The foreign policy challenges facing the new Obama Administration have mounted significantly in recent days. On the back of civil unrest and trade sanctions in Mexico, a destabilizing power struggle in Pakistan, the latest news to hit in the last week comes from Russia.
Russia is going to re-arm. Nuclear detente is at an end.
Russia said it would re-arm its military and boost its nuclear forces in response to the expansion of Nato to its western frontiers and the increased threat of international terrorism.
Dmitry Medvedev, Russian president, said on Tuesday: “The main task is to qualitatively improve the combat readiness of our forces, above all our strategic nuclear forces.”
Speaking at a rare meeting with military leaders in Moscow, Mr Medvedev said Nato was continuing to expand closer to Russia’s borders. Russia was also under threat from “local crises and international terrorism.”
Mr Medvedev was speaking less than a fortnight after Moscow and Washington pledged to try to improve relations, which sank to the worst low since the Cold War during the administration of former US president George W. Bush.
Russia perceives Nato’s eastern expansion, coupled with US plans to deploy a ballistic missile shields in eastern Europe, as a threat to its national security.
This situation has been building for quite some time. But, it is unclear what reaction the Obama Administration will have to this threat from Russia. I had written last summer in my post “The U.S response to Georgia is missile defense in Poland” that the Bush Administration’s policy in Eastern Europe was seen as a provocation and risked a negative response. Now, we have one. In addition, it is clear from the comments made here by Mr. Medvedev that Russia is intent on building its military capability. However, I am doubtful that they can both renew their nuclear arsenal and build powerful infantry (see the post, “Russia’s choice between a nuclear arsenal and a modernized infantry“).
While the situations in Afghanistan Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, Israel and Iran, North Korea and China, and in Mexico are all becoming problematic as the world economy plunges, the tensions with Russia will be the Obama Administration’s first test.
Obviously, Joe Biden was right. Obama will be tested. Every so-called rogue state will be watching this encounter. How Obama reacts here will set expectations about his foreign policy credibility in Washington and elsewhere for years to come.
Russia to rearm over Nato expansion – FT.com