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Rubio’s Awful Views on U.S. Russia Policy

Marco Rubio’s speech to The Brookings Institution on foreign policy was entirely what we’ve come to expect from the McCain-Lieberman protege. Rubio makes many objectionable claims, but the relatively brief section on Russia and eastern Europe may have been one of the worst parts of the speech:

Some of our allies in Europe increasingly feel that our recent “reset” with Russia tended to ignore and in some cases, undermine them. We need to re-energize and lead a united coalition with European nations to tackle issues ranging from missile defense to the continued enlargement of NATO.

It cannot be stressed enough: the first claim is not true. Improved U.S. relations with Russia have not come at the expense of any of Russia’s neighbors. No U.S. ally was undermined. Most Czechs and Poles didn’t want the missile defense installations that their governments agreed to host. This is a tiresome falsehood. It should be embarrassing to include this in a stump speech, much less a major policy address.

NATO cooperation on European missile defense is already starting to happen since the Lisbon summit. There is no interest in Europe in the “continued enlargement of NATO,” at least not if it means bringing more former Soviet republics into NATO. Most Ukrainians don’t want to join the alliance, most Georgians have more pressing concerns than joining it, and it makes no sense to bring Georgia into the alliance so long as it has ongoing territorial disputes. Rubio’s policy proposals are either redundant or completely unrealistic.

Earlier in the speech, Rubio claimed:

In addition, this U.S.-EU partnership is critical to a more realistic approach to Russia as well. I know some here might disagree, and certainly the President would, but I feel like we have gotten precious little from Russia in exchange for concessions on nuclear weapons.

The U.S. didn’t make concessions on nuclear weapons. The arms reduction treaty was mutually beneficial. It provides both countries with a valuable verification regime. The U.S. has arguably gained more from the “reset” than Russia, as some Russians would be only too happy to point out. Predictably, Rubio has nothing to say about Russian cooperation on Afghanistan. Despite his concern that Russia’s authoritarian government acts “in ways that make it harder to integrate Russia into the global economy and free international political order,” he doesn’t acknowledge Russia’s accession to the WTO, which contradicts one of his main assumptions about the willingness of the Russian government to integrate itself in the global economy.

Everything Rubio had to say about these issues could have been lifted from Mitt Romney’s list of talking points. If the speech was intended as an audition for the role of running mate, I suppose Rubio succeeded. If he was trying to make a favorable impression on anyone except the usual hawkish suspects, the speech was a catastrophe.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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