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Don't be naive about Russia's real aims

(Page 2 of 3)

Today's Russian leadership is younger and tougher. It is increasingly anti-American, and continues to aggressively challenge its neighbors' sovereignty. It questions former vassals' sovereignty by opposing ballistic missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic, or preventing Georgia and Ukraine from joining NATO. Moscow also wants to neuter or dismantle the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the post-Bretton Woods economic system.

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Moscow's calls for a new pan-European security architecture should give Obama pause. The concept would abolish NATO and weaken the human rights jurisdiction of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Moscow proposes national armed forces to be deployed on a "common perimeter" and a "demilitarized zone" inside the perimeter. The scheme is a transparent effort to restrain America's influence.

Beyond Europe, Russia's rulers are obsessed with "multipolarity." They appear to want a world order in which Russia, China, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela form a counter-weight to the United States. This is a broad global agenda at odds with vital US interests.

Washington and NATO's desire to cooperate with Moscow is understandable in view of the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan and Iran's missile and nuclear programs. After the "Yankee Go Home" announcement by Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev, Moscow offered the US use of its cargo planes and air space to resupply Afghanistan. It was Tony Soprano geopolitics: "Use my dumps and my trucks – otherwise you can't do business in my neighborhood."

The Kremlin continues to call – as it has since the St. Petersburg Economic Summit in 2007 – for revising the global economic system. In the lead-up to the G-20, it proposed creating a supranational reserve currency to replace the dollar as the global standard.

While the two leaders have their hands full with economic and security matters, rule of law should hold a prominent place on the agenda for their next meeting. A healthy legal system is necessary to protect the rights of foreign and domestic investors and to facilitate the development of civil society and human rights.

Russia's rule-of-law track record was abysmal under communism. Medvedev appears to want to turn the fight against corruption into a personal crusade, so there may be a change for the better.