Obama can’t afford to wage another Cold War

Stephen L. Carter
Delawareonline | August 11, 2014

In announcing new sanctions on Russia this month, President Barack Obama was at pains to insist that the standoff over Ukraine doesn’t mark the beginning of a new Cold War. No doubt he’s right – but commentary on the Ukraine crisis has continued to embrace the Cold War analogy anyway. International observers have done so, too. So have some Russian commentators: "Russians Will Suffer in Putin’s New Cold War," warns the opposition Moscow Times.

Apparently, lots of people in the U.S. have similar worries. As I’ve traveled this month to promote "Back Channel," my novel about the Cuban missile crisis, audience members have peppered me with questions about what they see as the dawning of a new Cold War.

I’ve tried to be reassuring. The Cuban missile crisis was a unique moment in human history. By bowing to pressure from his hard-liners and sneaking intermediate-range nuclear missiles into Cuba, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev set off a chain of events that could easily have led to a war that would have annihilated both the U.S. and the Soviet Union, along with many tens of millions elsewhere around the globe. Even given all the troubles around the world, we face nothing like that today.

Nevertheless, there are lessons from the Cold War in general, and the Cuban missile crisis in particular, that could usefully be applied to the foreign-policy challenges the U.S. faces today – including the standoff in Ukraine. Two points, I have told my audiences, are particularly apt.

First: Keep your adversary guessing. President John Kennedy’s ability to conceal his true intentions from Khrushchev was crucial to the successful conclusion of the Cuban missile crisis. The historian Graham Allison has recently summarized the point nicely: "President John F. Kennedy’s resolution of the 1962 crisis involved a subtle mix of threat and compromise, candor and ambiguity, coercion and inducement. If Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had not accepted Kennedy’s demand that he announce the withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba within 24 hours, would Kennedy have ordered the air strike he threatened? The answer will never be known, but what seems certain is that Khrushchev would not have removed the missiles without the threat of force."

Allison is right: To this day, we don’t know for sure whether Kennedy was really willing to push the button.

Russian President Vladimir Putin understands this strategic tool. At the moment, for example, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other Western observers are wondering whether the massing of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine signals imminent invasion. The West is exactly where Putin wants it: trying to guess his intentions.

The Obama administration, by contrast, has developed the maddening habit of publicly ruling out options in advance. To take only the most recent instance, the administration has accused Russia of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by testing a ground-based cruise missile. But rather than dangling the possibility of tit-for-tat, the administration has already leaked the news that it won’t respond by deploying a similar weapon of its own.

I’m not suggesting that the U.S. should violate the treaty. But there is an advantage to be gained in negotiations if Putin is left to wonder what Obama might do.

I also tell my audiences of a second reason the Cuban missile crisis was resolved successfully – one which would be difficult to replicate today. Trapped between advisers both hawkish and dovish, Kennedy chose a middle ground: the naval quarantine of Cuba, the decision to use the U.S. fleet to ensure that no further Soviet troops or materiel could get through to the island.

Should a similar crisis arise today, it’s not obvious that the U.S. could pull off a successful blockade. Projecting power, even in one’s own backyard, is no small thing. The blockade that was crucial to resolving the Cuban missile crisis required more than 150 U.S. Navy battle force ships, out of the 900 afloat in 1962. As of this writing, the Navy’s entire roster of battle force ships stands at 290.

Actually, the number is smaller than that. The tally of 290 includes hospital ships and small patrol boats – not counted until this year. In addition, it counts 11 Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers that it is keeping "in a reduced operating status."

In short, it would be enormously difficult – and would cost a much larger fraction of the Navy – for the U.S. to pull off a quarantine of Cuba today. Even our advanced technology would help only so much. A ship can be in only one place at one time.

Moreover, the strategy works only when the adversary declines to call your bluff. Khrushchev, after a bit of dithering, chose not to challenge the U.S. blockade line.

Khrushchev’s choice not to test Kennedy’s resolve over the blockade provided the crucial advantage – and the crucial time – Kennedy needed to conclude the crisis. In the absence of a successful quarantine, the U.S. would have been left with two unpalatable choices: live with the missiles in Cuba or go to war to get them out.

Don’t get me wrong. Not even Putin would be foolish enough to try to sneak missiles into Cuba today, not least because there’s no particular strategic advantage to be gained, but also because Russia couldn’t afford the expense. My point is different. Budget cuts must fall upon defense as they must fall everywhere, but difficulties in projecting power carry genuine costs that matter in a crisis.

So although I try to leave my audiences reassured, the reassurance is mixed with caution. We may not be facing a new Cold War, but the U.S. will only weaken its position in the world by failing to heed the lessons of the old one.

Stephen L. Carter, a Bloomberg View columnist, is a professor of law at Yale University.



INF Treaty–4 Aug 14

The Problem With Russia’s Missiles
Why is the United States taking Moscow to task over noncompliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty?
Jeffrey Lewis
Foreign Policy | JULY 29, 2014


The State Department’s annual "Compliance Report" is about to drop. According to Michael Gordon at the New York Times, the State Department will accuse the Russians of cheating on the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Gordon even has the money sentence:

"The United States has determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the I.N.F. treaty not to possess, produce or flight test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles."

Gordon’s story is part of a formal rollout. Secretary of State John Kerry gave Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a courtesy call on Sunday, and the U.S. Embassy delivered a letter from President Barack Obama to Vladimir Putin.

Let’s get this out of the way first: The decision to accuse Russia in print of violating the 1987 INF Treaty is not about Ukraine. Putin certainly hasn’t done himself any favors in recent months, of course, but American concerns about Russia’s compliance have been building for a long time. Rose Gottemoeller, the U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, began raising the issue of INF compliance with the Russians more than a year ago, in May 2013. After failing to get satisfaction from Moscow, she briefed the NATO Arms Control, Disarmament, and Non-Proliferation Committee on the compliance issues in January 2014. As early as this spring, it was clear that there was a possibility of using State’s annual Compliance Report to make public the concerns that U.S. diplomats had expressed in private. I argued in April that, given the mounting evidence, it was time to let the Russians have it.

And now it is that time of year. The Compliance Report is due every year on April 15, but congressionally mandated reports are always late. August is actually pretty early. Recall that the Bush administration didn’t even bother to submit a compliance report during six of the eight years it was in office.

The decision to focus on the R-500 cruise missile is interesting. Russia is actually testing two different systems that raise compliance questions — the R-500 cruise missile and the RS-26 ballistic missile. The Obama administration, according to Gordon, has decided to make an issue of Russia’s R-500 cruise missile, developed for the Iskander tactical missile system. Although this cruise missile has a stated range of 500 kilometers, Russian officials have been clear that they could easily extend the range beyond the 500 km limit imposed by the INF treaty. According to Gordon’s January 2014 story, Gottemoeller told NATO allies that Russia had tested the R-500 to ranges beyond 500 km. (Gordon doesn’t report what the U.S. intelligence community believes the actual range is in either story.)

The Obama administration appears to have focused on the R-500 for two reasons: It is easier to prove and may be easier to solve. First, of the two issues, the R-500 is apparently the more blatant violation. The RS-26, on the other hand, has been referred to as a "circumvention" of the INF in deference to the ambiguity of its status. (Russia asserts that the RS-26 is an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, to be counted under the New START treaty.) So the Obama administration is probably right to start with the more blatant case of cheating.

Second, the White House may believe that Russia is on the verge of moving from testing the prohibited cruise missile to deploying it. Douglas Barrie and Henry Boyd of the International Institute for Strategic Studies recently noted a Russian article that appears to show an R-500 canister on a deployed Iskander. If Russia is indeed on the verge of deploying large numbers of R-500 cruise missiles, now is the time to start talking about it. It’s much easier to prevent something with arms control than to roll it back. The Obama administration apparently hopes that pressure now will persuade Russia to forego deployment of the new cruise missile. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

But even if the administration is right to start with the R-500, over the long-term the RS-26 might be a bigger threat. A two-stage ballistic missile with multiple nuclear warheads, the RS-26 looks a lot like the SS-20 that prompted the INF discussion in the first place. The R-500 is a serious compliance issue, but it is also probably a conventionally armed missile that may only slightly exceed the range limits set by the INF treaty. The RS-26, on the other hand, is designed to hold Western European capitals at risk of attack with nuclear weapons. While Russia might hint that the RS-26 is intended for China, the reality is that it also seems to designed to threaten NATO forces in Western Europe to deter them from coming to the aid of the alliance’s newer members closer to Russia’s tender embraces.

Even if the R-500 and RS-26 pose a challenge for NATO, it does not make sense for the United States to withdraw from the INF Treaty. It isn’t often that I agree with former Bush administration official Stephen Rademaker, but he was exactly right when he testified: "I do not believe the appropriate remedy in this case is for the United States to withdraw from the treaty. Rather, since Russia so clearly wants out, we should make sure that they alone pay the political and diplomatic price of terminating the treaty. But it is also clear that we cannot and should not ignore the violations."

Putting public pressure on Russia is the right strategy, but sometimes the right strategy still falls short. The Russians would like to have intermediate-range nuclear forces, but without taking the political hit for withdrawing from the treaty. Keeping things quiet lets Russia violate the treaty, but without paying any political or diplomatic costs. The Russians hate having to talk about this in public. When Ivo Daalder raised the issue at the Munich Security Conference, Lavrov fumed. Making an issue of Russia’s R-500 forces Moscow to choose between its new cruise missile and its propaganda line about the threat from NATO. Russia might ultimately withdraw from the INF treaty anyway, but at least it will be clear who’s undermining stability and security in Europe.



Welcome to Russian Nuclear Weapons 101
A blast from the Soviet past? You decide.
Tom Nichols
The National Interest | May 9, 2014


Americans don’t think very much about nuclear weapons, and they certainly don’t think very often about their own arsenal, at least until something goes wrong with it, like the recent scandals involving the U.S. ICBM force. The Obama administration completed a nuclear posture review in 2010, a document that supposedly lays out the purpose and future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Like previous U.S. reviews conducted in 1994 and 2002, it sank without a trace. The fact of the matter is that nuclear weapons and their mission simply do not matter much to post–Cold War American leaders.

Nuclear weapons, however, certainly matter to the Russians. Nuclear arms have always been the source of superpower status for both Soviet and Russian leaders. This is especially true today: the Soviet collapse left the Russian Federation a country bereft of the usual indicators of a great power, including conventional military force or the ability to project it. Little wonder that Moscow still relies on its nuclear arsenal as one of the last vestiges of its right to be considered more than merely—in President Obama’s dismissive words—a “regional power.” (Or in the caustic words of Senator John McCain: “A gas station masquerading as a country.”)

Today, nuclear weapons have retained not only their pride of place but an actual role in Russian military planning. Unlike the Americans, who see little use for nuclear weapons in the absence of the Soviet threat, the Russians—wisely or not—continue to think about nuclear arms as though they are useful in military conflicts, even the smallest. Some of this might only be the bluster of officers who have never overcome their Soviet training, but some of it is also clearly based on the Russian General Staff’s understanding of Russia’s military weakness against far superior adversaries, including the United States and NATO.

Before considering the future of the Russian nuclear arsenal and its role in Russian defense policy, a quick review of the development of Russia’s nuclear forces might be helpful.

Once freed from Stalinist orthodoxy, Soviet thinkers, like their Western colleagues, wrestled throughout the Cold War with the implications of nuclear weapons. Early on, Soviet theorists decided that while nuclear warheads were a remarkable development, it was not only their appearance but the ability to deliver them rapidly over long distances—that is, the development of ICBMs—that overall constituted a “revolution in military affairs.” (This phrase was later adopted and almost completely misunderstood by American strategists in thinking about the role of technology in warfare, but the Soviets pioneered the term.)

The Soviets rejected—at least in public—any notion that the sheer destructiveness of nuclear weapons defeated traditional aims of strategy. They held firmly to the assertion that nuclear war, as awful as it would be, would nonetheless be a war with a political character like any other, with a winner and a loser. Later evidence revealed that this idea was prevalent mostly among the Soviet military; Soviet civilians were far less sanguine about nuclear war and far less willing than their generals and marshals to court it. (There are undeniable and unsettling parallels here with American civil-military relations on nuclear issues.)

During this time, the Soviets and the Americans constructed nuclear forces that mirrored each other in important ways. Both relied on a mixture of ICBMs, submarine-launched missiles, and bombers to ensure the survivability of their deterrent and to maintain the ability to deliver a massive retaliatory strike no matter how bad the first wave of nuclear exchanges. To this day, only Russia and the United States maintain this “triad” of delivery systems. There were differences, however, that reflected geography and tradition: the Soviet Union, a massive land empire spanning two continents, commanded plenty of real estate and therefore buried most of its deterrent in silos. The United States, a maritime superpower, put most of its megatonnage underwater on submarines. The Soviet long-range bomber force never progressed beyond propeller-driven aircraft that had only enough range for one-way suicide missions, while the Americans developed the workhorse B-52 bomber and its stealth follow-on, the B-2.

Because of the Cold War standoff in Europe, East and West also developed a large arsenal of battlefield nuclear weapons. By the late 1960s, the United States and the USSR had tens of thousands of strategic and tactical weapons. Even more worrisome, each side fielded highly destabilizing INF, or intermediate-range nuclear forces, in the 1970s and 1980s. These weapons could reach all European NATO capitals from Soviet territory, and conversely, could reach Moscow from NATO bases, in a matter of minutes, cutting decision times for national leaders from minutes to literally seconds. This entire class of weapons (that is, with flight ranges more than 500 km but less than 5500 km, was banned by Soviet-American agreement in the INF Treaty of 1987.)

The jewel in the Soviet nuclear crown was the Strategic Rocket Forces, a separate branch of the armed forces dedicated solely to ICBMs. The United States, by contrast, divided the strategic mission between the Navy and the Air Force. (Although the Americans created a Strategic Command in 1992, the day to day operation of U.S. long-range forces still resides with the USN and USAF.) The Russian Strategic Rocket Forces still enjoy this privileged position, both in prestige and resources. Like the other Russian branches, they even have their own patron saint: St. Barbara, the patroness of people who, for want of a better description, work with things that explode. (Tellingly, the officially atheist Soviets established the SRF on St. Barbara’s Day—December 17—in 1959.)

The Russian nuclear arsenal in 2014 is much like its American counterpart: a kind of Mini-Me of its Cold War incarnation. It is a far smaller inventory than the huge Soviet force of the 1980s, but it is more than capable of destroying the United States, Europe, and the Northern Hemisphere. The Russian Federation officially claims to have 1400 nuclear warheads associated with 473 deployed strategic launchers of various types, although other estimates place that number somewhere between 1500 and 1700 warheads. The Americans, for their part, have 1,585 warheads deployed on 778 launchers. Each side actually has thousands more weapons, some nondeployed, others awaiting dismantling. (For a full, down-to-the-warhead accounting of the Russian arsenal, there is no better source than scholar Pavel Podvig’s website, from which these numbers are taken.)

In every respect, the current Russian deterrent is structured like its Soviet predecessor. ICBMs, launched either from silos or mobile launchers, remain the most reliable weapons and the mainstay of the Russian nuclear force. The Russian submarine force, almost moribund since the Soviet collapse and crippled yet again by a disaster in 2000 aboard the Russian submarine Kursk, has recovered somewhat, and Russian nuclear-missile-carrying submarines are now engaging in more patrols closer to the United States since 2009. Only the Russian bomber force remains mired in its Soviet-era decrepitude, in part because Russian jet design has been the poor stepchild of Russian military research and development efforts. Although Russia’s bomber pilots are flying more hours and trying to return to their Cold War games along North American and European airspace, Russian bombers remain little more than a small adjunct to the submarine and land-based threats.

At the strategic level, the difference between the U.S. and Russian arsenals is small, and both sides have committed to the cap of 1550 warheads mandated by the New START Treaty of 2010. But strategic nuclear reductions are, in a sense, the easy task, especially because New START uses simplified counting rules—treating bombers, for example, as one launcher with one weapon—that suggest that neither side really cares very much about the great bugaboo of 1970s-era arms control, “strategic superiority.” (Arms-control expert Hans Kristensen summarized New START’s rules more succinctly: “Totally nuts.”)

