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[October 25, 2016]  Rodriguez Believes Steadfast Adherence to U.S. Treaty Obligations is Key to Effective Russian Policy - Just twenty-five years ago the collapse of the Soviet Union heralded the ultimate end of the Cold War era, and many then believed that the emergence of the U.S. as the lone superpower would have a transformative influence upon world peace and security.

Sadly, the demise of Cold War tensions unleashed a flurry of regional animosities in other quarters that had been kept in check earlier, and conflict zones emerged in the Balkans, in the Middle East, and across international boundaries with the rise of stateless terror organizations. Many of these emerging conflicts tested the diplomatic wherewithal of the United States and some of them necessitated an active military role as America became a global policeman, but all of them constituted a burden that we chose to shoulder. Today, facing an onerous debt, recognizing a global footprint that is difficult to maintain, and reassessing its ideal role as a global superpower, the United States understands the limits of power that many great nations have had to ponder throughout history.

Although some might argue that the collapse of the Soviet Union resulted from the failed moral bankruptcy of its communistic system, the actual justification for that nation’s decline was the near economic bankruptcy caused by Cold War era spending, a path that proved to be unsustainable in the long run. In the wake of the implosion of the old Soviet Union, the global community was left with Russia—a pared down version of its former self, but still a dangerous nuclear power with a penchant for autocracy. In many respects, the past twenty-five years have provided Russia with an opportunity to grow into its current role on the world stage. Like a middle child that has to grow into the hand-me-downs of an older sibling, we now understand that former Soviet-era apparatchiks have crafted a state that once again seeks regional, if not global, hegemony. Moreover, perceived limitations caused by the debt crisis that the United States faces only serve to empower and embolden a former adversary like Russia.

Some anticipate that the current chill between the United States and Russia is suggestive of a new Cold War that might be emerging, and this could well be the case. As a result, we must ensure certitude and consistency in all of our dealings with regional allies. The United States has been well served by its NATO allies, and the bond that formed in the aftermath of the Second World War has been instrumental in keeping regional crises from escalating into international conflicts. The power of this alliance is much more than symbolic—it has proven itself to be real on several occasions. It would be tremendously short-sighted of the United States to pursue any course of foreign policy that would try to weaken or diminish the role of NATO or alienate any of our long-standing partnerships with our North Atlantic allies.

The history of the Cold War era reminds us that great nations have many tools in their repertoire of engagement that can be tremendously effective at producing desired results. The potential application of economic sanctions or technology embargoes could have a profound impact upon Russian interests, especially in this era of electronic banking and international business transactions.

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There are many ways in which substantial pressure can be made to bear upon a regime that is bent upon reasserting its former presence in geopolitical affairs. As a sovereign state Russia has a right to conduct its internal affairs as it sees fit, but nations do not have the prerogative to disrupt regional peace and security on a whim or because they have a penchant for resurrecting imperial designs.

There is a tremendous difference between steadfastness and belligerence. The United States must always affirm that we stand by our treaty obligations to assist and protect our allies in Eastern Europe and elsewhere around the world. We cannot permit territorial aggrandizement to go unchecked, nor can we allow Russian interests to prop up the Assad regime in Syria and perpetuate one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the modern era. We must be willing to bring pressures to bear where we can prudently effect policy solutions that serve our national interests. Being too risk-averse is a sign of fecklessness that only enables our adversaries and discourages our allies.

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