Russia Plays American Politics

December 4, 2009
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“America and Russia are large, complex nations with different histories, geographies, and cultures. It is normal and inevitable that we each see the world through the lens of our own national interests, compete in global economic and political affairs and have legitimate disagreements”… These are the words printed in the International Herald Tribune on September 24, 2007. There is no question that Russia has different priorities and at times differs from our national interests. That makes Russia a challenge. That does not make Russia a threat. Because of this, my partner and I negate this resolution for three main reasons: First, a threat must be intentional, second, it is not in Russia’s interests to threaten those of the United States, and third because America has no clear-cut counter-strategies for dealing with any actions that the pro labels as a “threat”.
First, a threat must be of intention. Celeste A. Wallander, a Fellow for the Center for Strategic and International Studies asserts that Russian foreign policy under President Vladimir Putin involves participation in the global economy in order to stimulate growth. Putin's foreign policy has one immediate primary objective: Domestic and Economic growth. Russia views economic growth as instrumental to the core intention of establishing itself as an influential, autonomous, and accepted superpower, a goal every country has a right to strive for and is in no way inherently threatening. A broadcast from NPR GET A DATE goes on to emphasize that Russia takes a neutral stance in the world today and wishes to further itself by integrating into the global economy. This means that Russia cannot afford to threaten US interests, as America plays a significant role in the global economy. America and Russia’s differing opinions make Russia a challenge, not a threat.
Second, it is not in Russia’s interests to threaten those of the United States. Leon Aron, from the Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research on June 29, 2006 reminds us that Moscow hoped for the United States decisive assistance in Russia’s integration into the World Trade Organization. Economic engagement between Russia and the United States has been expanding exponentially since then. In 2006, US exports to Russia grew by more than 20 percent, reaching close to $5 billion last year, and Russian exports to the U.S. grew almost 30 percent to more than $19 billion. Russia’s bid for World Trade Organization membership is a key to furthering Russian integration into the world economy and would also create a more stable global trading system. Therefore, economically, Russia has no motivation to push the US too far, taking away any intent for a threat. Last November, the United States and Russia signed a bilateral market access agreement and an intellectual property rights agreement, both big steps along the process for WTO membership. Russia would never threaten a landmark agreement such as this and jeopardize their major interest at a bid to the WTO and thus domestic growth they strive for. With no intent to risk losing American support on economic growth, Russia will not do anything that can be perceived as a threat by the US government.
Third, America has no clear-cut counter-strategies for dealing with any actions that the pro labels as a “threat”. Nina Khrushcheva, senior fellow of the World Policy Institute, points out that several key political figures including President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice all vehemently oppose the idea of Russia being a threat to United States interests. Moreover, $200 billion—nearly half of the 2008 defense budget, is devoted to supporting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not a word is spoken, in real money terms, about a threat to address in Russia. If the United States government itself denies Russia as a threat to its own interest’s, and is not putting any money towards any kind of precautions against any impending threats via Russia this resolution must be negated. The logic is simple: If this is a debate concerning US interests, which are dictated by the government, and the same policy makers who conceived the interests see no threat posed to them, there is not a legitimate threat.
To negate this resolution is not at all to defend Russia, or to defend President Putin. It is to be clear about US interests, and to be clear that Russia has no other wishes than that of domestic growth and to be widely accepted as an international player in the global economy. Because a threat must be of intention, it is not in Russia’s interests to threaten those of the United States, and because America has no clear-cut counter-strategies for dealing with any actions that the pro labels as a “threat” you must cast a negative ballot.





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