There are, however, several questions for Western policy makers to consider about Russia’s nuclear future.

Why are the Russians engaging in strategic modernization?

The Western press has made much of Russia’s recent moves to modernize its long-range nuclear force, but in part this is because long-planned retirements and replacements in the Russian force structure get treated as “new.” The Russians, never ones to forego the political advantages of poor information, play along and present plans they made years ago as responses to current U.S. policies.

When the Russians announced that they were replacing the massive SS-18 ICBM, for example, there was a flurry of stories in 2011 and 2012 about how the Russians were building a “monster” 100-ton missile, and how it was a response to America and its missile-defense plans. Of course, the SS-18 was coming to the end of its service life anyway, and the Russians had announced plans to replace it a long time ago—not least to keep all the people involved in making nuclear missiles gainfully employed. (Or, at least, gainfully employed in Russia.)

The point is that the Russians will modernize their strategic arsenal, and this shouldn’t cause undue worry in the West. The Russian rocket forces are a military jobs program, and Moscow’s plans to replace its strategic missiles long predate any current crisis. Although the Russians claim their warheads will evade any U.S. missile defense, we needn’t worry too much about that, since we have no national missile defenses, and the Russian “capability” to defeat our nonexistent defenses isn’t scheduled to be deployed until the mid-2020s, if ever.

Why won’t they get rid of their tactical nuclear arms?

NATO has about 300 or so tactical nuclear weapons left in Europe, and we don’t know what to do with them, largely because all of their former Cold War targets were located in Warsaw Pact nations that are now actually inside NATO itself. Modernizing these aging battlefield weapons will be hugely expensive: the Obama administration has, after a great deal of agonizing, pushed for an upgrade, and has already run into trouble on Capitol Hill.

The Russians, however, still keep an inventory of some 2000 tactical nuclear weapons. Why?

One reason is that Russia, like NATO, doesn’t know what to do with them. Nuclear weapons cannot simply be left by the curb on “fissile-material removal day,” and these small weapons are likely safer under military control than they are in storehouses. The other reason, however, is that the Russian General Staff still thinks these weapons have some kind of utility. In 2011, the Russian Chief of the General Staff, Nikolai Makarov, said that he could not “rule out that, in certain circumstances, local and regional armed conflicts could grow into a large-scale war, possibly even with nuclear weapons.”

It’s hard to imagine the difference between a “local” and a “regional” conflict, especially when nuclear weapons are involved. Although Makarov growled at NATO in his statement, it’s also likely he was looking to his unstable southern borders with Islamic countries. In either case, Makarov’s point is directly related to an admission he and other Russian officers have made before: that without nuclear weapons, Russia’s ability to sustain a major conventional conflict in any direction is severely limited. Who the Russian military chiefs think they’re going to fight is another matter, but like all militaries, their job is to make plans, not policy. Makarov stepped down in 2012 and was replaced by the much younger Valerii Gerasimov (age 58), but what’s more worrisome in all this is that there are least some officers in the General Staff who see nuclear and conventional power as fungible and interchangeable, with one usable in place of the other. So far, they have not had a chance to test that theory.

Does Russian military doctrine really think nuclear weapons are usable?

So far, the answer seems to be yes. Over five years ago, Russia put forward a draft national security concept, a kind of white paper on Russian security, and it included language about preventive nuclear strikes. After raised eyebrows in NATO and elsewhere, a scrubbed version was rereleased, with the rest classified and held back. (In fairness, that’s how the Bush administration did its 2002 nuclear review, with the same poor public relations effect.)

For now, the Russians seems to have adopted the notion—again, as a function of their conventional weakness—that nuclear weapons can be used to “de-escalate” conflicts. It’s doubtful that the Russians are really believe that nuclear strikes (especially on the United States or NATO) could be de-escalatory, but in the absence of any other ability to project force, old Soviet habits are hard to break. On May 7, for example, the Russian military floated the idea of stationing nuclear-capable short range missiles in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad if NATO increased its conventional forces in the region, a threat as unsurprising as it is meaningless.

Are they cheating on the INF Treaty?

For over a year, the Russians have been taunting the West by breaking, in spirit if not in letter, the INF Treaty. It’s a clever approach: they’re not actually building intermediate-range nuclear forces, they’re just taking long-range nukes and then testing them at intermediate range. In other words, they’re skirting the treaty, no doubt as a clear sign to Europe and NATO that they are not immune from nuclear attack in the brave, new post–Cold War world. Indeed, the Russians have openly mooted quitting the INF Treaty, even though the weapons they banned no longer exist and there are no Russian or American plans to make any.

The Obama administration’s usual approach to the Russians has been to lag behind more nimble Russian diplomacy, but in this case the administration’s low-key response is the right approach. What the Russians are doing is, in effect, goading NATO, and showing that they still have the old Soviet charisma that created NATO in the first place. It is not news that Russian nuclear forces can reach Europe; what’s different is that the Russians are trying to emphasize that capability by testing weapons as though the calendar is stuck on 1981.

Where’s the real danger?

In sum, the outlook for Russia’s nuclear forces is less important than the serious improvements Russia is seeking to make in its conventional forces, especially in Europe. The Russians have relied on nuclear arms to compensate for conventional weakness, a practice even Moscow realizes is unsustainable and dangerous. The real threat to NATO will occur if Western military forces on the ground continue to be hollowed out by budget cuts and a lack of purpose, while Russian forces continue to improve and to recover from the disarray of the Soviet collapse.

During the current crisis in Ukraine, many in the West and in Ukraine itself lamented the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which Russia, the United States, and Britain agreed to respect Ukrainian borders and sovereignty in exchange for Ukraine releasing any claims on the last remnants of the Soviet nuclear arsenal on its territory. If Ukraine had kept its weapons, the reasoning goes, Russia would never have dared to threaten Crimea and eastern Ukraine. But this is the wrong lesson: what seems to have given Moscow pause is the willingness of Ukraine, outnumbered and outgunned, to fight back. What may be serving to cool further Russian ambitions, in other words, is Russian conventional weakness. Had Ukraine kept its nuclear weapons, a Russian invasion might have taken place a decade ago on the pretext of “securing” those systems, but if Ukraine avoids a Russian invasion now, it will not be because of anyone’s nuclear arms, but because Russia is aware that it might face a serious conventional fight even against an admittedly weaker country.

If Moscow redresses those conventional shortcomings without an answer from the West, nuclear issues will seem, in comparison, like a quaint problem from the past.

Tom Nichols is Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College and an adjunct at the Harvard Extension School. His most recent book is No Use: Nuclear Weapons and U.S. National Security (University of Pennsylvania, 2014) The views expressed are his own.


Watching the Eclipse

Ambassador Michael McFaul was there when the promise of democracy came to Russia—and when it began to fade
David Remnick
The New Yorker | August 11, 2014

In January, 2012, Michael McFaul, a tenured political scientist from Stanford and President Obama’s chief adviser on Russia through the first term, arrived in Moscow with his wife and two sons to begin work as the United States Ambassador. In Palo Alto and Washington, D.C., the McFauls had lived in modest houses. In Moscow they took up residence at Spaso House, a vast neoclassical mansion that was built by one of the wealthiest industrialists in imperial Russia. Spaso features a vaulted formal dining room and a chandeliered ballroom, where William C. Bullitt, the U.S. Ambassador in the thirties, used to throw parties complete with trained seals serving trays of champagne and, on one memorable occasion, a menagerie of white roosters, free-flying finches, grumpy mountain goats, and a rambunctious bear. One guest, Mikhail Bulgakov, wrote about the bash in his novel “The Master and Margarita.” Another, Karl Radek, a co-author of the 1936 Soviet constitution, got the bear drunk. The bear might have survived the decade. Radek, who fell out with Stalin, did not.

On his first night in Spaso, McFaul wearily climbed the stairs, from the stately rooms on the ground floor to the living quarters on the second, and he noticed along the way a wall filled with black-and-white photographs of his predecessors, including the “wise men” of mid-century: W. Averell Harriman, Charles (Chip) Bohlen, George F. Kennan. Every diplomat and scholar who thinks about Russia thinks about Kennan—his mastery of the language, his chilly, and chilling, brand of élitism, and, particularly, his influence on the strategic posture of the West from the end of the Second World War until the collapse of the Soviet imperium. Kennan, who lived to be a hundred and one, had been Ambassador for only four months when, in September of 1952, Stalin declared him persona non grata and ordered him out of the country.

McFaul had no reason to expect that sort of hostility from the Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev. As a policy expert who served on Obama’s National Security Council, McFaul was a principal architect of the “reset,” a kind of neo-détente with Moscow. When, in September, 2011, Obama nominated McFaul to be his envoy to Moscow, relations with the Kremlin were hardly amorous, but a businesslike atmosphere usually prevailed. Obama and Medvedev did solid work on arms control, antiterrorism efforts, Iran’s nuclear program, and the war in Afghanistan. To the bitter outrage of Vladimir Putin, Medvedev’s predecessor and patron, Medvedev even agreed to abstain from, rather than veto, a U.N. Security Council resolution approving NATO air strikes in Libya. But a week after McFaul’s official appointment was announced Putin declared that he would return from the shadows and run for President again in March, 2012. This high-handed “castling” maneuver soured spirits in Moscow, sparking a series of demonstrations in Bolotnaya Square and elsewhere in downtown Moscow. The protesters’ slogan was “Russia Without Putin.”

In the three months between McFaul’s appointment and his arrival in Moscow, a great deal changed. Putin, feeling betrayed by both the urban middle classes and the West, made it plain that he would go on the offensive against any sign of foreign interference, real or imagined. A raw and resentful anti-Americanism, unknown since the seventies, suffused Kremlin policy and the state-run airwaves.

As a new Ambassador, McFaul was hardly ignorant of the chill, but he launched into his work with a characteristic earnestness. “Started with a bang,” he wrote in his official blog. During the next two years, McFaul would be America’s primary witness to the rise of an even harsher form of Putinism—and, often enough, he would be its unwitting target.

William Burns, a former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and then a deputy to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had, coincidentally, come to Moscow that January, and together McFaul and Burns visited a range of Kremlin officials. McFaul also presented his diplomatic credentials to the Russian Foreign Ministry. The next day, they were scheduled to meet at the U.S. Embassy with some of the best-known figures in human-rights circles and leaders of the opposition. When McFaul saw the schedule, he knew it was part of a traditional “dual-track” diplomacy—officials first, then the opposition—but he was also aware of Putin’s darkening mood. Putin had publicly accused Hillary Clinton of giving “the signal” that sparked the Bolotnaya demonstrations. He was also familiar with McFaul’s biography—his long-standing relationships with liberal activists, the shelf of books and articles he’d published on democratization.

McFaul was nervous about these meetings, but, he said, “I was the democracy guy, so we went forward.” The visitors to the Embassy included some of Putin’s fiercest critics, and, after their session with McFaul and Burns, representatives of state television lobbed accusatory questions at them as if they had just received marching orders for an act of high treason.

That night, Channel One, the biggest television station in Russia, turned its rhetorical howitzer on the new Ambassador. Mikhail Leontiev, an acid-tongued conservative who hosts a show called “Odnako” (“However”), declared that McFaul was an expert not on Russia but on “pure democracy promotion.” In the most withering tone he could summon, Leontiev said that McFaul had worked for American N.G.O.s backed by American intelligence; he had palled around with anti-Kremlin activists like the “Internet Führer,” Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption crusader who had, damningly, spent some time at Yale. (The listener was meant to interpret “some time at Yale” as roughly “some time inside the incubator of Russophobic conspiracy.”) Leontiev also noted that McFaul had written a book about the Orange Revolution, in Ukraine, and another called “Russia’s Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin.”

“Has Mr. McFaul arrived in Russia to work in his specialty?” Leontiev said. “That is, to finish the revolution?”

Like any effective propagandist, Leontiev had artfully woven the true, the half true, and the preposterous into a fabric of lurid colors. When I asked him about the broadcast recently, he smiled and shrugged: “What can I say? It was very convenient. McFaul made himself vulnerable and we exploited that.”

Andranik Migranyan, a Putin loyalist who directs a Russian-financed institute in New York, told me, “You can’t come and start your ambassadorship by seeing the radical opposition.” He compared it to a Soviet diplomat coming to Washington heading straight for “the Black Panthers or the Weathermen.”

At first, McFaul took the attack personally, not yet realizing that he was, for Putin and official Moscow, a mere foil. “The shit that Leontiev put out on me—this haunted me for the rest of my time in Russia. I was made out to be the guy who came to Moscow to foment revolution,” McFaul told me. “Meanwhile, I was feeling really bad about this fiasco, and in D.C. the mid-level people”—in the Administration—“were saying, Why is McFaul doing this? It was affirmation of why you don’t send people like McFaul to Moscow. Like I was the one screwing up the U.S.-Russia relationship.”

A generation ago, in 1990, as the Soviet Union was lurching toward implosion—with the economy cratering, the Communist Party unravelling, the republics rebelling, the K.G.B. plotting its revenge—McFaul, a graduate student in his mid-twenties, kept showing up in Moscow’s “pro-democracy” circles, hanging out, asking questions, offering assistance and advice. McFaul was a sunny, eager guy, with a wide-open expression, shaggy blond hair, effortful Russian, and an irrepressible curiosity. He had grown up rough in a mining town in Montana. His mother was a secretary, his father a saxophone player in a country-and-Western band. In Moscow, operating in a culture steeped in fatalism and irony, McFaul was the most optimistic, least ironical young man you’d ever want to meet. He handed out instructional manuals translated into Russian with titles like “How to Run for Office.” He was determined to help establish liberal values and institutions—civil society, free speech, democratic norms—in a land that, for a thousand years, had known only absolutism, empire, and the knout. “That’s me,” he says even now. “Mr. Anti-Cynicism. Mr. It Will All Work Out.”

McFaul was ostensibly in Moscow to write a doctoral dissertation on Soviet-African relations. He was, in truth, bored with the quantitative trends in his field of political science—the stark modellings, ziggy graphs, and game theory that seemed so abstract when all around him was the nerve-racked excitement of revolt, the intrigue of political debate and awakening in meeting halls that stank of cheap cigarettes and wet wool. Moscow at that time was a pageant, irresistible to anyone with even a trace of democratic idealism and fellow feeling for the Russians. The sense of historical drama was unmistakable. “Like being in a movie,” McFaul recalled.

The Eastern and Central Europeans, with their simpler narrative of liberation from Soviet occupation, had already sprung the lock of history—or so it seemed—and now the capital of empire was up for grabs. McFaul was addicted to the excitements of revolution. You kept seeing him at demonstrations on Manezh Square or at Luzhniki Stadium, alongside young activists aligned with groups like Democratic Russia and Memorial; there he was at public forums and meetings where the fevered talk was all about how Mikhail Gorbachev was finished, Boris Yeltsin was the answer, and it was only a matter of time before some form of counterattack would come from the reactionary elements inside the secret services and the Communist Party, the gray, angry men, who saw their footing in the world—their power, their salaries and privileges—slipping away.

When McFaul took the time to read, it was rarely for his dissertation. He lived in a miserable hotel room and pored over Crane Brinton’s study of the cycles of rebellion and reaction in “The Anatomy of Revolution,” Trotsky’s account of the Bolshevik Revolution, and the work of the “transitologists” Guillermo O’Donnell and Philippe Schmitter, who explored the process by which one political system transforms into another—anything that might feed his understanding of what he was seeing on the streets and what he was hearing in his interviews with the political actors of Moscow: the radicals, the reactionaries, the manifesto drafters.

McFaul had first visited the Soviet Union in 1983, when he was an undergraduate at Stanford. The Palo Alto campus, with its gleam of wealth, had pushed him to the political left. His summer at Leningrad State University was his first time abroad. He was at ease there. After classes, he met with dissidents and consorted with the fartsovshchiki, the young hustlers of bluejeans and hard currency. There are people who encounter Russia and see nothing but the merciless weather, the frowns, the complicated language that, in casual encounters, they hear as rudeness, even menace; and there are those who are entranced by the literature and the music and the talk—the endless talk about eternal matters. McFaul was attuned to this particular kind of Russian romance. But his unusual immersion in politics made him stand out from his fellow-students. He believed, without reservation, that he could take part in the transformation of the world.

