Medium: Realities of the So-Called “Russia Reset”

By:  Senator David Perdue

Seven years ago today, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov a plastic, red “reset” button. A centerpiece of President Obama’s foreign policy, the so-called reset was intended to symbolize a more open and constructive dialogue.

Instead, where President Obama saw an open hand for cooperation naively overlooking the true nature of Russia’s regime. Moscow saw weakness to be exploited. Since then, a continued lack of American decisiveness and leadership on the world stage has invited Russian aggression and adventurism from the Arctic to Europe to the Middle East.

Russia’s aim for becoming a power broker in the Middle East while simultaneously destabilizing Europe is clear.

Time after time, Moscow’s adversarial approach has manifested itself over the last seven years. Russia has consistently acted to stoke tensions around the globe.

We saw it in their annexation of Crimea in 2014. We see it in their continued support of separatists in Ukraine. We see it in their repeated violations of Turkish airspace and their alliance with the Assad regime in Syria. We see it in the Republic of Georgia, where after a 2008 invasion Russia still clings to roughly one-fifth of Georgia’s territory. We also see it in the development of both a new large naval and air base, which combined with their bases in Crimea, Kaliningrad, and Murmansk reveal Putin’s aggressive strategy to put pressure on fragile Eastern European democracies.

At the Munich Security Conference, Commander of U.S. European Command, General Philip Breedlove told us, “Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponizing migration from Syria in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve.” Russia’s indiscriminate air attacks in Syria and its support of Assad are creating a fresh, destabilizing flood of refugees headed for Europe. Forcing the flow of migrants into Europe fits into Russia’s goal of using nonmilitary means to create divisions in the NATO alliance and the European Union.

The increased refugee levels have heightened economic tensions and discord among the European Union. As European resources are squeezed, support for costly EU sanctions on Russia is fragmenting. At the same time, Russia has aided the rise of extremist, isolationist, and protectionist parties in Europe through subversive support to parties and through widespread propaganda efforts.

Despite all of this, Secretary Clinton still said in 2014 that “the reset worked.” Concurrently, the Obama administration has been unwilling to fully recognize Russia’s part in the global security crisis confronting us today.

General Breedlove recently said, “Russia has chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term, existential threat to the U.S. and to our European allies and partners.”

I agree with him. We are in a moment of crisis and President Obama has created an atmosphere in which our allies don’t trust us and our enemies don’t fear us.

The Obama administration’s so-called “reset” with Russia has failed, and in fact, seven years later, the world is much more dangerous. We need to chart a new course for U.S.-Russia relations.

At the very least, the Obama administration should work to keep the European coalition united in continued punitive measures on Russia for its aggression. Several European officials have visited Moscow recently and expressed their desire to withdraw the Crimea-related sectoral sanctions on Russia later this summer, without Russia abiding by the Minsk terms for their renewal. This would be a grave mistake.

We should be encouraging our European partners to renew sanctions on Russia. Any loosening of the sanctions regime against Russia would send a dangerous message at a time when Putin has refused to change his policies toward Ukraine and threatens others in the region.

Further, history has proven that peace through strength is an effective tactic, and the Obama administration cannot ignore this lesson, especially when dealing with Putin’s Russia.

Unfortunately, President Obama continues to cut back the size of our military against the advice of our military leaders.

We must ensure that our military is sufficient in size and equipped with the tools needed to take on any confrontation that may arise. But, we cannot adequately do this until Washington gets serious about tackling our nation’s $19 trillion debt, which continues to undermine our ability to respond to the global security crisis we face today.