Jewish World Review Sept. 13, 2000 / 12 Elul 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- MOSCOW | A group of American conservatives and Russian democrats met here last week to revive the concept of strategic cooperation between our nations. The case for such an alliance is compelling.
In the heady days immediately following the Soviet collapse, there was talk of a defensive pact between Washington and Moscow. After war in the Balkans, NATO expansion to include former Warsaw-pact nations, Kremlin opposition to an American missile defense and a Russian weapons bazaar open 24-hours a day, the idea appears increasingly remote.
Both nations seem trapped in a Cold War mindset where each stares at the other so fixedly that neither can see mutual threats looming on the horizon. At the conference, Bill Lind of the Free Congress Foundation remarked that we have entered a world not unlike 1914, when neither Hapsburg nor Romanov understood the new paradigm of the age.
Neither dynasty could see that its principal problem wasn't the other, but raging internal forces. Eventually, each was swept away to be replaced by ideologies that made czar and kaiser seem quaintly benign.
Such a sea change is currently under way. Militant Islam and Communist China are waves crashing on a tenuous world order.
Islam, the West's oldest and most effective competitor, is expanding again. >From the Sudan and Nigeria to the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia and the Philippines, Islamacists are in conflict with Christians, Jews and Hindus.
Russia is bogged down in its second Chechen war. A year ago, bombs exploded in Moscow leaving hundreds dead. Another blast rocked one of the cities' underpasses last month. Russia could withdraw, as many in the West urge, and end up with a terrorist enclave on its doorstep -- one intent, moreover, on franchising its operation throughout the region, as last year's incursions in Dagestan demonstrate.
For America, the threat is more remote but still quite real. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the deaths of 241 Marines in Beirut in 1983, our humiliation in Somalia -- all show how little safety an ocean provides. China presents a different challenge. Where terrorism is non-state (though often with national sponsors), the People's Republic is a total state bent on expansion. Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin toys with the China card. Tomorrow, Russia could be trumped by Beijing.
It shares a border with the PRC that spans four time zones. In the 1960s, there were clashes between Soviet troops and the People's Liberation Army. More than a million Chinese have immigrated to Siberia, establishing a beachhead there.
Despite the hard-line mentality of the Russian military, it is inconceivable that Moscow would ever launch a nuclear strike against us. It's quite conceivable that China would, because high-ranking Chinese generals have told us to duck, if we interfere with their conquest of Taiwan.
History has placed Russia and America on paths destined to intersect, as they have in the past. Christianity created both nations -- Russia from Orthodox Byzantium, America by English Calvinists.
Britain, Germany and Japan are our closest allies. But we went to war with the first two twice. It took atom bombs to defeat Japan. While communism made us adversaries in the postwar era, America and Russia were allies in both World Wars.
Russia, it is true, does not share our democratic traditions. Neither did Berlin and Tokyo in 1945. During World War II, we formed a limited partnership with Stalin, who was no one's idea of a market reformer.
A successful partnership requires mutual accommodation. Russia needs secure borders and peace in the Caucuses. America needs to develop a ballistic missile defense and to check the dominant power in Asia, which is capable of dragging us into another war.
Russia must cease selling weapons to rogue states. America should stop exciting Russian anxieties by moving NATO eastward and acting as the successor to the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans.
In the late 19th century, common interests overcame more than a hundred
years of hostility between America and Britain. Washington and Moscow may
not have as much in common, but the stakes are much higher
JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.