Russia and the Myth of Strategic Stability: What You Must Know


Wesley Smith

June 18, 2021

5 min read

Foreign Policy



At the conclusion of President Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Switzerland, the White House declared the goal with Russia is “Strategic Stability.”  Is this what we need?  Is that the correct goal in dealing with this adversary of the United States?  What does that even mean?  The very term “Strategic Stability” implies that the U.S. wants to maintain the status quo with Putin’s Russia.  But how things are with Russia; the status quo is troubling on every level.  Do we want to maintain that?

Here is the present situation as it pertains to Russia:

  • Russia is more aggressive than ever in suppressing human rights.  For example, Alexei Navalny, Putin’s political opponent, remains in a Russian jail, as do two American citizens.
  • The Russian Nord Stream pipeline has been given a green light by President Biden, overturning sanctions by the Trump Administration—giving cash to the Putin regime for twenty years or more and making Europe dependent on Russia for gas and oil.  It further enables Russia to be an energy power, all while gas prices in the United States are high and millions of oil and gas workers in the U.S. are out of work due to the restrictions placed on that industry by President Biden.  His Executive orders have eliminated U.S. energy independence.  The bottom line?  Russian gas and oil workers are going to work while their counterparts in the U.S. are out of work.
  • While President Biden’s summit with Putin was taking place, the Russian navy conducted its largest naval exercise since the end of the Cold War—off the coast of Hawaii.  The head of U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Air Force General Glen VanHerck, recently testified that Russia’s new Yasen Class submarines present a “persistent proximate threat off of our east and west coasts that we haven’t had ever in the past.”  He also stated that the Chinese Navy would not be behind for long in terms of similar capabilities.
  • Russia is selling weapons and technology to Iran, all while pressuring the United States to lift sanctions on Iran in the JCPOA negotiations in Vienna.  Lifting those sanctions—and all indications are the Biden Administration is prepared to do just that—will give Iran the much-needed cash to purchase more Russian weapons, to say nothing of continuing its development of a nuclear weapon and its ongoing exporting of terror in the Middle East.
  • Russia continues to prop up President Assad in Syria where 500,000 of his own citizens have been killed.  Russia has now established a major military base in Syria and also enjoys its first naval base on the Mediterranean.
  • Russia continues to illegally occupy Crimea and the Republic of Georgia.  Russian troops and tanks are on the border of Ukraine where they support pro-Russian insurgents.  There is a real possibility that Russia will invade and annex Ukraine—a sovereign country—in the near future.
  • Russia is placing 20 large military units on the border of several of our NATO allies in Europe.  This poses a potential threat.  Our troublesome NATO ally Turkey is purchasing a missile defense system from Russia—a weapons system originally designed to shoot down U.S. and NATO aircraft.
  • Russia continues to meddle in the elections of other countries.
  • There are numerous recent cyber attacks that have originated in Russia.  Two of these targeted a gas pipeline on the East Coast of the United States and a major supplier of beef and pork in the U.S.

This is the status quo, the “Strategic Stability,”being lauded by the Biden team.  This is the real situation with Russia as it exists today. It runs counter to the vital strategic interests of the United States and violates the values and morals of America and all nations who value freedom and international norms.

President Biden’s warning to Putin is that if he continues to misbehave, it will hurt his international reputation and the rest of the world will not like him.  Does this matter to an oligarch and former KGB agent like Vladimir Putin?  Is that the best deterrent our President could come up with in a four-hour meeting with the Russian leader?  It appears to be a major psychological projection on the part of President Biden:  Since Biden wants to be accepted and liked by other world leaders (he essentially touted this in his meetings with the G-7 and European Union leaders), he assumes—quite incorrectly—that this will motivate Putin to behave and play nice.  President Biden apparently naïvely assumes that Putin has a moral compass.  History and Putin’s past actions indicate that is not the case.

On Air Force One after the meeting in Geneva, Biden stated that the “message to the world is the U.S. is open, accountable, transparent.”  No doubt we are.  That has no bearing on the motives and behavior of a man like Putin.  The message the world needs is that America is strong, principled, and a leader.  Rather than cajoling and attempting to flatter Putin, Biden should have put the Russian on notice that there are things America simply will not tolerate.  The leader of the free world should have unequivocally stated that Russia’s malign activities—whether they be cyber-attacks, invading another country, or whatever—will be met with a forceful response.  We should be telling Putin that there is a price to be paid for further bad acts.

This is not to imply that the U.S. would engage in a military response, short of an attack on America.  But as the world’s last remaining superpower, the United States has many responses at hand to counter Russian aggression and interference that would make Russia, or any other adversary, pay a high and painful price for acts that target the United States, our allies, and our strategic interests at home and abroad.  It is a shame that this message was not delivered at the meeting in Geneva.


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