That was his habit of mind, a peculiarly American one. He was an idealist, at once ambitious and determinedly naïve. When McFaul was applying for a Rhodes Scholarship, his interviewer took note that McFaul, along with an intelligent and rambunctious classmate named Susan Rice, had helped lead the anti-apartheid movement on the Stanford campus. They occupied a building, campaigned for divestment. Among McFaul’s academic interests was the range of liberation movements in post-colonial Africa: Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. How did McFaul reconcile his desire to study at Oxford on a Rhodes, the interviewer inquired, with the fact that its benefactor, Cecil Rhodes, had been a pillar of white supremacy? What would he do with such “blood money”?

“I will use it to bring down the regime,” McFaul said. In the event, both he and Rice won the blood money and went to Oxford.

Over the years, as he developed as a scholar, McFaul made frequent trips to Moscow, and, because of his refusal to stay in the library, some Russian officials grew convinced that he was working for Western intelligence, doing what he could to hasten the fall of the Kremlin’s authority. They took his openhearted activism to be a cover for cunning.

In 1991, McFaul was in St. Petersburg, trying to organize a seminar on local government. He found himself doing business with a man from the mayor’s office named Igor Sechin. He and Sechin took an immediate liking to each other. It turned out that, like McFaul, Sechin was interested in Mozambique. They both spoke Portuguese. Sechin never actually said that his familiarity with matters Mozambican came from having been a young Soviet intelligence operative in Maputo, or that he still was a K.G.B. officer, but McFaul knew the score. What he discovered, as they talked, was that Sechin assumed that McFaul, too, was an intelligence agent.

It was an encounter with a certain historical freight: a generation later, when McFaul became Obama’s Ambassador to Russia, Sechin became the president of Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned, hugely profitable energy conglomerate. He would also be the most important counsellor to the same man he was working for way back in 1991: a career intelligence officer and deputy mayor named Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

On the day McFaul was preparing to go home, he went to see his academic supervisor in Moscow, Apollon Davidson. He thanked Davidson and said he’d had a fantastic time and was hoping to return in a few months.

“You are never coming back,” Davidson said.

McFaul was shocked. There was a taxi outside idling, waiting to take him to the airport.

“You came here to do one project,” Davidson said, “and you did a lot of other things—and it isn’t going to happen again.”

“There is a file on me,” McFaul said. A couple of decades ago, a Russian friend from perestroika days who is “still in politics” told him, “I just read something disturbing about you that says you are C.I.A.” McFaul denied it, but he could see that his friend was impressed. The file, after all, had been marked “Sovershenno Sekretno”—“Top Secret.”

“In government, I’ve seen the power of getting a file marked ‘Top Secret,’ ” McFaul said.

In 1996, President Yeltsin was running for reëlection against Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of what was left of the Communist Party. After a few years in office, Yeltsin had soiled his reputation as a reforming democrat. There was his strategy of brutal overkill in Chechnya and the way he empowered, under the banner of privatization, a small circle of billionaire oligarchs to soak up Russia’s resources and help run the country. “Democracy” was roundly known as dermokratiya—“shitocracy.” Yeltsin’s approval numbers plunged to the single digits. For months, it seemed entirely possible that Zyuganov, who attacked the injustices of the Yeltsin regime in favor of the old ideology, could win. McFaul, who had established an outpost of the Carnegie Center in Moscow, had attracted attention in Yeltsin’s circles by writing an article about how Yeltsin could win.

Yeltsin was ailing, alcoholic, and often out of sight. He left his campaign largely to shadowy figures like his bodyguard, Aleksandr Korzhakov. In January, McFaul got a call from “a guy—let’s call him Igor—one of Korzhakov’s guys.” They met at the President Hotel, Yeltsin’s campaign headquarters. “The people I knew were on the ninth floor,” McFaul said to me. “He was on the tenth: metal detectors, guys with guns. And he told me, ‘I am intelligence. I work for Korzhakov. I am in charge of the analytic center.’ ”

Later that year, Igor asked to meet with McFaul again. “We need to have a quiet conversation about the elections,” Igor said. “Let’s go out to Korzhakov’s dacha.”

McFaul was nervous, but an intermediary from Yeltsin’s team told him, “You are better off going than not going.” He called his wife, who was in Palo Alto, and told her, “If I am not back by the end of the day, tell the Embassy.”

McFaul met his contact at the Kremlin and got in his official car, the standard black Volga sedan. They reached the dacha, one of Stalin’s old country residences. “The Chechen war was going hot and heavy, so there was lots of security and guys with guns,” McFaul recalled.

Yeltsin’s people engaged McFaul in a long discussion about the elections. As the conversation developed, McFaul realized that they were implying two things: that he was a C.I.A. agent and that the Yeltsin forces might postpone the elections. What they wanted from Washington, they made clear, was “coöperation.” If the election was postponed, they said, they wanted Washington to “hold your nose and support us.”

Finally, McFaul broke in and said, “Hey, I’m just an untenured assistant professor at Stanford.”

Igor replied, “Stop! I know who you are! I wouldn’t have brought you here if I didn’t.”

The experience, McFaul said, “freaked me out.” He told the Embassy about it.

As the election approached, Yeltsin fired Korzhakov and relied on the largesse, the media outlets, and the strategic advice of the tight circle of oligarchs, who had met secretly in Davos and decided that they could not afford to lose their patron.

On Election Day, “the good guys won,” as McFaul puts it. Yeltsin prevailed. McFaul’s book on the subject, “Russia’s 1996 Presidential Election: The End of Polarized Politics,” is not only dull; it is a whitewash, far too cursory about the shabby nature of the election. When I conveyed that to McFaul, he did not dispute the point, instead saying that the book was “an illustration of the tension between being an advocate and an analyst at the same time.” McFaul said that his academic friends thought the best outcome would have been a fair election; his friends in Russian political circles thought a Zyuganov victory would be a catastrophe, morally worse than a rigged ballot. “I was tormented about that,” he said.

McFaul has written and edited many books on Russia and political transition—some of them useful, some pedestrian, none enduring. From the start, his idealism and ambition lured him away from the library and toward politics and the powerful. He began visiting Washington to talk periodically with members of the Bush Administration, including Bush and Cheney. The Administration’s neoconservatism and McFaul’s liberal interventionism overlapped in the desire to press the “democracy agenda” in the former states of the Soviet Union. In 2004, McFaul counselled the Edwards and the Kerry campaigns.

In late 2006, McFaul got a call from Anthony Lake, who had been the national-security adviser in the Clinton Administration. Lake said that he was putting together a foreign-policy advisory team for “the next President of the United States”—Barack Obama. McFaul told Lake that he was already committed. He was planning to work with Edwards again.

A half hour later, Susan Rice, his old friend from Stanford and Oxford, called him.

“I am part of this thing, too, so get your shit together and join!” she crooned.

“That’s Susan’s personality, and so I said, ‘Yes! Of course!’ The stakes for me were low. Susan had had to defect from the Clintons, and they were tough on her, with all kinds of nasty-grams about people who aren’t loyal.”

Rice had already put in place a kind of shadow National Security Council for Democrats, with various foreign-policy mavens charged with heading up regional directorates. The group was later dubbed the Phoenix Initiative, a name intended to send the message that, in the wake of the Iraq War and the Bush Administration’s Vulcans, American foreign policy, under a Democratic President, would, like the mythical bird, rise from the ashes. Rice declared that the group’s thinking had broken free of the traditional clash in American foreign-policy thinking between realist power politics and liberal idealism. The emphasis was less on big-power politics than on problems like climate change and terrorism, issues that emphasized international institutions and coöperation. Around the same time, Rice and Lake also set up an advisory board for their candidate. McFaul led the division dedicated to the former Soviet Union.

The 2008 Presidential-election contest between Obama and John McCain was mainly about domestic issues. Russia was barely on the agenda—until the summer of 2008, when Russia and Georgia went to war. “McCain wanted more conflict, and we were the ones pulling back,” McFaul said. “That was the whole analytic frame of the campaign. . . . We were on defense.” McFaul was among those who pressed Obama to toughen his language and prevailed.

The episode made an impression. Benjamin Rhodes, a close adviser to Obama on foreign policy, said that McFaul’s scholarly background provided “context” that the President appreciated during the campaign and throughout the first term. They talked about everything from just-war theory to questions of development, and yet, McFaul told me, on the “big debate” over realism versus internationalism, he could never quite figure out Obama. “For Barack Obama, it is essential to end those two wars”—Iraq and Afghanistan—“and this retrenchment is in the national interest,” he said. “What I never knew at the time is where he came down on the question of hard interest versus values.”

During one argument among aides in the White House, McFaul took the position that nations need not wait for the development of a middle class before building democratic institutions. As McFaul recalled, “Somebody said, ‘That’s interesting, but that’s not what the President thinks.’ And I said, ‘That’s interesting, but if that is what he thinks he is wrong.’ It was a jarring moment, and I thought I might even get fired.” He recalled arguing with Tom Donilon, the national-security adviser, about the issue. “Donilon would tell me, Obama is not really interested in that stuff. He’s just a realist.” And yet McFaul, who is not shy about suggesting his own influence, pointed out that Obama gave speeches in Cairo, Moscow, and Accra, in 2009, “making my arguments about why democracy is a good thing. . . . Those speeches made me more optimistic, after all those colleagues telling me he is just a realist.”

“Obama has multiple interests he is thinking about,” McFaul went on. “He has idealist impulses that are real, and then impulses about concerns about unintended consequences of idealism. We were in the Roosevelt Room during the Egypt crisis, and I asked, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘What I want is for this to happen quickly and the Google guy to become President. What I think is that this will be a long-drawn-out process.’ ”

Obama’s advisers and the Washington policy establishment have all spent countless hours trying to square the President’s admiration of George H. W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft—classic realists—with his appointments of interventionists like McFaul, Rice, and Samantha Power. In the end, one leading Russia expert, who has worked for two Administrations, told me, “I think Obama is basically a realist—but he feels bad about it.”

In his first two terms in office, from 2000 to 2008, Vladimir Putin made his priority the reëstablishment of a strong state. He disempowered disloyal regional governors, crushed the oligarchs who did not heed his insistence that they stay out of politics, and obliterated the leadership of the separatist uprising in Chechnya. He took complete control of the main television channels and neutered any opposition political parties. He established postmodern state symbols and an anthem that combined features of the imperial and Communist past. But he was not, foremost, an ideologue. Kleptocracies rarely value theoretical tracts. They value numbered accounts. They value the stability of their own arrangements.

In the heart of the Soviet era, Kremlin leaders, including Lenin and Stalin, wrote scholastic treatises dictating the ideological course for many aspects of life. At the heart of the Communist Party Central Committee was the department of ideology, which laid down the law on everything from the permissible interpretation of history to the dissidents and artists who had to be suppressed, imprisoned, or exiled. By the late Soviet period, though, K.G.B. officers like Putin were nearly as dismissive of Communist ideology as the dissidents were. “The Chekists in his time laughed at official Soviet ideology,” Gleb Pavlovsky, a former adviser to Putin, told me. “They thought it was a joke.” Putin, in 1999, admitted that Communism had been a “blind alley, far away from the mainstream of civilization.”

Buoyed by the sharp rise in energy prices, Putin was able to do what Yeltsin had not: he won enormous popular support by paying salaries and pensions, eliminating budget deficits, and creating a growing urban middle class. It was hardly a secret that Putin had also created his own oligarchy, with old Leningrad pals and colleagues from the security forces now running, and robbing, the state’s vast energy enterprises. This almost unimaginably corrupt set of arrangements, which came to be known as Kremlin, Inc., outraged nearly everyone, but the relative atmosphere of stability, in which tens of millions of Russians enjoyed a sense of economic well-being and private liberty, provided Putin with a kind of authoritarian legitimacy.

This relative prosperity and personal freedom was, in fact, unprecedented. For the first time, millions of Russians took vacations abroad, got mortgages, bought foreign cars, remodelled their kitchens, acquired iPhones. The state was indifferent to the way people lived—what they read, where they worshipped, whom they shared a bed with. A sitcom called “Nasha Rasha” featured a gay factory worker in the Urals. “For the States or Sweden, it would have been politically incorrect,” Alexander Baunov, a columnist for the Web site slon.ru, told me. “But for Russia it was a real improvement! No one killed him!” The state media were under close watch by the authorities, and there were occasional arrests to show where the limits were, but there was no return to Sovietism. Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s deputy chief of staff, called the system “sovereign” democracy.

Nor was Putin aggressively anti-American in his first years in power. He craved membership in the world economy and its institutions. He was the first foreign leader to telephone George W. Bush on 9/11 and offer assistance in Afghanistan. He abhorred the influence of foreign N.G.O.s, thinking that they undermined Russian interests, but he wanted membership in the global club. He even talked about Russia joining NATO. “Russia is part of the European culture,” he told the BBC, in 2000. “And I cannot imagine my own country in isolation from Europe and what we often call the civilized world. So it is hard for me to visualize NATO as an enemy.” The spirit of relative amity did not last.

In 2009, after Putin had ceded the Presidency to Medvedev, he hosted Obama at his country residence and lectured the U.S. President on the history of American deceptions. It was an hour before Obama managed more than “hello.” McFaul, who was at that meeting, said, “It was grossly inaccurate, but that is his theory of the world.” Putin demanded that the U.S. cede to him the former Soviet republics—Ukraine above all—as a Russian sphere of influence. He felt that the United States had, in the glow of post-Cold War triumphalism, pushed Russia around, exploiting its weakness to ignore Yeltsin’s protests and bomb Belgrade and Kosovo. Gorbachev had always said that the U.S. had promised that, in exchange for his acquiescence to the reunification of Germany, NATO would not expand to the east. In 2004, NATO absorbed seven new countries—Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and the three Baltic states, which Putin took as a particular offense and a geopolitical threat. And then, later that year, came the Orange Revolution, in Ukraine, which Putin saw as a Western project and a foreshadowing of an assault on him.

When, after the Medvedev interregnum, Putin returned to power, in 2012, he perceived the anti-Kremlin protests as an echo of Kiev. The demonstrators had no clear ideology, no leaders. They did not extend much beyond the urban creative and office classes. They had neither the coherence nor the staying power of the protesters on other squares—Taksim, Tahrir, Maidan, Wenceslas. All the same, Putin could not countenance them. What he loathes, his former aide Gleb Pavlovsky told me, is spontaneity in politics. “Putin is anti-revolutionary to his core,” he said. “What happened in Kiev”—on Maidan, in 2014—“was for him absolutely disgusting.”

An avid reader about tsarist Russia, Putin was forming a more coherent view of history and his place within it. More and more, he identified personally with the destiny of Russia. Even if he was not a genuine ideologue, he became an opportunistic one, quoting Ivan Ilyin, Konstantin Leontiev, Nikolai Berdyayev, and other conservative philosophers to give his own pronouncements a sense of continuity. One of his favorite politicians in imperial Russia was Pyotr Stolypin, the Prime Minister under Nicholas II. “We do not need great upheavals,” Putin said, paraphrasing Stolypin. “We need a great Russia.” Stolypin had also said, “Give the state twenty years and you will not recognize Russia.” That was in 1909. Stolypin was assassinated by a revolutionary in Kiev, in 1911. But Putin was determined that his opportunity not be truncated: “Give me twenty years,” he said, “and you will not recognize Russia.”

And so now, instead of nurturing the business and creative classes in the big cities, he turned on them. He vilified them on TV; he weakened them with restrictions, searches, arrests, and selective jail terms. He sided now with the deeply conservative impulses, prejudices, and habits of mind of the Russian majority. “There was an idea to gain the support of the majority, to distinguish it from the minority,” Boris Mezhuev, a conservative columnist at Izvestia and the editor of the Web site politconservatism.ru, told me. “This was done harshly.”

