Policy Experts Push US to Get Stern on Russia

WASHINGTON (CN) – Grappling with Russia’s diplomatic slide on the world stage, experts told an independent U.S. committee on Wednesday to consider adopting tougher financial sanctions and increase the U.S. presence on the eastern flank of the Balkans.

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, met this morning to discuss restoring Russia’s compliance with a variety of treaties that it has skirted since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

“We have to understand that Russia is no longer interested in cooperation to strengthen European security,” said Michael Carpenter, a senior director at the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.

“Our goal should be to bolster defense and deterrents and suspend compliance with NATO so long as Russia continues to violate its basic principles.”

Candid in his assessment of Russia’s use of force against other nations, Carpenter suggested that the U.S. employ brigade combat teams and consider all legal countermeasures available to counter Russian aggression.

“Just as Russia denies access to part of its territory, the U.S. should restrict Russian access to territory until Moscow returns to compliance,” said Carpenter.

The policy expert also recommended that the U.S. immediately begin researching the development of intermediate range missiles that would match Russian capability.

“The U.S. should invest more resources in cyberdefense, and Congress should legislate a common set of defense standards,” he said. “We are way behind the curve on this.”

Against complaints about the disrespect Russian President Vladimir Putin shows the political independence of western democracies, there was little specific talk of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Though the committee members also did not tackle the recent firing of FBI Director James Comey, Carpenter did call for the appointment of a special prosecutor on the Russian investigation he led. The members made no mention of anonymous reports that emerged on Tuesday about President Donald Trump having pressured Comey to drop the Russia probe.

“We must appoint a special prosecutor to determine if there was collusion or cooperation between the Russian government and the Trump campaign representatives in the last election cycle,” Carpenter said.

Stephen Rademaker, the former assistant secretary of state in charge of the Bureau of Arms Control, said the U.S. must find ways to “punish Russia” for skirting treaties. 

“We must take steps to show that we’re prepared for a response and if necessary to deploy our own missiles in correspondence to the ones that they’re deploying,” Rademaker said. “Those steps are perfectly appropriate and what we should be doing.”

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Treaty, which Rademaker recommended terminating, once counted North Korea as a member as well.

Rademaker reminded the committee that, after it was pushed too hard, North Korea simply chose to opt out, leaving the world to contend with an increasingly aggressive authoritarian. 

Though he did not draw a comparison between North Korea and Russia directly, Rademaker said the Kremlin’s problem is that it sees security in Europe as a “zero-sum game.” 

“All countries in Europe are more secure to the extent that their neighbors are more secure,” Rademaker said. “But Russia takes a different view and thinks its security has only been enhanced if its neighbor, like Ukraine, has its security diminished.”

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