian government and to assist in the completion of a
nuclear power plan in Bushehr. The power plant would almost certainly be
used to create nuclear weapons for Iran. In February, the CIA identified
Russia as a supplier of ballistic missile technology to Iran.
A Russian/North Korean alliance is also forming, with North
Korean leader Kim Jong Il visiting Moscow only last week. Russia provides
North Korea with sophisticated long-range weaponry, as well as upgrades to
its aerospace technology.
Russia sells arms to the terrorist state Syria. And Russia has
close ties to Egypt both in the area of investment and in weapons supplies,
despite Egypt's ambiguous/contrary position in the War on Terror.
Russia is perhaps more dangerous now than it ever was. During
the Cold War, the country was burdened by its own communism, making it bulky
and ill-equipped to meet the challenge posed by Ronald Reagan and American
capitalism. Today, the situation has nearly reversed. Russia has risen like
a phoenix from its own ashes, instituting a virile brand of capitalism that
makes the United States look socialist by comparison. Russia's 13 percent
flat tax has created a consistent economic boom. In 2000, Russia's gross
domestic product jumped 6.3 percent, and in 2001, it rose at least another 5
Russia is moving quickly and efficiently, and combined with a
sense of Soviet nationalism, it is once again becoming a force to be
reckoned with. And the United States must take swift action.
While still pursuing close ties with Russia, we must make clear
that Russia cannot maintain its connections with dangerous rogue states.
This means clear language from President Bush. The Bush Doctrine defines as
enemies those who support or harbor terrorists; it must also define as
enemies those countries that support terrorist regimes.
We must drastically cut taxes in this country to reinvigorate a
stagnant economy and stop giving disincentives for employment. We must
develop a working missile defense shield to prepare for the eventuality of a
new Soviet threat.
We must act quickly in opposition to those countries that would
constitute a new Russian sphere of influence: Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria
and others. We cannot allow Moscow to ally with these countries, creating a
new Russian satellite system.
A new Cold War is lurking on the horizon. It is not a certainty,
but it is a possibility. We must be prepared for that possibility in every