Putin’s speeches were full of hostility, lashing out at the West for betraying its promises, for treating Russia like a defeated “vassal” rather than a great country, for an inability to distinguish between right and wrong. He denounced the United States for its behavior in Hiroshima and Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, the Balkans and Libya. He cut off adoptions to America, claiming that “our” babies were being abused by cruel and heedless foreigners. The West was hypocritical, arrogant, self-righteous, and dissolute, according to Putin, so he strengthened his alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church to reëstablish “traditional Russian values.” He approved new laws on “non-traditional” sexual practices—the so-called “anti-gay propaganda” laws. When the feminist performance artists and political activists Pussy Riot burst into the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and performed their “Punk Prayer” (“Throw Putin Out!”), the system knew what to do: Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Church, denounced them for “blasphemy,” and the courts, an utterly dependent instrument of the Kremlin, handed down a Draconian sentence. More and more, Putin spoke about “traditional Russian values” and of the uniqueness of Russian “civilization,” a civilization that crossed borders.

An ideology, a world view, was taking shape: Putin was now putting Russia at the center of an anti-Western, socially conservative axis—Russia as a bulwark against a menacing America. “Of course, this is a conservative position,” he said in a speech last year, “but, speaking in the words of Nikolai Berdyayev, the point of conservatism is not that it prevents movement forward and upward but that it prevents movement backward and downward, into chaotic darkness and a return to a primitive state.”

One reason that McFaul was surprised by the assault on him is that he thought he was being careful in his ambassadorial role. He never went to demonstrations. He steered clear of Alexei Navalny.

Still, he was hardly a quiet American. Hillary Clinton had called for U.S. diplomats to use social media, and he was especially ardent, maintaining an active presence, in both Russian and English, on Facebook and Twitter. The young liberal intelligentsia loved McFaul for his openness, his availability. Putin’s people thought his behavior bewildering, adolescent, and hostile.

When Navalny was on trial for a trumped-up charge of embezzlement, McFaul addressed him directly: “I am watching.” And when street reporters stalked McFaul and tried to throw him off his stride, he had a tendency to confront, rather than finesse, his tormentors. Considering McFaul’s sometimes shaky grasp of the Russian idiom, this could make him look both volatile and unconfident.

One winter afternoon, he went to call on the human-rights campaigner Lev Ponomaryov, an old friend from the nineties, and he made the mistake of getting into an unruly debate with a “reporter” from NTV, one of the slavishly loyal television channels. He accused the reporter of somehow knowing his whereabouts through illegal surveillance: “Aren’t you ashamed?” At one point, he blurted out that his diplomatic rights had been violated, that Russia “turned out to be a dikaya strana”—a wild, an uncivilized, country. Later, on Twitter, he said, “I misspoke in bad Russian.” He had meant to say that NTV was behaving wildly. “I greatly respect Russia.” He told a reporter, “I’m not a professional diplomat.” It might not have helped that Navalny, Putin’s nemesis, stepped in and tweeted, “I don’t understand McFaul. He’s got diplomatic immunity. He can just lawfully beat up the NTV journalists. Come on, Mike!”

Another time, McFaul went on Twitter to announce in Russian that he was headed to “Yoburg” for an event. He intended a slangy way of saying Yekaterinburg. Unfortunately, yob is the root of the verb for copulation and his tweet came off as “I am headed to Fucksville.”

These awkward moments were gifts for Putin and his circle, who wanted nothing more than to keep McFaul, and, by extension, the Obama Administration, off balance. At one Kremlin reception, where Putin gave a toast in honor of national independence, a Russian friend told McFaul that he should “lay low,” and said, “You are really on thin ice.”

“What do you mean?” McFaul said.

“I saw Putin and he said, ‘What’s up with this guy? He seems like a real rabble-rouser.’ Putin’s message was to be very careful.”

At the Embassy, McFaul was writing deeply pessimistic memos to the White House about the direction of Russian-American relations. At night, he would go up the stairs and see Kennan’s photograph and wonder if he, too, would get expelled from Moscow.

When Obama was reëlected, in 2012, McFaul was among those who pressed him to visit Moscow, to see what business there was to do with Putin. “So the trains started rolling, we got dates, and our job was to develop a substantive agenda to make this worthwhile,” McFaul said. “This was the last push to try to engage on some of these issues, and it all struck out—arms control, missile defense. It got to be where I was having doubts whether the President should come. It looked like chickenshit to me. And I thought that would be a way worse optic than not coming at all.”

Then Edward Snowden arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong. The Russians greeted him with barely concealed delight. The summit was off. “And suddenly,” McFaul said, “we were in a different world.”

The imagery of Putinism, with its ominous warnings against political chaos and outside interference, has long been in evidence. All you have to do is watch television. In 2008, state television broadcast a cheesy docudrama called “The Destruction of an Empire: The Lesson of Byzantium,” which was hosted and produced by Tikhon Shevkunov, a Russian Orthodox priest whose church, the Sretensky Monastery, is just down the street from Lubyanka, K.G.B. headquarters. Shevkunov, who has known Putin for many years, is widely rumored to be the Russian President’s dukhovnik, his spiritual adviser. The film purports to be a history of the Byzantine Empire’s fall at the hands of the perfidious West, and not, as scholars have it, to the Ottoman Turks, who conquered Constantinople in 1453. The film is a crude allegory, in which, as the Byzantine historian Sergey Ivanov points out, Emperor Basil is an “obvious prototype of Putin, the wealthy man Eustathios is a hint at the jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, while Bessarion of Nicea is easily associated with another tycoon, Boris Berezovsky,” and so on. Shevkunov’s film was, in effect, about the need to resist Western influence and to shore up central authority in Russia.

Such phenomena are now common fare. The airwaves are filled with assaults on the treachery of Russian liberals and American manipulations. Dmitri Kiselyov, the head of Russia Today, Putin’s newly created information agency, and the host, on Sunday nights, of the TV magazine show “News of the Week,” is a masterly, and unapologetic, purveyor of the Kremlin line. With his theatrical hand gestures and brilliantly insinuating intonation, he tells his viewers that Russia is the only country in the world that can turn the U.S. into “radioactive dust,” that the anti-gay-propaganda laws are insufficiently strict, and that Ukraine is not a real country but merely “virtual.” When I remarked on his delivery, during a recent visit to his offices, Kiselyov was pleased: “Gestures go right to the subconscious without any resistance.”

In 1991, Kiselyov made a name for himself by refusing to go on the air and broadcast the Kremlin line about an attack on the Baltic independence movements, but now he is an enthusiastic, and often vicious, voice in defense of the state.

“I preserved the capacity to evolve,” he told me. “Back then, we believed we could build a democracy without a state. . . . People said, ‘So what, we will just be a collection of little Latvias.’ But society began to change, and I am a reflection of that change.”

Kiselyov worked as a broadcaster in Kiev during the Orange Revolution and recalls being sickened by the upheaval, which he says was sparked by insidious American interference. “Western journalism, in large part, reproduces values,” Kiselyov said. “When I saw the horror in Ukraine and I returned to Russia, I realized we need to produce values. . . . Putin didn’t make me this way. The Orange Revolution did.” As a master of theatrical sarcasm and apocalyptic rhetoric, Kiselyov eclipses Bill O’Reilly, and as a theoretician of conspiracy he shames Glenn Beck. He tells his viewers that, in Ukraine, fascists abound, the U.S. State Department underwrites revolution, and “life is not worth a single kopeck.” But he insists, “The presentation of me as a minister of propaganda is itself a form of propaganda.”

Although Kiselyov denies that he gets direct instructions from the Kremlin, he was appointed by Putin and is under no illusions about what is expected of him. When he goes on an anti-Semitic tirade against an opposition journalist or mocks American officials, he is doing what he was hired to do. He is a wily, cynical man, and well briefed. When we met, he quickly wanted me to know that he had somehow seen a film of a speech I’d given a couple of years ago in Moscow. “You mesmerized the public, you made them zombies!” he said, delighted with himself. “They looked at you the way they would a boa constrictor!”

When I noted that Putin’s tone had changed, he said, “I agree. Putin now talks more about ideology and about the system of values and the spiritual origins of Russia. In this sense, he, too, is a person of tardy development. He became President unexpectedly. He had no preparation for this role. He had to respond to challenges in the course of things. At first, he had to reconsolidate the state. Now he has inspired a new energy that can be drawn from the national character and the system of values that are rooted in our culture.”

Putin, Kiselyov has said on the air, “is comparable among his predecessors in the twentieth century only with Stalin.” He meant it as a compliment.

Nearly a quarter century after the fall of empire, Putin has unleashed an ideology of ressentiment. It has been chorussed by those who, in 1991, despaired of the loss not of Communist ideology but of imperial greatness, and who, ever since, have lived with what Russians so often refer to as “phantom-limb syndrome”: the pain of missing Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Baltic states; the pain of diminishment. They want revenge for their humiliation.

“People in the West twenty-five years ago were surprised by how calmly Russians seemed to absorb the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Boris Mezhuev, the conservative columnist, said. “It seemed to them as if we had voted on it! But in no time at all people were told that everything they had worked for was nonsense. They were told that the state they lived in was based on an unfair idea, that ideology was a myth, the West was only a friend—a complete reversal of ideas. The West underestimated the shock. Only now are we facing the consequences.”

There is an air of defiance, even a heedlessness, to Putin’s behavior. As the conservative commentator Stanislav Belkovsky put it to me, “It was clear that the actions in Crimea would lead to sanctions, capital flight, and a deterioration of Russia’s reputation, but nobody supporting the aggression thought twice. The imperial horn has been sounded. But we are a Third World kleptocracy hiding behind imperial symbols. There are no resources for a true imperial revival.”

Nevertheless, the voices of neo-imperialism are loud and prominently aired. One evening, I went to see Aleksandr Prokhanov, a far-right newspaper editor and novelist, whom I’ve known since the late eighties. In the Soviet period, he was known as the Nightingale of the General Staff, a writer commissioned to ride and chronicle the glories of nuclear subs and strategic bombers and to visit the Cold War battlefields of Kampuchea and Angola. He was a panegyrist of Stalin’s military-industrial state and the achievements of Sovietism. “No one,” he told me, “could describe a nuclear reactor like I could.”

Prokhanov loathed Gorbachev and Yeltsin—Gorbachev for his weakness and lack of regard for the Soviet system, Yeltsin for “hollowing out the state.” He not only favored the K.G.B.-led putsch against Gorbachev, in 1991; he was the principal author of an ominous manifesto, “A Word to the People,” shortly before Gorbachev was put under house arrest at his vacation home in Crimea and tanks rolled into the center of Moscow. He began publishing a newspaper called Dyen (the Day), which collected the fevered rants of all the forces in opposition to the democrats: imperial Stalinists, Russia-for-Russians nationalists, National Bolsheviks, ugly sorts who traced Russia’s troubles to “international Jewry,” Masonic conspiracy, George Soros, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Foundation. Somewhere along the line, the paper was relaunched as Zavtra (Tomorrow).

Prokhanov is now in his seventies. In the Yeltsin era, the “democratic” media rarely invited Prokhanov on the air. These days, the Nightingale sings brightly and nationally; he appears regularly on talk shows and prime-time debates, a deliberate attempt by the regime to give voice to ascendant, approved ideas. When a liberal is trotted out to debate him, viewers invariably vote in overwhelming numbers for Prokhanov’s arguments.

“I miss the nineties! They were the best!” he said with mock despair. “I was in the opposition and was alone battling against the system! Now I am part of the system.”

When I asked him if he wasn’t being exploited by the regime, he smiled indulgently.

“Everyone is being used, including yourself,” Prokhanov said. “We give the system a body, a shape. We’ve explained to the system why it’s great, why it’s in a condition of blooming, and that it exists because of God’s will. And the system has been enlivened by this.” Prokhanov admires, above all, Putin’s strength, as a matter of both image and policy.

Putin came to power thanks to Yeltsin, but Putin did not hesitate to put some distance between himself and his ailing patron. Bill Clinton, at the very end of his time in office, visited Putin at the Kremlin, and at one point in their time together Putin led Clinton on a tour of the vast and magnificent premises. (Compared with the Kremlin, the West Wing of the White House is as grand as an Ethan Allen furniture outlet.) First, they visited a gym, full of state-of-the-art equipment. “I spend a lot of time here,” Putin said, body-proud even then. They proceeded down a long hall to another room; this one was gloomy, abandoned, with a hospital bed, a respirator, a cart filled with medical paraphernalia. Putin turned to the President. “The previous resident spent a lot of time here,” he said.

Putin’s displays of shirtless virility may play as a joke abroad, but to supporters like Prokhanov strength and its projection are at the center of Putinism. “Putin prevented the disintegration of Russia,” Prokhanov said, echoing a widely held sentiment. “In him I saw the traits of a traditional Russian ruler. He struck out at the oligarchs who had controlled Yeltsin. They would pour some vodka for Yeltsin, get him drunk, and they ran the country. Putin destroyed the Yeltsin élite and created a new élite from the siloviki”—the leaders of the security services and the military.

During the anti-Putin protests two years ago, Prokhanov attended counter-demonstrations elsewhere in Moscow. “These young liberals wanted to get rid of Putin and practically send him to the fate of Qaddafi. There was an imbalance in political and ideological forces. The liberals dominated everywhere in mass media, culture, the economy, and Putin decided to correct this imbalance and so he began to grow the patriotic forces.”

Prokhanov could read the signals of encouragement, but he does not pretend to see Putin often. (“My connection to Putin is mystical. We meet each other in our dreams. Which is the best place. No one eavesdrops there.”) Together with members of other institutions associated with the Kremlin—the armed forces, the intelligence services, and the Russian Orthodox Church—he started an intellectual group called the Izborsky Club. In the nineties, Yeltsin had called on a group of intellectuals to help formulate a new “Russian idea,” one that relied largely on a liberal, Westernized conception of the nation. It went nowhere. Now, with such notions as “democracy” and “liberalism” in eclipse, groups like the Izborsky Club, Prokhanov says, are a “defense factory where we create ideological weapons to resist the West.” He said the group recently organized a branch in eastern Ukraine, led by the pro-Russian separatists. “The liberals used to be in charge in all spheres,” Prokhanov said. “Now we are crowding them out.”

According to ideologues like Prokhanov, the thousand-year shape of Russian history is defined by the rise, fall, and reassertion of empire. “These empires flower and become powerful and then they fall off a precipice and leave behind a black hole,” he said. “And in the black hole statehood disappears. But then the state reëmerges as the result of some sort of mysterious forces.” So far, Prokhanov explained, there have been four great empires. The first, a confederacy of princedoms with its center in Kiev, was invaded by the Tatars, in the thirteenth century. Then came the Moscovy tsardom, which featured the reign of Ivan the Terrible and was transformed into an empire by Peter the Great at the turn of the eighteenth century. Then came the three-hundred-year reign of the Romanovs, who gave way to the Bolsheviks in 1917. Finally, Prokhanov said, Stalin “took Russian statehood out of that black hole, put the state on its feet, built factories, produced scholars, and won the Great Patriotic War against Germany and conquered outer space.” That empire, the Soviet Union, crashed in 1991. Again, there was a ten-year-long black hole. “Yeltsin is the black hole of modern Russian history,” Prokhanov said. Under Putin, Russian statehood reëmerged. In his latest book, which Prokhanov gave me as a gift, he has a set piece addressed to Putin called “The Symphony of the Fifth Empire.”

Prokhanov is pleased to conclude that Russia is entering a prolonged war with the West—a cold war, possibly worse. “There is always danger of worse,” he said, “even worse than nuclear war—and that is soulless surrender.” Under Gorbachev and Yeltsin, he insisted, the West was, through its spies and diplomats, through its perfidious deals with weak Russian leaders, able to achieve its objective: the destruction of the state. The West, he said, “destroyed the Soviet Union without setting off a single bomb.”

Nothing has lifted the spirits of intellectuals like Prokhanov—and tens of millions of their countrymen—quite like Putin’s decision to flout international opinion and annex Crimea. Prokhanov pronounced himself “ecstatic” about it. One of his favorite writers for Zavtra, Igor Strelkov, is a former Russian intelligence agent who is leading the separatists in Donetsk, and is widely believed to be among those who bear responsibility for the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. On the day of the catastrophe, Prokhanov posted a veritable ode to Strelkov on the Zavtra Web site, saying that the Russian fight in eastern Ukraine was a battle for “divine justice” and comparing Strelkov—“Russian warrior, knight, perfect hero”—to the most fabled generals in national history. To Prokhanov, this glorification of an armed agent is only natural, the war for Ukraine a matter of highest principle.

