Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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A New U.S. Strategy for Russia? A Conversation with Kimberly Marten

by Micah Zenko
March 8, 2017

Putin talks to servicemen Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to servicemen during a training exercise at the Donguz testing range in Orenburg region, Russia, September 19, 2015 (Reuters/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Pool).


While policymakers continued to struggle with investigating Russian interference in the U.S. election, I sat down with Professor Kimberly Marten to talk about how the Trump administration can effectively manage the increasingly tense relationship with Russia. Marten is the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, a faculty member of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University, and director of the Program on U.S.-Russia Relations at Columbia’s Harriman Institute. She is also the author of a recent Center for Preventive Action Council Special Report, Reducing Tensions Between Russia and NATO.

Professor Marten details how U.S. policymakers can deter an aggressive Russia while reassuring its political leaders that NATO’s intentions are defensive. She also sheds light on the recent history of the U.S.-Russian relationship, providing critical context for understanding Russia today, and offers recommendations for developing more creative approaches to deterrence. For a serious take on U.S. strategy toward Russia, read Marten’s report, listen to our conversation, and be sure to follow Marten on Twitter @KimberlyMarten.

Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by David Rice

    “Professor Marten details how U.S. policymakers can deter an aggressive Russia while reassuring its political leaders that NATO’s intentions are defensive.”

    It would be wonderful if we could have things both ways in this world; but it doesn’t often work that way (it is like abusing your wife, then expecting love in return; it will end in disaster). You can’t confront/punitive-sanction Russia over their reclaiming of their territory (lost during the Bolshevik Revolution) with threats of war (NATO’s Article 5 “trigger-clause,” is an active-threat, like a gun pointed at Russia’s head, if they do something displeasing to NATO’s current-view of the world), and then expect reduced tensions; there will be problems. Syria is a great current-example; the US/NATO harms Russia over Crimea, the Russians checkmate the US/NATO in Syria; the Syrians suffer, but the point is made; if you harm Russia, you cannot expect better relations, or reduced tensions.

    The idea that one can have things both ways, reminds me of the man that wants all the benefits of a solid marriage-partner, but also wants a couple of other lovers on the side. An expectation like that will likely result in the wedding-dishes being thrown across the kitchen table, while the children hide underneath; if reduced-tensions, are expected, between NATO and Russia (it should be remembered that NATO was created to confront Communism/USSR, not Russia specifically), the real problems need to be examined (look at the old maps of pre-USSR Russia for starters), and resolved, or their will be Hydrogen Bombs flying across the kitchen table, and it will affect the children.

    Instead of expecting to have things both ways, it is best to examine, and resolve the real problem that is causing the tension; while NATO could be described as “defensive,” it could just as easily be described as an aggressive, active-threat (its original purpose is gone now that the USSR is gone). European borders are also not necessarily, so well established either (the USSR was unraveled rather recklessly, and perhaps Russia is not so out of line, and it is NATO that is the active-threat); these considerations need to be examined more carefully. I do believe in miracles, but threatening someone, and then expecting reduced tensions, defies gravity.

  • Posted by Don Bacon

    “An aggressive Russia” is a contrived expression with no basis. The US-driven coup in Kyev was designed to deprive Russia of its naval base in Crimea, to make it a US/NATO base, and Russia (naturally) successfully prevented this US victory. Russia can’t be criticized for guarding its own security, calling it “aggressive.” That’s baloney.
    As to aggressive countries, the US takes the honors for that. There are many examples.

  • Posted by Don Bacon

    Here’s what Kimberly Marten has written about Ukraine, with NO recognition of State’s Victoria Nuland in the Kyev coup–

    “Putin’s Choices: Explaining Russian Foreign Policy and Intervention in Ukraine — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s evolving policies toward Ukraine have continued to surprise almost everyone. It was clear from the start that he considered the February 2014 ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to be illegitimate, another example of what he portrayed as Western-orchestrated regime changes—and feared he was potentially the next target. He also viewed Ukraine’s definitive tilt toward the West as a challenge to Russia’s power and control in its traditional sphere of influence. It was obvious that he was going to react negatively. But the specific choices he made have astounded even expert analysts.”

    Pure baloney. US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, Nuland said: “Since the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1991, the United States supported the Ukrainians in the development of democratic institutions and skills in promoting civil society and a good form of government – all that is necessary to achieve the objectives of Ukraine’s European. We have invested more than 5 billion dollars to help Ukraine to achieve these and other goals. ”

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