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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Carnegie Urges Bold U.S. Policy Moves on Russia

WASHINGTON — The next U.S. president should take bold steps to mend Washington's frayed ties with Moscow, including unilateral cuts in nuclear arms and a halt to NATO expansion until 2005, a prominent think tank said.

With a new U.S. president due to take office on Jan. 20 and President Vladimir Putin in power only a year, U.S.-Russia relations were at a critical juncture, according to the report, called "Agenda for Renewal" and issued Thursday by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The report also recommended measures to promote Russia's long-term democratic and economic development and urged that Washington not block oil pipeline routes through Russia and Iran.

It is one of a number of studies expected to be released in the next couple of months as members of the foreign policy elite on all sides of the political spectrum seek to influence the successor to President Bill Clinton.

Differences over NATO, Kosovo, missile defense, arms sales to Iran and what the Carnegie report called Putin's "dubious attachment to democratic norms" have caused serious tensions in U.S.-Russia ties.

But the Carnegie experts argued that the relationship was on fundamentally different and better terms than during the Cold War, and that the new administration should neither continue the status quo nor operate as if Russia was "merely a bundle of security problems."

The report urged strengthened steps to support Russia's democratic transformation.

"If Russia was a wobbly democracy under [former] President [Boris] Yeltsin, it is now in the gray zone between democracy and authoritarianism," given Putin's "weakening of all major sources of power independent of the executive branch," the report said.

But Carnegie said that on the economic front, Putin had surprised many observers by assembling the "most pro-reform team in the government since the early 1990s" and already posting accomplishments, including a major tax reform package and a balanced budget.

Among the Carnegie study conclusions:

  • The weakness of Russian maintenance of and control over its nuclear forces is a much greater threat to the United States than the possible use of those forces.

  • The United States and Russia are already committed under the START II treaty to slash their nuclear arsenals from more than 6,000 deployed weapons to 3,000 to 3,500 weapons by 2007. But Washington should unilaterally reduce its level to 1,000 to 1,500 weapons, with the expectation that Russia would follow suit.

  • The United States and Russia should increase the time required to launch a nuclear strike from minutes to hours and then from hours to days. That would entail a series of negotiated measures to de-alert and de-target land-based weapons.

  • Unless the missile proliferation threat significantly worsens (with another North Korean test, for instance), Washington should not unilaterally defect from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The new president should make a fresh assessment of the threat of missiles capable of hitting the United States and redouble diplomatic efforts to stem proliferation.

  • In an effort to promote Russia's integration into the Euro-Atlantic security community, NATO should not consider expanding membership to states in the former Soviet Union before 2005.