Russia main source of instability, says US

Russia main source of instability, says US

Russia main source of instability, says US

Philip Breedlove. AP photo

A “reset” in U.S.-Russia relations is now on pause and Moscow likely will be “the primary actor of regional concern,” the American general nominated to take over as NATO commander said April 11.

Gen. Philip Breedlove, President Barack Obama’s pick to serve as NATO’s next supreme allied commander, described Russia as an “aspirational superpower” and told lawmakers an attempt to forge more cooperative ties with Moscow had faltered for the moment.

“I’ve described the reset as sort of, on pause,” Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“We had made some progress. There were some political changes in Russia and we are now sort of very much slowed down.” In comments that were sure to produce irritation in Moscow, he said the United States needed to renew efforts to improve relations but said it had to be a mutually beneficial arrangement.

‘Not a one way street’

“I do agree with your concern that this not become a one-way street, and that we just give, give, give. I think that the principle of reciprocity is how we need to think about our work with Russia,” he said.

The U.S. and Russia saw a warming of ties during Obama’s first term, but ties frayed after Russian President Vladimir Putin returned as president last year, and Washington and Moscow have been at odds over issues ranging from Syria to human rights.

Putin, who accuses the U.S. of using human rights as a geopolitical tool, was angered by a U.S. law adopted in December 2012 to punish Russians deemed rights abusers by barring them from the U.S. and freezing their assets there. Russia responded with similar measures and also banned U.S. couples from adopting Russian-born children. Moscow ejected the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in October 2012 and has clamped down on foreign-funded advocacy groups.

Breedlove suggested Russia would be the main source of instability in the region and that Washington and NATO would need to reassure partners within Moscow’s orbit.

Geography, reource wealth, military

“Russia will remain the primary actor of regional concern through 2020 by virtue of its geographic position, natural resource wealth, military forces and desire for regional influence,” the four-star general said in written testimony to the Senate committee. “The U.S. and NATO will need to continue to assure our allies and partners, who live in the Russian self-declared ‘sphere of privileged influence,’ of our resolve.”

He called for a renewal of efforts to cooperate with Russia on missile defense for Europe, an issue that has remained a source of disagreement with Moscow viewing the project as a threat. Last month, Russian and U.S. defense chiefs signaled their intention to reconvene long-stalled missile defense talks following a change in missile defense plans for Europe that has been met cautiously by Moscow. Russia has announced that Tom Donilon, the White House national security adviser, will visit Moscow next week for talks, including on U.S. missile defense plans.

The general added Russia should not be thought of as an “enemy” but as a partner.

If confirmed by the Senate, Breedlove will succeed Adm. James Stavridis as NATO commander.