“This is a great country with only arbitrary borders,” Prokhanov said. “People grabbed up our territory, chopped it up into bits. Some people got used to this state of affairs and didn’t notice that their extremities had been chopped off—including the very pleasant extremity between your legs—and so it was with Ukraine. . . . Russians had to choose: ruin their relationship with the West, which was the very axe that chopped Russia into bits in the first place, or act without fear, because now Russia has an axe of its own.”

“When you see what is going on in Iraq, you can see that America is powerless to respond,” Prokhanov went on. “America brought chaos to the Middle East. Al Qaeda has its own state. And now Obama doesn’t want to send bombers to destroy it. We poor Russians have to go destroy it. Aren’t you ashamed?”

Prokhanov is hardly an outlier on today’s ideological scene in Russia. Nor is the geopolitical theorist, mystic, and high-minded crackpot Aleksandr Dugin, who has published in Prokhanov’s newspapers. He was once as marginal as a Lyndon LaRouche follower with a card table and a stack of leaflets. He used to appear mainly on SPAS (Salvation), an organ of the Russian Orthodox Church. Now the state affords him frequent guest spots on official television.

Dugin is in his mid-fifties and wears a beard worthy of Dostoyevsky. His father, he says, “probably” worked for military intelligence. His parents divorced when he was three. He hated Soviet society. He hated his family. “I hated the world I was born into,” he said. As a teen-ager, he fell into a circle of eccentric kitchen intellectuals, young people who despised Communism and the West with equal fervor. “They were kind of loonies,” Dugin told me. He attended the Moscow Aviation Institute, but was thrown out for his anti-Soviet, far-right politics.

Dugin’s intellectual journey includes dalliances at various times with pagans, priests, monarchists, fascists, neo-Bolsheviks, and imperialists. He admires far-right European theorists like the Weimar conservative Carl Schmitt; he admires various strains of the European New Right. He is a follower of René Guénon, a French mid-century philosopher who espoused the doctrine that became known as Traditionalism, which bemoans the decline of man since Creation and rejects modernity and rationalism. His most powerful influence is the Eurasianists, who envisioned Russia as a unique civilization, neither European nor Asian, with its own “special destiny” and grandeur.

The world, for Dugin, is divided between conservative land powers (Russia) and libertine maritime powers (the U.S. and the U.K.)—Eternal Rome and Eternal Carthage. The maritime powers seek to impose their will, and their decadent materialism, on the rest of the world. This struggle is at the heart of history. For Dugin, Russia must rise from its prolonged post-Soviet depression and reassert itself, this time as the center of a Eurasian empire, against the dark forces of America. And this means war. Dugin rejects the racism of the Nazis, but embraces their sense of hierarchy, their romance of death. “We need a new party,” he has written. “A party of death. A party of the total vertical. God’s party, the Russian analogue to the Hezbollah, which would act according to wholly different rules and contemplate completely different pictures.”

For all of Dugin’s extremism, he has, in the past decade, found supporters in the Russian élite. According to the Israeli scholar Yigal Liverant and other sources, Dugin’s work is read in the Russian military academy. He has served as an adviser to Gennady Seleznyov, the former chairman of the Russian parliament. His Eurasia Movement, which was founded in 2001, included members of the government and the official media. He declared his “absolute” support for Putin, and when he pressed his political positions in public it was usually to take the most hard-line positions possible, particularly on Georgia and Ukraine. In 2008, he was appointed head of the Center for Conservative Studies at Moscow State University. Dugin used to brag that “Putin is becoming more and more like Dugin.” And indeed Putin speaks more and more in terms of Russian vastness, Russian exceptionalism, of Russia as a moral paradigm.

When I asked Dugin about his connection to, or influence over, Putin, though, Dugin carefully disavowed any “personal connection” to the President. “I doubt that he knows who I am,” he said. “My influence on politics is zero, on government zero. I am working only on my Platonic vision of things.” Yet the mystic chords of that vision have come to reverberate widely in Russian society.

Dugin began to visit the West in 1989. Even though he spent most of his time calling on like-minded leaders of the European New Right, such as Alain de Benoist, he loathed his time there. Paris and Berlin were, in 1989, “worse than the Soviet Union.” Commercialism had obliterated the European culture he loved and reduced its citizens to a state of profound “loneliness.” As for the Americans, he found them “honest and clear and pragmatic and very free, and they are not so corrupt or hypocritical or decadent as Europe—but they are absolutely wrong at the same time in the metaphysical sense. They have a cult of real evil there. What they have taken for the most important value—individuality—is absolutely wrong. . . . I think American society is simply insane.”

The day before I called on Dugin at his office, he had been mysteriously dismissed from his teaching post at the university. He had apparently gone too far. On the air, he had called on Russian forces to attack Ukraine with the full force of the Army—“Kill! Kill! Kill!”—and made it plain, on social media, that he was deeply disappointed in Putin’s decision to limit himself to the annexation of Crimea.

Dugin said that he conceived of Putin as a man divided within himself—“the solar Putin,” who is a Russian patriot and a fierce conservative, and “the lunar Putin,” who is “conformist” and pro-Western. Dugin is a sun worshipper. Only the invasion and annexation of Ukraine will satisfy him.

In the Moscow of Putin Redux, Michael McFaul could not hope to make many inroads. And with every week his and his family’s life in Moscow became more unnerving.

“They ran all kinds of operations against me,” McFaul told me when we met this winter at the Olympics, in Sochi. There were demonstrators outside Spaso and the American Embassy. Russians, presumably paid stooges, posted on social media that McFaul was everything from a spy to a pedophile. There were death threats. Russian intelligence agents occasionally followed McFaul in his car, and even showed up at his kids’ soccer games. The family felt under siege. “They wanted us to know they were there,” he said. “They went out of their way to make us feel their presence, to scare us.”

McFaul was pleased to see that some of his old friends—human-rights activists like Lev Ponomaryov—had remained steadfast friends and true to their principles, but many had sold themselves out for money or Kremlin favor. People he had first met in the pro-democracy movement more than twenty years ago were now feeding at the trough of authoritarian power and the various business conglomerates aligned with it: they were Kremlin officials and advisers, oil and gas magnates, highly obedient intellectuals. Sergei Markov, one of his closest friends from the old days, and a co-author with him of a book called “The Troubled Birth of Russian Democracy,” was now a Putin loyalist.

Markov, who speaks decent English, frequently goes on foreign television to make the Kremlin’s case. He has accused Blackwater of assassinating innocent Ukrainians at Maidan. He has said that Russian doctors were devising a “special medicine” to “cure” gays and lesbians and move them toward “normal sexuality.” He is always on call to attack Obama.

I knew Markov, too, when McFaul did, and I had a hard time believing that he had become so reactionary, so shameless. I asked him about his outlandish remarks about gays on television. Was it true what he had said—that Russian doctors were working on a “special” gay-reversal medicine?

“I will speak frankly,” he said. “Russian medicine is not working on this. But I don’t want to talk about gays—but every time they ask about gays! I personally believe homosexuality is part of a human mind’s nature. And I believe homosexuality is behind every human being’s nature, one per cent, two per cent, and it can develop under some circumstances. And I am very sorry, but I will make a strong comparison—it’s like sadism. Sadism is in every human’s psychology. But it can develop only under some circumstances. If someone becomes gay, it is also, I believe, bad for him. . . . Someone can say, ‘I am proud that I am gay.’ O.K., I can believe. But if they say, ‘I am happy I am gay,’ I don’t trust that. It just isn’t true.”

Markov holds a variety of academic and governmental advisory posts, and when I paid him a visit at his office he allowed that he was “a little bit” conspiratorial in his thinking these days. He said that “the international oligarchy—Soros, the Rockefellers, the Morgans—all these big, rich families and networks” were backing an attempt to topple Putin. “They want to take control of Russian gas and oil resources.” That there is such a conspiracy afoot is also “clear to Putin.”

Putin himself has not been reluctant to express his sense of such hidden intrigues. When Secretary of State John Kerry came to town for the first time, he and McFaul went together to see Putin. At one point, Putin stared at McFaul across the table and said, “We know that your Embassy is working with the opposition to undermine me.”

“What do you mean?” Kerry said.

“We know this,” Putin said.

“Putin didn’t want to go into details,” McFaul continued. “He stared right at me. . . . That kind of threatening, we-will-prevail look.”

On February 4th, McFaul announced that he would step down as Ambassador following the Sochi Olympics. Angered by the anti-gay-propaganda laws, the Obama Administration had scaled back its delegation to the event. They sent no top officials and made sure that the most prominent figures were gay athletes. When I had breakfast with McFaul in Sochi, he made it clear that he was keeping a low profile and leaving after just a few days. His family was waiting for him in Palo Alto. For such an easygoing guy, McFaul can show surprising flashes of temper and irritation. In Sochi, he just seemed sombre. He had lasted two years in Moscow, hardly a truncated term, and he had poured his heart into the job, but his ambassadorship had not been a success. It couldn’t have been, not when, in McFaul’s words, the U.S.-Russia relationship was “at its lowest point since the post-Soviet period began, in 1991.”

In March, after Putin annexed Crimea, McFaul wrote what he saw as his “Kennan” manifesto for the Times’ Op-Ed page. He endorsed the Administration’s policy—sanctions, isolation, expulsion from international organizations like the G-8—but he also admitted that the U.S. “does not have the same moral authority as it did in the last century.” He recalled that when he was Ambassador and challenged his Russian interlocutors on issues of international law and a commitment to sovereignty, he was met with “What about Iraq?” And, in a subtle jab at Obama, he wrote, “We are enduring a drift of disengagement in world affairs. After two wars, this was inevitable, but we cannot swing too far. As we pull back, Russia is pushing forward.”

A few months after our meeting in Sochi, I went to see McFaul in Palo Alto. We rode around town in his car. It smelled as if he had bought it last week. His offices—he has three of them, for various bureaucratic reasons—overflowed with books that now seem superfluous: endless volumes on the perestroika years, books about transitions to democratic governance. I glanced at the book McFaul had published with Sergei Markov and remarked on how much Markov had changed.

“When I met him, he was against the status quo, he was for change,” McFaul said. “He was for social democracy. But, remember, they hadn’t had decades to discuss ideas. They were against the regime—that was the main thing, being against. This happens in lots of transitions: a coalition against Them. And then what they are for gets worked out in the post-revolutionary phase. That’s natural and normal. What’s a little more depressing are those others who get bought out and co-opted for financial reasons.”

Although McFaul feels a deep sense of outrage about Putin, he also understood the mind-set of resentment and conspiracy. “I didn’t go to foment revolution,” he said. “I went to take the reset to the next stage. That was my mandate.” He added, “Obama people don’t sponsor color revolutions. Other Administrations had done this. Has the U.S. used covert operations to foment regime change? The answer is yes. I don’t want to get in trouble or go to jail, but has the U.S. supported the opposition to bring about political change? Serbia is a paradigmatic case: direct money to the opposition to destabilize things, and it was successful.” He also cited the overthrow of Mossadegh, in 1953, in Iran, and the support for the Nicaraguan Contras.

“Putin has a theory of American power that has some empirical basis,” McFaul went on. “He strongly believes this is a major component of U.S. foreign policy. He has said it to the President, to Secretary Kerry. He even believes we sparked the Arab Spring as a C.I.A. operation. He believes we use force against regimes we don’t like. . . . By the way, he damn well knows that the government of the Soviet Union used covert support. He worked for one of the instruments of that policy. He really does kind of superimpose the way his system works onto the way he thinks our system works. He grossly exaggerates the role of the C.I.A. in the making of our foreign policy. He just doesn’t get it. Or maybe he does get it and doesn’t portray it that way. I struggle with that: is he really super-clever and this is his psych op, or does he believe it? I think he does believe that we are out to get him.”

Last month, Obama named a new Ambassador to Moscow: John Tefft, a career diplomat who has been Ambassador to Ukraine, Lithuania, and Georgia. This is a geography that will not necessarily enamor Tefft to the Kremlin.

On July 4th, I went with some Russian friends to Spaso House for the annual Independence Day party. The place was filled with hundreds of guests, diplomats from the other embassies, Russian officials, members of the downtrodden opposition. McFaul loved throwing these parties. He loved the jazz and blues bands he got to play in the back yard, the talk over the buffet tables, the intrigue, the conversation, the promise of it all. I sent McFaul an e-mail saying I’d somehow never been to Spaso and found the scale of the place shocking.

“The scale is shocking indeed,” he wrote back from Palo Alto. “Big downgrade to our place here at Stanford. I saw photos and got emails from people at July 4th, which made me very nostalgic.”

On July 17th, a surface-to-air missile shot Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 out of the air over the Donetsk region of Ukraine, killing almost three hundred men, women, and children. Western and Ukrainian intelligence agencies agree that the evidence implicates pro-Russian separatist forces in the region, which are funded, directed, and supported by Vladimir Putin, in Moscow.

Prokhanov and Dugin were entirely in tune with the reigning propaganda. All blame lay with Obama and the “illegal regime” in Kiev. “America did this—with a hand from Ukraine,” Prokhanov told me. “How could it be otherwise? A catastrophe like this helps America, not Russia. It serves to demonize Novorossiya and the forces there. It demonizes them to look like Al Qaeda. It brings us back to the sort of moment when Ronald Reagan called us the ‘evil empire.’ It tightens the international noose on Russia and it brings powerful pressure to bear on Putin, pressure designed to break his will. And, by blaming this on us, it helps our liberal intelligentsia consolidate their forces, the way the Orange Revolution and the Bolotnaya demonstrations did. There is a history to such conspiracies. Or have you forgotten your General Colin Powell at the U.N. with his ‘evidence’ and his theories about Saddam Hussein?”

McFaul is trying to enjoy his return to paradisal Palo Alto. His wife, Donna, is happier now that the family is no longer followed by spies and hostile reporters. The boys are spending long summer days at leisure. But McFaul can’t fully escape the tragic course of things.

“Just when I thought relations between the U.S. and Russia couldn’t get any lower, this tragedy happened,” McFaul said. “Of course, Putin could use this tragedy/accident/terrorist attack to distance himself from the insurgents that he has been supporting. It gives him a face-saving out. He could say, ‘They went too far, enough is enough. Time now to get serious about deëscalation and negotiation.’ I assign this possible outcome a small probability. More likely is that he will not change his course, the U.S. will then increase sanctions, and the war will continue. Neither scenario, however, offers a way to reverse this negative trajectory in U.S.-Russia relations. I really don’t see a serious opening until after Putin retires, and I have no idea when that will be.”

“In the long run, I am still very optimistic about Russia and Russians,” he went on. “In my two years as Ambassador, I just met too many young, smart, talented people who want to be connected to the world, not isolated from it. They also want a say in the government. They are scared now, and therefore not demonstrating, but they have not changed their preferences about the future they want. Instead, they are just hiding these preferences, but there will be a day when they will express them again. Putin’s regime cannot hold these people down forever. I do worry about the new nationalism that Putin has unleashed, and understand that many young Russians also embrace these extremist ideas. I see it on Twitter every day. But, in the long run, I see the Westernizers winning out. I just don’t know how long is the long run.”

David Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker since 1998 and a staff writer since 1992.


More on Allegations of Russian Violation of INF Treaty

Congressman Clarifies U.S. INF Concerns
Tom Z. Collina
Arms Control Today | June 2014

A U.S. congressman provided new details in late April about the Obama administration’s allegation that Russia may be breaching a key U.S.-Russian arms control treaty, stating that Moscow may have tested a cruise missile from a prohibited launcher.

At a joint April 29 hearing of two House Foreign Affairs Committee panels, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said that Russia claims to have tested an intermediate-range missile for use at sea, which is allowed under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, but that Moscow used “what appears to be an operational, usable ground-based launcher,” which is not allowed. Sherman said that “it appears as if [the Russians] were developing a ground-based capacity for this intermediate missile.”

The INF Treaty permanently bans U.S. and Russian ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles capable of traveling 500 to 5,500 kilometers; it does not cover sea-based missiles. According to the treaty, a cruise missile can be developed for use at sea if it is test-launched “from a fixed land-based launcher which is used solely for test purposes and which is distinguishable from” operational ground-based cruise missile launchers.

