Dear Washington Times,
I disagree with your encouragement for U.S. and European policymakers to engage in “old-fashioned horse trading” with Russia (The Russian bear and its former territories, Editorial, March 5, 2004). The editorial mistakes fact, suggests an irresponsible policy, and departs from the Times’ commendable support for the countries of Central and East Europe rejoining a “Europe whole and free.”
First, to call the Baltic states “former Russian territories” legitimizes the shameful Communist-Nazi (Molotov -Ribbentrop) pact and ignores the longstanding U.S. policy of non-recognition. Moreover, it is misleading to construe the issues of Kaliningrad passage and the rights of Russian minorities as anything besides successes on the part of democratic Baltic governments in addressing two of many thorny Soviet legacies. If this were not the case, President Bush would never have accepted Baltic membership in NATO.
In a few weeks, the Baltic countries will formally become our Allies in NATO. Today the Baltics are our allies in Iraq, where several Baltic soldiers have been wounded and one killed. To make principled stands with our Allies on matters such as energy security and promoting democracy in Belarus, is not vilifying Russia. To suggest, as the editorial does, that we cut deals with Russia on the Baltics’ right to join NATO is irresponsible, incongruous with Administration policy and against all that the U.S. has worked for in the region.
The Bush administration is right to continue to pursue and promote our shared values and interests with our Baltic Allies, rather than adopt a new “quid pro quo” approach to the Kremlin over Baltic membership in NATO. Congressional leaders like Senator McCain are also right to speak honestly about our concerns over un-democratic forces in Minsk, Kiev and even Moscow.
By contrast, I can’t think of a better way to vilify Russia than to encourage a creeping coup against democracy and fantasies of empire with offers of secret deals over the Baltics.