Herman Cain's Commentary Archive 2009-2012

February 13, 2012

Time for Clarity: Russia and China are not our friends

By Herman Cain
February 12, 2012

There are many theories about why Russia and China last week vetoed a United Nations resolution endorsing an Arab League plan to transfer power from Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Some say Vladimir Putin doesn’t want to go against a fellow strongman because a lot of them have been losing power lately, and he doesn’t want to be next.

China has tended to follow Russia’s lead on this issue – also joining in a two-party veto in September of a UN resolution condemning Assad’s autocratic behavior and the violence it is engendering.

They won’t even condemn the violence?

But there is one thing that should be abundantly clear from this action and many others that have occurred in recent years: Russia and China are not friends of the United States. Recognizing clear facts like this is what I mean when I talk, as I did during my presidential campaign, about peace through strength with clarity.

There are reasons that Russia and China pursue interests that diverge from our own – not that we justify these reasons, but we certainly must understand them and account for them as we develop strategies to counter the challenges these nations pose.

Russia and China have different cultures, different political traditions and different geo-political realities of their own to face. Russia and China may also have a different definition of peace than we do, and they certainly want our strength. That’s clear. A foreign policy that would ignore all of this would be a mistake.

But a wise foreign policy recognizes simple facts, which start with the fact that certain countries are rivals of the United States. We don’t attempt to deny the obvious when it comes to hostile regimes like those in Iran and North Korea. Indeed, the leaders of these nations do a fine job all their own of expressing their hostility toward us.

But for various reasons – many of them foolishly of our own making – we are reluctant to be clear about the nature of regimes like China and Russia.

We owe China a lot of money, of course, because we have refused for generations to be fiscally responsible in federal budgeting. They are also a major trading partner, and while there is no hard and fast rule that you can’t be a trading partner with a hostile nation, the compromised nature of our economic relationship with China makes it harder for us to see or speak clearly about the fact that their interests are not the same as ours.

In the case of Russia, the U.S. was justifiably excited after the fall of communism about the opportunity to develop a different kind of relationship with a free Russia – on everything from economic and trade relations to issues concerning nuclear proliferation. But as the one-promising Yeltsin government became mired in corruption, and it gave way to the increasingly autocratic leadership of Putin, the U.S. became unwilling to face facts. One of the worst examples was the Obama Administration’s decision to welch on the U.S. commitment to install missile defense systems in Eastern Europe – all because the Russians didn’t like it.

A nation with clarity in foreign policy matters would have understood that its first responsibility is to its own security and that of its allies. A nation that fears clarity would do what Obama did.
On the matter of Assad and Syria, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the Russians were unwilling to work with the U.S. on a solution, even after the U.S. unconditionally took the option of military intervention off the table as a concession to the Russians. A nation with clarity in foreign policy matters would not make such concessions in the fruitless pursuit of support from a nation that can perhaps be worked with in certain situations, but is fundamentally not our friend.

Nations who prop up unfriendly dictators in opposition to U.S. goals are not confused about their interests. They want things that are not good for America or for our allies, and that’s because they are not our allies.

It’s OK for us to say that, and it’s essential for us to know it, because if we don’t then we’re going to keep getting played for fools. That’s not strength. That’s a sign of weakness.