Testing an intermediate-range cruise missile from a ground-based launcher that is not distinguishable from operational launchers, as well as testing from a mobile launcher, would be a violation of the treaty.

Sherman said that Russia is allowed to test sea-launched cruise missiles from a ground-based launcher unless “that ground-based launcher would be the effective launcher to use in case hostilities broke out.”

Anita Friedt, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for nuclear and strategic policy, said at the hearing that the United States has “very serious concerns” that “Russia is developing a ground-launched cruise missile that is inconsistent with” the INF Treaty. She did not confirm or deny Sherman’s description of the alleged violation.

The State Department made its concerns public for the first time in January after months of speculation. (See ACT, March 2014.) The Obama administration is expected to release its annual report on arms control compliance, including a determination on Russia’s possible INF violation, in the near future.

In May 9 comments to the Defense Writers Group, Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said she would not expect the issue “to drag on for years” and that it was “ripe for resolution.”

Conservatives in the House of Representatives are seeking to use Russia’s actions on the INF Treaty to block other arms control agreements. On May 22, the House voted 233-191 to approve an amendment to the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that would prevent funding for implementation of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) until Russia “is no longer taking actions that are inconsistent with the INF Treaty,” among other conditions.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who sits on the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, introduced the amendment, which was supported by seven Democrats and 226 Republicans.

The Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the defense bill May 22 with a provision requiring the secretary of defense to notify the Senate of potential violations of arms control agreements.

Some Republican senators have criticized the administration for its handling of the potential INF Treaty violation, saying the executive branch withheld information that was relevant to the Senate debate on New START in late 2010. The administration has said it did provide information on the alleged breach during that time. (See ACT, April 2014.)

At the April 29 hearing, neither Sherman nor the State Department identified what type of cruise missile Russia might be testing or the type of launcher, but unconfirmed reports have focused on Russia’s R-500 Iskander-K. That system, reportedly first tested in 2007, would use a road-mobile launcher, as the Iskander-M does. The latter is a short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile that Russia has said it plans to deploy near NATO member countries in response to U.S. missile defense plans. (See ACT, January/February 2014.)

Previous reports had focused on Russia’s RS-26 ballistic missile, which Moscow has reportedly flight-tested at intermediate ranges. But because the RS-26 has also been tested at ranges greater than 5,500 kilometers, it is considered by both sides to be an intercontinental ballistic missile and therefore covered and allowed by New START.

Regarding this allegation, Sherman said at the hearing that “it seems clear it is a long-range missile” and thus not covered by the INF Treaty.



Moscow may walk out of nuclear treaty after US accusations of breach
Russia said to be on point of leaving 1987 treaty, after Obama administration said it violated the accord with tests of R-500
Alec Luhn in Moscow and Julian Borger
theguardian.com | Tuesday 29 July 2014

Russia may be on the point of walking out of a major cold war era arms-control treaty, Russian analysts have said, after President Obama accused Moscow of violating the accord by testing a cruise missile.

There has been evidence at least since 2011 of Russian missile tests in violation of the 1987 intermediate range nuclear forces (INF) treaty, which banned US or Russian ground-launched cruise missiles with a 500 to 5,500-mile (805 to 8,851km) range. But the Obama administration has been hesitant until now of accusing Moscow of a violation in the hope that it could persuade Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, to stop the tests or at least not deploy the weapon in question, known as the Iskander, or R-500.

Washington has also been reticent because of the technical differences in definition of what constitutes the range of a missile under the INF treaty. That ambiguity now seems to have dropped away. According to Pavel Felgenhauer, a defence analyst and columnist for the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Russia has indeed broken the treaty by testing the R-500 which has a range of more than 1,000km.

"Of course, this is in gross violation of the 1987 treaty, but Russian officials including Putin have said this treaty is unfair and not suitable for Russia," Felgenhauer said. "The United States doesn’t have [medium-range missiles] but other countries do have them, such as China, Pakistan and Israel, so they say this is unfair and wrong."

Russian press reports have suggested the missile may even be in deployment, with state news agency RIA Novosti reporting in June that the "Russian army currently uses its Iskander-M and Iskander-K variants." Felgenhauer said he doesn’t believe the missile has been deployed, although he said it’s entirely possible that Russia will leave the treaty amid tensions with the US.

"The present situation of a new cold war in Europe – and not even cold, at least not in Ukraine right now – it’s a situation in which Russia can abrogate the 1987 treaty, and the possibilities are rather high," Felgenhauer said.

Russian officials have previously criticised the 1987 treaty, including former defence minister Sergei Ivanov. In 2013, Ivanov, then presidential chief of staff, said of the treaty: "We are fulfilling it, but it can’t last forever."

According to Kremlin-linked analyst Sergei Markov, Russia has a far greater need for medium-range cruise missiles than the |US, because military rivals including China are located near its borders and because Moscow lacks the Americans’ long-range bombing capabilities.

"Russia would be happy to leave this agreement, and I think Russia is using the Ukraine crisis to leave the agreement," Markov said.

As for Russia’s complaints about US aegis missiles, Felgenhauer said they reflect the genuine belief among Kremlin top brass that the US missile defence has a secret attack capability and poses a threat to Russia.

"This was a normal Soviet practice that missile interceptors had the in-built capability to be used as an attack missile," Felgenhauer said.



Allegation of INF Treaty Violation Part of US’s Anti-Russia Campaign – military expert

MOSCOW, July 29, 2014 (RIA Novosti) – Russia has never violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, unlike the United States, which has repeatedly ignored the provisions of this document while running anti-missile tests, Igor Krotchenko, a member of the Russian Defence Ministry’s Public Council, told RIA Novosti Tuesday.

“Washington’s accusations on Russia of violating the INF Treaty appear to be politically engaged. They are a part of the massive anti-Russian campaign, currently waged by the US authorities, ” Krotchenko said.

Krotchenko also pointed out that the United States has been violating this treaty “on a regular basis,” explaining, “It should be noted that while accusing Russia, the United States violates the provisions of this treaty on a regular basis, while running anti-missile tests.”

Lt. Gen. Evgeny Buzhinsky, former head of the Russian Defence Ministry’s international cooperation department, agrees with Krotchenko. Buzhinsky believes that the accusations are another stage in information warfare.

“We haven’t violated anything … This is a normal work-related issue. We accuse them too,” said Buzhinsky, reminding that there is an official protocol that the United States needs to follow in order to get the Russia’s official explanations on the matter. “Everything else is just waging information warfare,” he added.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) is a 1987 agreement between the United States and the USSR to eliminate the use of nuclear and conventional missiles with intermediate range, defined as 500 to 5,000 kilometers (310 to 3,100 miles).

The accusations on Russia of breaking the agreement first appeared in a The New York Times article published Monday. According to the newspaper, the violation was for cruise missile tests dating back to 2008.


Allegations of Russian Violation of INF Treaty

State Department Daily Press Briefing – 29 July 2014 [Excerpt on Russia INF Violation]
29 July 2014

U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Daily Press Briefing Index
1:28 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Jen Psaki, Spokesperson


TUESDAY, JULY 29, 2014

1:28 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. It’s pink tie day in the second row. I like it.

QUESTION: It is indeed. It had to be worn.

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) I have a couple of items for all of you at the top. We also are departing for India shortly, so I ask that let’s try to get through everyone’s questions if we can.

Today, the Administration submitted the 2014 Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments to the Congress. This report covers the year 2013. The Administration takes compliance very seriously, and has submitted a report to Congress covering every year of the Administration as well as the years 2005 through 2008. The report is a product of the Administration’s rigorous compliance review process and reflects the concurrence of the Departments of Energy and Defense, including the Joint Staff, as well as coordination with the intelligence community.

In the report, the United States determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF Treaty as you all know it – obligations not to possess, produce or flight test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 to 5,500 kilometers; or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles. This is a very serious matter, which we have attempted to address with Russia for some time now. The United States is committed to the viability of the INF Treaty. We encourage Russia to return to compliance with its obligations under the treaty and to eliminate any prohibited items in a verifiable manner.

The INF Treaty serves the mutual security interests of the parties, not just the United States and Russia, but also the 11 other successor states of the former Soviet Union, which are also states parties to the treaty and bound by its obligations. Moreover, this treaty contributes to the security of our allies and to regional security in Europe and in the Middle East – and in the Far East, sorry.

The Administration will work to resolve the compliance issues outlined in the report through bilateral and multilateral means. A step that can be taken right away by the Senate is the confirmation of Frank Rose, who has been nominated to be Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance. This lifelong public servant has worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations and he has been waiting for over a year. It is vitally important that he is confirmed without further delay. We need to underscore to the world the seriousness with which we take compliance by having our senior compliance officer in place. He will also need to be in place so we can work to resolve outstanding issues in this report. The unclassified report will be available online later this afternoon.

The Secretary also spoke this morning with Foreign Minister Lavrov. They discussed Russia’s violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty. He said the United States would like to discuss the issue in a senior-level bilateral dialogue immediately. Foreign Minister Lavrov said he would consult and respond to the request soon.


QUESTION: All right. And then just on the INF violations, you said that you take these violations extremely seriously and you need to have your assistant secretary confirmed, that that underscores the seriousness with which the Administration takes these violations. If the Administration takes these violations so seriously, why did it take until now for you guys to report these violations —

MS. PSAKI: Well —

QUESTION: — or to make the allegation that they had been —

MS. PSAKI: — let me first note, just – this doesn’t answer your question, but I think it’s relevant information. We first raised this issue with Russia last year. That happens at Rose’s level, which is the appropriate level – at the under secretary level.

There is – decisions need to be made in these cases based on whether these issues constitute noncompliance after a careful fact-based process, which includes diplomatic work, and through an interagency consideration process. That’s been ongoing. As it was concluded, the information is made available to Congress.

QUESTION: Do you have any concerns because of this that the – that more of the arms control regimes that the United States had had with the Soviet Union and then continued on with the Russian Federation are in jeopardy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think one of the reasons the Secretary wants to have a dialogue at a high level is to have a discussion about how Russia can come back into compliance. And —

QUESTION: But I’m talking about with other treaties, not just specifically this one.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think —

QUESTION: Or is there a risk that the entire regime, everything that’s been built up – that was built up beginning in the Cold War and then carrying on after 1991 – is there a risk of that collapsing?

MS. PSAKI: At this point, we have not made a determination that Russia is in violation of the treaty or any other treaty. We certainly are —

QUESTION: Of any other treaty?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, this wasn’t —

QUESTION: You’re saying they’re in violation of the INF, but of any other treaty?

MS. PSAKI: Noncompliance, yes. But our goal is to convince Russia to return to compliance and to preserve the viability of this relationship and the efforts that have been underway for decades now.

QUESTION: What are the consequences for violation or noncompliance?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, I think our immediate focus here is, Elise, is on having this dialogue with them to return them to compliance. It’s in everyone’s interests for – to preserve the work that’s been done over the past several decades.

QUESTION: And are you concerned that this will be seen kind of in the totality of what’s going on with Russia right now, that between your determination of noncompliance and your consultation with NATO allies about it, that Russia will see this as part of a kind of broader escalation of the tensions, and perhaps, as Matt said, this could affect their cooperation on nonproliferation regime?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our hope is that it certainly wouldn’t, because it’s in everyone’s interest to continue to abide by these treaty obligations. To be clear, this has nothing to do with Ukraine. I understand there could be that perception, and the timing is unrelated to everything having to do with Ukraine. There’s a process that is undergone to review whether there is noncompliance, and that was completed, so here we are today.

QUESTION: But you completed that process a while ago, though, didn’t you? I mean, you’ve known for a while that Russia was potentially in noncompliance of the treaty, and it’s just that —

MS. PSAKI: Well, we —

QUESTION: — now you finally, maybe because this congressional report was coming up or – I mean, if you could talk about the timing a little bit more, because we reported on this earlier in the year that this was hanging out there.

MS. PSAKI: This – and we confirmed at the time —

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: — that this issue was first raised with Russia —


MS. PSAKI: — last year.


MS. PSAKI: And the Secretary himself has raised noncompliance issues in general with Russia.


MS. PSAKI: There’s a process that’s undergone with the report every time it’s released. I believe the report is technically due in the spring. You have to go through the process, which includes analysis, an interagency process, a diplomatic process, and as it’s concluded, we make the information available.

QUESTION: Did you – was part of the determination because your diplomatic outreach to Russia was proving unproductive, and at this point, given the climate with Russia, you didn’t think you were going to get any more cooperation? Because I know you did try to solve it diplomatically before putting them in noncompliance.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, there are a range of factors, Elise. I’m just not going to go into them in more detail.

I have to go in just a few minutes.

QUESTION: Just a couple on Russia.

MS. PSAKI: Lucas, go ahead. And then we’ll go to —

QUESTION: When did these violations specifically take place of these test ban treaties?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t get into that level of detail, Lucas.




Putin’s Treaty Problem: The Lessons of Russia’s INF Treaty Violations
Thomas Karako
CSIS | Jul 29, 2014

On September 11, 2013, Vladimir Putin penned an op-ed in the New York Times, objecting to possible intervention in Syria on the principled basis of international law and sovereignty: “The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not.” Months later, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea and continues to sponsor rebel forces in eastern Ukraine. This of course contravenes Russia’s international law treaty obligations under the UN Charter, as well as its political obligations under the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.

A formal letter to Putin from President Obama now confirms what Congress has been saying for years: that Russia has also been violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which prohibits all ground-launched missiles with ranges from 500 to 5,500 kilometers. Reports of alleged Russian violations have long been filtering out in both the Russian and American press.

Some arms control commentators initially scoffed at the warnings, writing them off as frivolous accusations by hawkish legislators and overzealous journalists. On the basis of extensive classified information and confirmation by the Departments of State and Defense, the House of Representatives in May declared Russia in “material breach” of the treaty. At a July 17 House Armed Services Committee hearing, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer suggested that Russia’s INF missile tests were part of a larger and “disturbing pattern of disregard for international agreements.”

Those who scoffed should now take the lesson to heart. For one thing, we should reconsider giving Russia the benefit of the doubt for faithful treaty implementation. The old maxim for the Soviets still applies to Russia: trust but verify. Numerous questions remain about Russia’s compliance with the 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives, the U.S. definition of obligations under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the Biological Weapons Convention, to say nothing of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty now honored in the breach.

INF accomplished something that had never been done before. Some 2,692 intermediate-range nuclear-armed missiles were destroyed, including the multiwarhead Soviet SS-20, the American Pershing II, and an American ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM). By reducing threats of surprise and preemptive attack, the treaty defused tension, helped reassure NATO allies, and improved strategic stability.

By 2011, U.S. officials concluded that Russia had probably violated INF, but curiously the State Department omitted any mention of concern in its annual arms control compliance reports to Congress. Nor, apparently, was the Senate informed about concerns prior to ratifying New START. When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was finally briefed about the missile in November 2012, then-Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is said to have been frustrated, reportedly saying that, “We’re not going to pass another treaty in the U.S. Senate if our colleagues are sitting up there knowing somebody is cheating.” After receiving the 2014 compliance report, Congress should ask why it took so long to report and protest the violations.

Sadly, Russia’s record also calls into question prospects for a post–New START agreement to limit or even inspect Russia’s stockpile of some 2,000 nonstrategic nuclear weapons, which have never been regulated under any treaty regime. Such reductions could well benefit the United States, but unilateral reductions and unverifiable Russian promises may not. Russia’s pattern of noncompliance should inform assumptions about what constitutes sufficient verification measures for future arms control agreements and, indeed, for future reviews of the U.S. nuclear posture.

Russia’s apparent “soft-exit” strategy of quiet violation tries to have it both ways—getting the benefits of being outside the treaty while still constraining the United States. Russian officials have complained about INF for years, on the grounds that they are now surrounded by a number of countries with these same capabilities—China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Israel. Similar complaints about conventional inferiority led to Russia’s noncompliance with CFE. This of course raises the question: what should the United States do if INF goes the way of CFE?

The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review declared that “it is not enough to detect non-compliance; violators must know that they will face consequences when they are caught.” Speaking in Prague in 2009, President Obama declared that “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” The State Department’s 2010 Verifiability Assessment for New START likewise indicated that arms control violations merited “significant” sanctions and “financial and international political costs” for “Russian cheating or breakout.” What, then, will those consequences be?

