Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Who Should Lead America's Foreign Affairs?

If Bob Dole is elected U.S. president, he will deal with the Russia that exists today -- not the Russia we all hope to see.

U.S.-Russia relations under a Dole administration would differ from the sporadic policy of the Clinton administration, which is still unsure what this critical relationship should look like. Dole would pursue a predictable policy, clearly articulating interests and intentions, rather than one that leaves both Russia and the United States frustrated.

Should Dole win the presidential election this November, U.S. foreign policy, specifically with regard to Russia, would differ from that of the current administration on a range of issues: NATO enlargement; arms control; the priority placed on U.S.-Russian relations; and the return of U.S. leadership in international affairs.

On NATO enlargement, Dole has long called for the countries of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to be admitted to NATO. President Bill Clinton only this week, in an attempt to win over ethnic voters in the Midwest, called for NATO enlargement by 1999 but gave no specifics.

It is time to cement the new democracies of Central Europe into a security alliance. An enlarged NATO would stabilize Europe and pose no security threat to Russia. However, given Russia's concern over NATO enlargement, a Dole administration would pursue a long-term relationship between Russia and NATO to promote dialogue on Russia's and NATO's concerns. This is preferable to the current veto Russia has over NATO enlargement in the Clinton administration.

After candidate Clinton was critical of former president George Bush for sticking with former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev too long, Clinton now appears to be doing the same thing with Yeltsin. In an attempt to support the "best chance" for democracy in Russia, Clinton supported IMF loans to Russia, Russia's entry in the European Community, and shelved NATO enlargement in deference to Yeltsin. Supporting Yeltsin in the presidential election was the right policy, but not in the knee-jerk manner of Clinton, as exemplified by his favorable comparison of the war in Chechnya to the American Civil War.

Under a Dole administration, the U.S. would pursue a policy, not support a personality; rewarding behavior that is in the interest of Russia and the U.S. and speaking out against behavior that is not. Contrast this to an administration who allowed the war in Chechnya to go on for two years without criticism -- a conflict that resulted not only in great human rights abuses but also was the greatest failure of the Yeltsin administration.

President Dole would likely reverse the current "Russia first" policy, recognizing the legitimate concerns of the former Soviet republics such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Armenia, as well as Russia's. Russia's interpretation of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and its dispute with Ukraine over the Crimea are issues that the United States needs to examine with Russia and its neighbors. On arms control, Dole has stated he would crack down on Russia's violation of START I and the Biological Weapons Convention. He would link aid to Russia to its adherence to arms control agreements and exempt theater missile defense systems from the Cold War-era ABM treaty.

U.S.-Russia relations under Dole would certainly have a higher profile than under the Clinton administration, which according to the New York Times had its first National Security Council meeting on Russia in February 1996. This despite significant events in Russia such as the storming of the Russian White House, the war in Chechnya, and the State Duma elections in December 1995, all of which happened in Clinton's first term. Dole will also be able to work more effectively with Congress, which is likely to remain in Republican hands.

Many like to say the world was a much easier place to understand during the Cold War, but few were steadfast as Dole in doing what was needed to bring about its end.

As Bob Dole said, "It is time to take our foreign policy out of the hands of an administration engaged in the dreamy pursuit of an international order ... an administration that doubts American power, questions American purpose, and cannot fulfill American promise."

David A. Merkel is senior Russia advisor for the International Republican Institute. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.