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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson
#26 - JRL 2008-69 - JRL Home
Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008
From: Jerry Hough (jhough@duke.edu)
Subject: Re NATO expansion

An old warhorse from the past looks at the talk of inclusion of Ukraine and Georgia in NATO with a sense of bewilderment. It seems just one of many examples of American policy around the world losing all sense of seriousness and priority.

Those of us who participated in the debates of the 1970s and 1980s remember the debates about the vulnerability of the Minuteman nuclear rockets. The dilemma is whether it was worth wiping out Russian cities at the cost of American cities. The reverse was true. Russia should find no goal worth the wiping out of Russian cities. The issue is credability. Who is bluffing? I first was taught this dilemma in 1954 by my tutor, William Yandell Elliott, the dissertation adviser of Henry Kissinger. The dilemma pervaded Kissinger's work, and those like Richard Perle said that it would not be rational for us to retaliate if the Minutemen in South Dakota were attacked. Hence they had to be made mobile.

I thought the Mintueman argument was farfetched. Rational or irrational, domestic political considerations would drive any President to retaliation if the continental US were attacked, but the dilemma was a real one. Now we are talking about putting the nuclear umbrella over Ukraine and Georgia, along with a series of other improbable places. It is absolutely clear that we would not retaliate with nuclear weapons and risk American cities if Russia attacked Ukraine and Georgia. Russia would try to make it ambivalent--young scholars may not realize that the Soviet Union was "invited into" Finland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. We would not give up New York City, Washington, etc. to keep Kharkiv from becoming Russian.

As a result, the only thing we are doing is saying that American foreign policy is are driven by "feel-good" considerations or by domestic politics. We are saying that promise to protect an ally has no meaning. We are telling the EU to develop a nuclear program if they want protection. We are telling Middle East countries, including Israel, not to believe our commitment.

It is utter madness. This is a century when, if things go well, the United States will either merge with Europe and Russia into a state from James Baker's Vladivostok to Vancouver or the United States will become a relatively small power. If things go well, the U.S. will have 5% of the world's population at the end of the century and 10% of its GDP as the rest of the world grows. We hence should have about 10% of the power. We are currently losing all the power of having the world's dominant currency, and we are simply throwing away our credibility for no rational purpose at all. The U.S. must do what it can to maintain its power for as long as possible and to make the transition as easy as possible. Things like pretending to put Ukraine under the nuclear umbrella just hastens our decline.