Obama’s letter to Putin reportedly notes that the United States will not violate the treaty by deploying currently prohibited INF-range systems. For the time being, this is a measured step. Trying to preserve INF while hedging against its termination could conceivably provide some constraint on additional Russian missiles. For now, the United States should not make it easy on Russia by taking it upon itself to terminate INF on Russia’s behalf. If Russia feels that it really needs INF-proscribed missiles, it should bear the onus of coming out and saying so. Assuming Russia mouths support for the treaty, reinstating INF’s intrusive inspections might be one way to verify compliance.

Cajoling Russia on INF will be hard, but several steps should be taken in the meantime. For one, the United States should exercise its right to call for a special meeting of the INF Treaty’s Special Verification Commission, which has not met since 2003. The State Department’s arms control report might also be supplemented with an appendix describing the violations in more detail, which conclusions could then be circulated widely among allies and partners.

The Pentagon should also begin exploring the feasibility of capabilities in the absence of the INF Treaty. A September 2013 report by STRATCOM and the Joint Chiefs described the “capability gap” for the United States under the INF treaty and several possible responses if the INF were to lapse. Those steps could include systems to hold at risk threats from Iran, North Korea, and China—and Russian’s own intermediate-range systems. Possibilities include an improved Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and using the Vertical Launch System planned for Aegis Ashore in Europe to host land-attack cruise missiles. In today’s budget environment, investment in shiny new “Pershing IIIs” seems unlikely. Land basing for existing sea-launched missiles, expanded missile defense deployments, and extended range guided artillery, however, might be easier and more desirable.

Russia also should be reminded that building INF-range missiles is likely to stimulate further interest in Europe-based missile defenses about which they so frequently and bitterly complain. In March, the Missile Defense Agency director testified that minor changes could make Aegis Ashore capable of cruise missile defense.

No one is yet recommending that these be deployed, but studying these options is fully consistent with the treaty. As arms control, INF originally benefited the United States because it exacted a relatively greater disadvantage to the Soviets. Whether or not we are better off in the absence of INF depends on a realistic assessment of whether the United States will end up relatively advantaged by actually fielding defenses and other currently proscribed systems.

“Whether [they] like it or not,” to use Putin’s phrase, Russia is obligated to honor its international agreements. The now-acknowledged INF violations, however, are the latest in Russia’s long pattern of dishonoring treaties. U.S. policymakers should respond firmly through diplomatic and other means, take concrete steps to hedge against formal or informal treaty lapse, and finally take to heart the lessons learned about Russia’s troubling arms control record.

Thomas Karako is a visiting fellow with the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.



Is Russia Violating the INF Treaty?
A technical and political analysis
Nikolai Sokov, Miles A. Pomper
The National Interest | February 11, 2014

Is Russia violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty? Press reports have suggested that this is the case, and top Republican legislators are demanding that it act. "We believe it is imperative that Russian officials not be permitted to believe they stand to gain from a material breach of this or any other treaty”—so wrote House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.).

Such allegations create a highly challenging situation. They will likely further worsen the bilateral US-Russian relationship, which is already at a low point; they are bound to further weaken the prospects of additional reductions of nuclear weapons; and they could complicate President Obama’s efforts to win congressional support for his Iran policy and a key arms control nominee.

There are two allegations. The first concerns the new Yars (RS-26) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which was apparently launched more than once at a distance below the upper limit of the INF treaty (The INF Treaty banned all US and Soviet/Russian land-based missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km). While these tests can cause concern, they do not constitute a violation: RS-26 is, without doubt, a strategic missile (i.e., with a range greater than 5,500 km), and there are no provisions in any existing treaty that prohibit tests to the range below the maximum. The flight tests in question were apparently to assess the defense penetration capabilities of the new missile and thus used the Sary Shagan test range, which specializes in missile defense issues. The second allegation, which has become public recently, concerns an unidentified ground-launched cruise missile. The US Government has reportedly raised these tests with the Russians a number of times, but they have termed it a nonissue and refused to respond further; on January 17, 2014 the United States informed its NATO allies about the concern. A State Department spokesperson clarified, however, that the case was still under review and had not yet been classified as a violation.

The issue of INF compliance encompasses three separate, but closely related strands. One is technical—the substance of allegations, the properties of the missiles in question, and verification issues. Another relates to arms control and strategic concerns—how the INF treaty provisions fit or don’t fit into the Russian national-security strategy. The third is politics—the reasons why allegations about treaty noncompliance continue to surface in public debate and the likely consequences for US foreign policy.

Technical Aspects: The Nature of Concern

The technical issues are a complex maze of engineering, military and legal details. As noted above, Russian tests of the RS-26 ICBM do not represent a violation: nothing in any existing arms-control treaty prohibits tests at reduced ranges. The absence of a lower limit on flight tests of strategic weapons is a heritage of Cold War approaches to arms control: during that time, parties were mostly concerned about maximum capability of weapons systems, be it range or the number of warheads that could be placed on delivery vehicles. There is also a technical reason—it is impossible to prevent failed launches, which could be classified as violations if a minimum distance for test flights is established.

The situation with the new allegation, that of testing a new ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with to an intermediate range (the INF Treaty bans land-based missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km) is more difficult to assess because no tangible details have been publicly revealed. Ballistic missiles which often employ similar rockets to those used for space programs travel a curved trajectory, ascending using their fuel then returning to earth because of gravity; cruise missiles are guided missiles which use fuel throughout their flights and are akin to aerial torpedoes . One likely candidate for the role of the suspicious cruise missile is the R-500, the cruise missile associated with the Iskander system, which was first developed with a ballistic missile.

Iskander was created to replace the SS-23 Oka missile system, which was eliminated under the INF Treaty. The decision to eliminate Oka created an uproar from Soviet military officials who claimed that the range of that system was just below 500 km (450-470 km) and that former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had made such a major concession to the United States without their support . Iskander has the same range as Oka, that is, just below five hundred kilometers, and thus does not violate the INF Treaty. However, there are serious suspicions that its range could be increased if necessary: according to a report by the National Defense University of Finland,[1] at the range-optimizing trajectory the ballistic version of Iskander could have the range of six hundred and perhaps even seven hundred kilometers; the R-500 cruise missile, which has been tested to the range of 360 km, is believed to have a maximum range “several times longer.” If, as many suggest, R-500 is an extension of the Granat (SS-N-21) naval surface-to-surface cruise missile, then it could theoretically have a longer range, indeed.

If the cruise missile referred to by the leak, is, indeed, the R-500, the allegations about possible violation can point at several possibilities:

■ The United States could have detected one or more tests conducted to the range in excess of five hundred kilometers;

■ The United States could have made a measurement error—such measurements have to be conducted by national technical means and thus may be insufficiently precise;

■ Finally, American measurements might be based on the calculation of the range-optimizing trajectory while the Russian data proceeds from the actual operational trajectory, which includes two-dimensional maneuvers to avoid detection and interception by missile defense systems (the operational range could then be below five hundred kilometers while the range-optimizing trajectory could be greater).

In any of these cases, the excess range (above five hundred kilometers) would likely be small and have little or no strategic difference. In that case, the R-500 controversy will likely end up as one of more than a dozen of unresolved implementation issues, which are an unavoidable element of the arms control and reduction process. Indeed, Russia has its own share of complaints about the U.S. record.

There are also a few less likely options. The test, for example could have been of SS-N-21 Granat. Available information suggests that these sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) have been withdrawn from submarines and are stored on shore. At the same time, Russian military regularly tests old, Soviet-produced weapons systems to confirm that they can perform up to specifications. For a variety of reasons, it might be convenient to launch it from land rather from a naval platform. There is also a joint Russian-Indian cruise missile project, BrahMos II, which is intended for a variety of platforms, including on land, but this work is still in early stages.

Or Russia could have tested a new GLCM system with a range well above the five hundred kilometer limit. A full assessment of the strategic and arms control implications of such a system would be difficult to gauge without at least elementary information. Yet, the fact that the State Department has refrained from classifying this case as a violation and instead insisted it was a concern that requires additional assessment and consultations, suggests that a new long-range GLCM (i.e., well above five hundred kilometers) unlikely. Meanwhile, an assessment of Russian arms control and strategic behavior indicates that is unlikely Russia would cheat on the agreement to increase the missile’s range by a mere one hundred or so kilometers.

Arms Control Aspects: The Attitude Toward the INF Treaty in Russia

Opposition to the INF Treaty on part of many influential figures among Russia’s decision-making elite is well known. In 2005, Sergey Ivanov, a close associate of Vladimir Putin and at the time the Minister of Defense, raised the prospect of Russian withdrawal from the INF treaty with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; an ensuing debate in Moscow concluded with a decision not to withdraw, but the idea resurfaces from time to time. The main justification is the development of intermediate-range missiles in countries to the south of Russia—China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, and others. One can say that the fate of the INF Treaty in Russia continues to hang on a very thin thread.

Some have suggested that Russian coolness to the INF Treaty can explain an attempt to quietly circumvent or even violate it. Rather, the opposite is more likely: if Moscow decides the INF Treaty is in the way of R&D programs it considers vital, it will hardly hesitate to withdraw.

At the heart of Russian security strategy is deterring the possible use of high-precision conventional weapons (such as Navy Tomahawk missiles) by the United States and NATO along the lines of wars in Kosovo, Iraq, and elsewhere others over the last decade and a half. Russia’s 2000 Military Doctrine relied on limited use of nuclear weapons against airbases and command and control centers to counter that perceived threat. Reliance on nuclear weapons, however, has been from the very beginning regarded as a stopgap measure until the country develops a modern conventional-deterrence capability. Iskanders appear to fill one of the gaps in such conventional capability (there has been no evidence that Russia has tested these missiles for nuclear warheads, although theoretically this remains a possibility) and in this sense play a vital role in covering a range of potential targets without the threat of a nuclear strike.

If deployed in Kaliningrad oblast, an exclave of Russian territory between Poland and Lithuania, Iskander missiles with the range of approximately five hundred kilometers can reach targets throughout nearly all of Poland and the Baltic states—the area that represents one of the possible staging grounds for NATO strikes. Increasing their range by one hundred or even two hundred kilometers will not radically change that situation.

Therefore, it seems logical that if Russia chose to deploy land-based intermediate-range missiles it would aim at a qualitative leap—acquiring systems with 1,000-1,500 km range. That would allow Russia to put at risk not only more of the European theater also the additional countries to Russia’ south.

Withdrawal from the INF Treaty will hardly constitute a major challenge, if that treaty stands in the way of a capability that Russian leadership regards as vital for further development of conventional deterrence capability. The withdrawal is likely to enjoy support of the majority of the elite; if Putin introduces such a bill into the parliament, it will be adopted without debate or serious opposition. The U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 ABM Treaty in 2003 will provide the necessary pretext: like the George W. Bush administration, Moscow can declare that INF is a leftover from the Cold War, that its continued existence undermines the country’s security (with references to missile programs in countries to the south of Russia), and that it does not intend to develop intermediate-range nuclear weapons. Moreover, the state of the US-Russian relationship today is such that abrogation of an old treaty will hardly worsen that relationship any further, from the Russian leadership’s perspective.

Thus, the case that there are significant Russian violations of the INF Treaty appears weak. As noted above, the RS-26 tests do not represent a violation—at most the use of a legal loophole for reasons of convenience. The story about cruise missile tests is still vague, but the fact that US government was reluctant to classify it as a violation suggests plenty of uncertainty. In the history of US-Soviet and US-Russian arms control there have been dozens of similar cases—both parties have raised concern about the actions of the other. The majority of these concerns remained unresolved for years until they lost relevance. As a rule, these are technical issues that are discussed by technical experts outside public eye. Why, then have allegations about possible violation of the INF Treaty surfaced? The reasons for that are likely to be found in alliance and domestic politics rather than in substance of the arms control process.

Political Aspects: US-Russian Relations and US Domestic Politics

One group which has consistently raised questions about the Iskander’s deployment are the Baltic states, particularly Lithuania, which has tended to cite the deployments as a reason to keep U.S. nuclear gravity bombs in Europe, despite support for their withdrawal from many of the more established members of the alliance. News of the suspicious tests leaked after an alliance meeting in January.

Domestically, a letter by a group of Republican members of the House Armed Service Committee, suggests that Republicans sensed an opportunity in the revelations to push back on administration initiatives in several areas such as the further reduction of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons and the Iranian nuclear program.

The story broke soon after the an interim nuclear deal with Iran took effect and President Obama threatened to veto any congressional efforts to impose new nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. The Armed Services Committee Republicans have argued that the new agreement will permit Iran to cheat without sufficient penalty and argue that the administration’s behavior with Russia proves their case.

Similarly, Republicans have been highly skeptical of Obama’s 2013 proposal to reduce US and Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads by another third within the framework of the 2010 New START Treaty—from 1,550 to about 1,000. They have been particularly concerned that Obama might seek to make the reductions in a way that bypasses requirements for Senate approval of treaties.

Ironically , in this concern, they have found a de facto common cause with Russian hardliners. Moscow, has demonstrated very considerable reluctance to engage in reductions beyond those mandated by New START. Any action that undermines the prospect of reductions is bound to be welcomed by the Russian government (publicly it will claim otherwise, of course). Moreover, if the initiative appears to come from the United States, Moscow will gain by being able to shift the blame for absence of progress on nuclear disarmament to the other party.

The news also came as the Senate is considering confirmation of Rose Gottemoeller as the lead U.S. arms control diplomat. Gottemoeller, the lead negotiator for the New START treaty, has been acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international policy for several years. She had been expected to be named permanently to the position. But the price of her confirmation may be a resolution of the INF controversy on terms preferred by the opponents of new reductions—namely, forcing Russia into acknowledging treaty violations in a way likely to further disrupt the administration’s arms-control agenda.

Nikolai Sokov is a Senior Fellow at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation. Miles A. Pomper is a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies of the Monterey Institute of International Studies and the former editor of Arms Control Today.

[1] Stephan Forss, The Russian Operational-Tactical Missile Iskander Missile System (Helsinki: National Defense University, Department of Strategic and Defense Studies, Series 4, Working Paper No. 42, 2012).


Why ‘Reset’ Failed: Diplomacy with Rogues Rarely Works

Michael Rubin
World Affairs Journal | July/August 2014

Meeting her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov for the first time as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton famously presented him with a red, plastic “reset” button. “We want to reset our relationship and so we will do it together,” she explained, adding, “We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” “You got it wrong,” Lavrov responded.

The problem, in hindsight, was less a botched translation than it was a misunderstanding of the Russian mind. Like too many presidents and secretaries of state before them, President Obama and Secretary Clinton assumed that the problems hampering relations lay more with their predecessors than with America’s adversaries. Obama and Clinton were more willing to blame President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for what Obama caricatured as knee-jerk hostility to diplomacy with Russia than President Vladimir Putin himself. Putin took full advantage of this mistake.

Obama has made diplomacy with adversaries a cornerstone of his foreign policy. “The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them . . . is ridiculous,” he declared in July 2007, soon after launching his presidential campaign, promising that, if elected, he would sit down with any adversary that was willing. As secretary of state, Clinton embraced the same philosophy. “You don’t make peace with your friends. You have to be willing to engage with your enemies,” she explained.

Many Republicans agreed. Former Secretary of State James Baker dismissed criticism from some Republican circles that America sacrificed its principles when it engaged enemies. Citing President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s World War II cooperation with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, he declared, “Talking to hostile states . . . is not appeasement. It is good foreign policy.” Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration, agreed. “We ought to have enough confidence in our ability as diplomats to go eye to eye with people—even though we disagree in the strongest possible way—and come away without losing anything.” Nicholas Burns, a top diplomat during both the Clinton and Bush administrations, agreed too. “We will be no worse off if we try diplomacy and fail,” he told a 2009 Senate hearing examining Obama’s diplomatic outreach.

The idea that diplomacy with rogue regimes is cost-free is a relatively new idea, one that may sound good in the abstract but is less durable in reality. Policymakers often advocate diplomacy with rogue rulers and even terrorist groups because other options seem unattractive. As our recent experience in Afghanistan and Iraq shows, war extracts a tremendous price not only in terms of blood and treasure but in terms of national morale as well. The American public is exhausted by these conflicts and wondering if their price was worth paying.

