George F. Kennan was the author of the “containment” strategy adopted vis a vis the Soviets right after WW II. But he didn’t think it was a long term solution, only an interim one. So he came up with what he called Program A, an alternative strategy of compromise. He wanted all military forces removed from all of Germany, which would be unified and demilitarized, while the states of Eastern Europe regained their independence of Moscow. But the French wanted none of it. Part of Germany had been demilitarized after WW I, and that hadn’t worked, and the French were afraid of a unified and independent Germany. So we never made the offer to the Soviets, and we got a forty year long Cold War. Looking back, Henry Kissinger said, “We lost our opportunity.”
When we decided to rearm the West Germans to help out with containment, the French would only allow it if we agreed to station combat troops in Germany, so we sent them back. They’ve been there ever since. NATO was designed to keep the Germans down, the Russians out, and the Americans in. It is obsolete. A “reset” doesn’t begin to describe what we need to do with the Russians. A wholesale review of the entire European security system is called for, one which results in the withdrawal of American combat forces from Germany. The Germans are practically pacifists now, so we may as well recognize reality. I’m not any more afraid of Germany than I am of Italy, or Britain. We don’t need to be in their country any more. Maybe they’re like the Swedes, who were some of the bad asses of Europe for a while, and then went into a shell. Let’s hope so.
Stephen Sestanovich worked for Moynihan, Reagan and Clinton and is now at the Council on Foreign Relations. His 2014 book, Maximalist, describes American foreign policy since WW II. It’s either aggressive or retrenching, in turns. When Truman decided to conquer North Korea in 1950, this aggression was followed by the retrenchment of Eisenhower. The aggression of Kennedy-Johnson in Vietnam ( a product, in part, of neocon thinking) was followed by the withdrawal of Nixon, and detente with the Soviets. When Carter carried retrenchment too far, he was followed by the aggressive Reagan, who put an end to the game. But for some reason we’re still playing.
What’s the new game? Why are we in Europe? To keep the Russians out. But, as a formerly Communist, now Christian nation, Russia is no more of a threat to us than the Germans are. They don’t seek world hegemony, and they don’t want war with Western Europe. Vladimir Putin bears as much resemblance to Hitler as Ronald Reagan did. Russian nationalism has been a fact of life in Europe since Vladimir the Great. There are ways to manage relations with nations like Russia that fall short of promising our Mutual Assured Destruction if they went to war with us in Europe. There’s got to be a better way.
The threat we face is from Islam, and the Russians are the one Christian nation in the world we can count on to stand shoulder to shoulder with us in that fight. They’ll be a great ally. They can do things that we can’t, because of our media.
Russian America was a brutal enslavement of the Native peoples of Alaska by a band of Russian adventurers, akin to our Mountain Men in their bravery and endurance. The Aleuts were their main victims, and bear their names to day. They bear them proudly, as members of the Russian Orthodox Church of America. They have a nice church in Kodiak, that I’m sure Vladimir Putin would love to visit. He likes to go to Russian Orthodox Churches that are of historical significance. The Aleuts would welcome him with open arms, as a devout co-religionist. When he spoke to them he would speak, through them, to the American people. Alaska, my spiritual home, is the bridge between Russia and America. It would be a nice place for a summit meeting.
Not too many comments on my AT article, which is here. Only a few criticisms, and only one mocking of my name. Pettyjohn is English, formerly Norman, or Petit Jean. My ancestors were Normans, who were bad asses. I like my name.