In such a situation, grasping at sanctions is perhaps understandable as well, particularly when more war seems to be the only alternative, but they are hardly a sure thing. Few dictators care about the discomfort of their citizenry. Saddam Hussein may have charged that half a million children were dead because of sanctions—revealed as a vulgar propaganda claim by the liberation of Iraq—but in fact he cared little about the deprivations sanctions caused the Iraqi people. Even when effective—against apartheid-era South Africa, for instance—sanctions are at best slow. When they are too narrow, targeting only a handful of individuals involved in Iran’s nuclear program, for example, or Russian businessmen benefiting from Putin’s kleptocracy, they are ineffective. To sanction two dozen individuals in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the diplomatic equivalent of double-secret probation in Animal House—a response that mostly just makes those imposing it feel good. Just because military and economic coercion come at a high price does not mean diplomacy is a panacea. While diplomacy with Brussels or Burundi or Brunei (i.e., the kind of partners who uphold the norms of diplomacy) might be the bread-and-butter of statecraft, talking to rogues is different.

Barack Obama might have been a relative foreign policy novice when he entered the Oval Office, but not so Hillary Clinton when she became his secretary of state. It was during the administration of Clinton’s husband, in which she was an active participant, that top strategists popularized the concept of “rogue regime.” With war fears on the Korean Peninsula, nuclear proliferation in the Persian Gulf, and terrorism beginning to stir across the globe, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin raised the specter, in 1993, of “a handful of nuclear devices in the hands of rogue states or even terrorist groups.” Secretary of State Warren Christopher repeatedly referred to Iran and Iraq as rogue regimes in a Georgetown University address later that year. Clinton himself described Iran and Libya as “rogue states” during a 1994 Brussels sojourn. Both William Perry, who succeeded Aspin, and William Cohen, who succeeded Perry, spoke about rogues’ imperviousness to traditional deterrence.

Anthony Lake, Clinton’s national security adviser, sought to tie all these themes together in “Confronting Backlash States,” an article in the March/April 1994 issue of Foreign Affairs. Examining five rogue regimes—Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Libya—he found what they had in common was “aggressive and defiant” behavior, a resistance to globalization, domination “by cliques that control power through coercion” and “suppress basic human rights and promote radical ideologies,” and, most importantly, “a chronic inability to engage constructively with the outside world.” Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s second-term secretary of state, elaborated: “Dealing with the rogue states is one of the great challenges of our time . . . because they are there with the sole purpose of destroying the system.”

Russia may have been too weakened to go rogue in the 1990s, but with the economy rescued by a quintupling of oil prices and a leader in the Kremlin steeped in Soviet statecraft (which was itself quite obstinate), Russia today arguably fits this bill.

Whether in Moscow, Tehran, Damascus, or Pyongyang, rogues view the outstretched hand of American presidents with disdain. That is not to say they are unwilling to talk, but American administrations, especially Obama’s, consistently confuse dialogue with sincerity. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani bragged in 2005 that the key to Iranian success against the United States was to lull Americans into complacency and then do the unexpected. Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, an aide to former President Mohammad Khatami, also bragged about such deception. “We had an overt policy, which was one of negotiation and confidence building,” he explained, “and a covert policy, which was continuation of the [nuclear] activities.” Nor are the Iranians the only ones who practice this strategy. The Taliban, likewise, were willing to sit down with American officials on more than thirty occasions between 1995 and 2000, promising repeatedly both to close terror training camps and detain Osama bin Laden.

Throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union was also perfectly willing to engage. It understood and sought to take advantage of the fact that American policymakers saw agreements as sacrosanct. While Western diplomats might understand agreements as symbols of conflict resolution, rogues just as easily see deals as a tactic of asymmetric warfare, tying opponents’ hands or encouraging them to let down their guard while maximizing the strength of their own position. Indeed, that was exactly the finding of the CIA’s Team B analysts examining Soviet negotiating behavior in a report released in the last days of the Ford administration.

While revisionists have since questioned Team B’s findings, the broader Soviet track record exemplified consistent deceit. (It was in this culture of strategic Soviet deception and zero-sum struggles for dominance that Putin, then a young KGB recruit, learned statecraft.) The greater the enthusiasm for dialogue with Moscow, the greater the Russian temptation to cheat. Donald Rumsfeld recalls how, after Ford lost his bid for reelection, he was briefing Jimmy Carter and his national security team. Carter excitedly said that he had an “unprecedented” communication from the Soviet Union expressing interest in new arms-control talks. The subsequent Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT-II) were so one-sided in Moscow’s favor that even the Democrat-controlled Senate refused to ratify the deal.

Concerns expressed on the Senate floor at that time, however, went beyond Carter’s bizarre refusal to address European concerns by including Soviet intermediate-range ballistic missiles in the deal. Rather, for many senators, the problem was growing evidence of Soviet cheating on its diplomatic commitments. Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, reports persisted that the Soviet Union was using chemical and biological weaponry in Laos, Cambodia, and Afghanistan, in violation of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Tribesmen in Laos described colored gas emerging from bombs or rockets that exploded at treetop level. Dutch journalists filmed a Soviet helicopter dropping canisters emitting a yellow cloud on a village outside of Jalalabad, in Afghanistan. The American intelligence community was able to collect tissue samples, blood, and urine from refugees exposed to the “Yellow Rain,” and in February 1982, a special national intelligence estimate concluded that the Soviets were mass-producing and weaponizing a toxin. Many academics and diplomats pushed back on publicity about the new information for fear that President Reagan would abandon talks on new treaties in the face of incontrovertible proof of Soviet deception. Yellow rain was not a biological or chemical weapon, they argued somewhat risibly, but rather a naturally occurring mixture of pollen and bee feces, never mind the fact that it appeared only on battlefields.

Soviet cheating was more a rule than the exception. In early 1980, reports surfaced of an “outbreak of disease” in Sverdlovsk, today’s Yekaterinburg, in the Ural Mountains. American intelligence suspected an anthrax outbreak emanating from a suspected biological weapons facility. The Soviets blamed tainted meat. American assessments, however, suggested the disease was spread by inhalation rather than consumption. Witnesses reported a military quarantine, and satellite imagery showed that a building in the suspect complex was abandoned after the incident. Nevertheless, the desire to talk at any price led diplomats, and even some intelligence analysts, to bury evidence of Soviet guilt. In the end, it was the Soviet press who undercut the American denial, exposing the cover-up in 1990. Two years later, President Boris Yeltsin acknowledged that the Soviet Union had maintained an offensive biological weapons program.

Nor was the Biological Weapons Convention the only agreement Soviet officials violated. In 1983, an American spy satellite detected a Soviet radar complex near Krasnoyarsk, in the middle of Siberia. Its configuration suggested a military purpose, and its sheer size underlined the scale of Soviet subterfuge of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The Arms Control Association dismissed Krasnoyarsk as insignificant and the Federation of American Scientists suggested that suspicion was unfounded, but Reagan thought otherwise. “No violations of a treaty can be considered to be a minor matter, nor can there be confidence in agreements if a country can pick and choose which provisions of an agreement it will comply with,” he explained. Even those willing to excuse Soviet cheating had difficulty finding a credible non-military purpose for the Krasnoyarsk complex. In 1989, after years of denying accusations, the Soviets finally admitted that the radar violated the ABM Treaty.

Just as Carter pushed ahead with SALT-II despite evidence of Soviet deceit, so Obama’s enthusiasm for a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (“New START”) has apparently led his administration to bury reports of Russian cheating. Senators balked, for example, at the nomination of Brian McKeon, a member of Vice President Joe Biden’s staff, to a senior Pentagon post because of suspicion that McKeon had buried reports that Russia had been violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty so as to remove an impediment to the New START ratification. In effect, getting Putin’s signature on a treaty trumped concerns that the Russians were unwilling to abide by what he signed.

American policymakers, under the influence no doubt of fashionable multiculturalism, also seem to forget that different people can think in different ways. While the US often sees diplomacy as a search for compromise, regimes in Russia, Iran, and North Korea tend to see it as a zero-sum game for influence.

Obama sought Russian cooperation in Syria, for example, to resolve a horrendous human rights tragedy, but for Putin, the only question was how to achieve an outcome that diminished American influence. After forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad apparently used chemical weapons to kill fourteen hundred civilians in a suburb of Damascus, Putin brokered a deal in which Assad agreed to forfeit his chemical weapons, not as a humanitarian gesture, but as a way of derailing American military action that might have benefited anti-Assad forces. Months later, Assad’s compliance with the Russia-brokered agreement petered out. Reports and video of a new chemical weapons strike in Kfar Zita, near Hama, on April 11, 2014, underscore Putin’s diplomatic cynicism.

It is ironic that while Americans take pride in their supposed multiculturalism, rogues often use American naïveté against broader US interests. North Koreans have mastered the art of bluster in pursuit of American conciliation, while the Iranian government often demands apologies not to bury the past, but to set the stage for reparation. Putin has consistently feigned grievance to extract concession. Claiming that Russia was being unfairly targeted, he convinced Obama to renege on a commitment to base an anti-ballistic missile project in the Czech Republic and Poland; at the same time, as subsequent revelations showed, he was simultaneously cheating on his INF obligations and upgrading his own military forces. Blinded by his own mantra that the Cold War is over, Obama chided Mitt Romney, his 2012 Republican challenger, for identifying Russia as a strategic threat, largely because it contradicted his naive tendency to take Putin’s assurances of non-competition at face value, even as the former KGB operative was planning Russia’s resurgence.

Rogues also exploit the US tendency, as Jeane Kirkpatrick famously said, to blame America first. Many American diplomats and analysts suggest that Putin was pushed into “defensive aggression” in Georgia and Ukraine by encouragement of those countries’ efforts to tie themselves to Europe, and by NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe and the Baltics. Their subtext might be called Reconciliation Lost. Putin happily encourages such diplomatic illusions because they obscure his realpolitik. Russia’s invasion and annexation of first Georgia and then the Crimea were not spontaneous acts in reaction to Georgian assertiveness or Ukraine’s fatal attraction for association with the West. Russian special forces, known as Spetsnaz, executed a carefully planned seizure of airports, ports, and key buildings. They could be there for months, if not years. This represents an active strategy, not an outburst of aggrieved amour-propre.

Too often, American officials and diplomats give greater credence to what they hear at the bargaining table than to what adversaries say to their own people. Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasir Arafat was particularly good at talking out of both sides of his mouth, speaking peace with Bill Clinton, but preaching violence in Arabic to his constituents. The Iranian supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has promised “heroic flexibility” in nuclear negotiations to an external audience, only to explain to his constituents the following day that this meant a change in tactics, not policy. Russian officials might talk cooperation and diplomacy abroad, but at home they celebrate domination.

Putin is a modern-day Machiavelli, unapologetic about saying and doing whatever is necessary to regain the glory and respect he believes the Soviet Union enjoyed. With his tireless efforts to engage and pour emollients on fundamental disagreements, Obama has acted as a modern-day Chamberlain. Simply declaring the Cold War over does not make it so unless both parties seek a new beginning. Obama sincerely wants peace, but so long as Putin seeks the restoration of an imperial Russian past, peace will never occur. Hitting the reset button should not mean allowing an opponent to use diplomacy to wage war by other means.

Michael Rubin is the author of the new book Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes.


Treasury Department Explains Value, Effect of Sanctions

Plus Media Solutions | June 13, 2014 Friday

US Mission to UN in Geneva, The Government of USA has issued the following news release:

President Obama has imposed sanctions in the last few months related to instability in Ukraine, human rights abuses in the Central African Republic and violence in South Sudan. With public interest in sanctions increasing, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Director Adam Szubin answered questions about them in two recent Treasury Department blog posts, outlined below.

Who is responsible for implementing and enforcing sanctions at the Treasury Department?

The Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) defends the U.S. and global financial systems against abuse and uses financial intelligence to combat security threats. Its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) enforces financial sanctions aimed at weapons procurement rings, narcotics and criminal cartels, terrorist groups and threatening regimes.

How are new sanctions programs created?

The president deploys and enforces financial sanctions in response to declared national emergencies. He can prohibit or restrict transactions and freeze property to confront the emergency. The person or entity sanctioned has been reported by a bank, company or individual, who retains the funds or relevant property but must maintain it according to strict OFAC regulations. The president signs an executive order to the Treasury Department on the sanctions, then OFAC issues regulations and guidance on them. It can also issue licenses to authorize otherwise prohibited transactions.

How does OFAC develop targets for sanctions?

When directed, OFAC builds cases against those contributing to the national emergency, using information from law enforcement and intelligence agencies, foreign governments, United Nations expert panels and other reliable sources. Treasury Department and Justice Department attorneys review the cases, and OFAC coordinates with a number of government agencies, including the State Department and the intelligence community. Once a case is complete, the OFAC director signs a "designation memorandum" designating the target(s) for sanctions. The action takes public effect when the target or targets are placed on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals (the SDN list).

How can someone know which individuals or entities are sanctioned?

OFAC’s SDN list, which currently numbers nearly 6,000, is frequently updated, with updates immediately disseminated via RSS feed and OFAC’s website and published in the Federal Register, the U.S. government’s official journal. All U.S. and other financial institutions that hold relevant assets must block them immediately and report them to OFAC within 10 days. OFAC has an online SDN list search tool that allows searches based on partial names and other limited information.

Do sanctions change behavior?

They can. Targeted financial sanctions apply concentrated pressure that isolates bad actors and makes it harder for them to continue their activities. In the legitimate international financial system, conscientious people and institutions will often shun them and their business. A narcotics trafficker once compared sanctions to la muerte civil, or "civil death." Even those targets who operate outside regulated institutions can find it more difficult to travel across borders, receive wire transfers or procure needed materials.

"Time and time again, we have seen illicit actors struggle with the consequences of designations, and approach OFAC to forswear their prior activities and seek delisting," Szubin said.

For more sophisticated companies or entire governments, their comparatively larger resources and greater access to the international financial system provide both advantages and liabilities. The more integrated a target is within the global economy, the more vulnerabilities it faces and the more it has to lose. A smart sanctions strategy engages many partners and focuses on pressure points. For governments, sanctions by themselves rarely determine policy, but sanctions coupled with intensive diplomacy can influence decisionmaking and prompt change.

What are the practical effects of sanctions?

Sanctions immediately prohibit U.S. individuals and entities from doing business with those named, wherever they are located. They freeze all assets within U.S. jurisdiction and assets in branches of U.S. financial institutions abroad. They prohibit any transaction by a foreign financial institution involving a designated entity or individual from being routed through a U.S. institution (which is the case for most dollar-denominated transactions). Even if a transaction passes for a millisecond through New York on its way to the final transaction point, the transfer is prohibited and it will be blocked.

If a Specially Designated National (SDN) owns 50 percent or more of an entity, the entity is also blocked, regardless of whether it is specifically named on the SDN List. Non-U.S. financial institutions around the world often will refuse to do business with SDNs, even if they are not legally required to do so, which reflects the reputational risk of doing business with someone on the SDN List and underscores the gravity and impact of U.S. sanctions.

How are sanctions enforced and how do you ensure compliance?

OFAC draws from publicly available information, law enforcement and intelligence sources, anonymous tips and self-disclosures to detect potential sanctions violations. Its civil enforcement tools include cautionary letters, monetary penalties and referral to law enforcement authorities.

How does OFAC communicate with the companies and individuals it regulates? How can I contact OFAC?

OFAC answers questions on sanctions compliance through a hotline and email, receiving over 100,000 calls and emails every year. It also holds regular conferences, panels and webcasts. It has Web pages and brochures for every sanctions program and publishes other guidance, such as its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). It has published hundreds of FAQs in the last two years.

How can individuals and entities be removed from the sanctions list?

A designated U.S. or foreign person may ask OFAC to reconsider their case or challenge their designation in a U.S. district court. Since the goal of sanctions is behavioral change, OFAC seeks to reward those who change behavior and motivate others to do so. Since 2012, OFAC has removed nearly 500 persons from its SDN list after they changed behavior’

For more information please visit: http://geneva.usmission.gov