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A Strong Alliance with Russia is in Our Best Interest

By Ed Koch

The United States should work hard to develop a strong alliance with Russia. I believe such an alliance would be in the best interest of both nations.

During the Cold War, Russia -- then known as the Soviet Union -- was our enemy. But today, with radical Islam on the march, we should remember that Russia's roots are in Western civilization. We should nourish those roots and cooperate closely with Russia in the war on terror.

Russia has suffered large numbers of injuries and deaths as a result of terrorist actions, primarily by Chechnian Muslims who have been responsible for major terrorist acts in Moscow and the town of Beslan. The latter involved the killing of over 325 hostages -- half were children -- and hundreds more were wounded. Many of those deaths appear to have been the result of incompetence on the part of Russian forces seeking to free the hostages. Nevertheless, it was the taking of those children hostages by the Chechnian terrorists that caused their deaths.

Friendship with Russia is also important to the West because Russia has huge reserves of oil and natural gas. Russia is capable of supplying Europe's energy needs on a scale comparable to Saudi Arabia. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, however, Russian self-esteem has suffered in many ways. Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia is no longer seen as a world super power equivalent to the U.S. Some countries, which used to be part of the Soviet Union, have joined NATO, greatly reducing Russia's sphere of influence. Some of those former Soviet nations now have NATO weaponry in place.

Based on statements that President Putin made on February 10, Russia clearly feels threatened by the U.S. You don't have to be a psychiatrist to recognize the fear, alarm and rising anger in Putin's belief that Russia is being encircled and disrespected.

According to The New York Times:

"President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia accused the United States on Saturday of provoking a new nuclear arms race by developing ballistic missile defenses, undermining international institutions and making the Middle East more unstable through its clumsy handling of the Iraq war.

"In an address to an international security conference, Mr. Putin dropped all diplomatic gloss to recite a long list of complaints about American domination of global affairs, including many of the themes that have strained relations between the Kremlin and the United States during his seven-year administration."

Russia's fears are based on what the West, including the U.S., tried to do in 1917: stifle the Russian revolution at birth. Despite its military power, the Soviet Union had a weak economy, which eventually resulted in its collapse. The Berlin Wall was torn down and the Soviet Union could no longer compete militarily and economically with the U. S.

Those same issues are causing Russia concern today.

Putin sums it up with The Times reporting:

"'Primarily the United States has overstepped its national borders, and in every area,' said Mr. Putin who increasingly has tried to re-establish Russia's once broad Soviet-era influence, using Russia's natural resources as leverage and defending nations at odds with the United States, including Iran.

"American military actions, which he termed unilateral and illegitimate, also 'have not been able to resolve any matters at all,' and, he said have created only more instability and danger.

"'They bring us to the abyss of one conflict after another," he said. 'Political solutions are becoming impossible.'"

I supported and continue to support President Bush's ending the ABM treaty so as to allow the U.S. to build an effective anti-missile shield in the skies over the U.S. and its allies. I said at the time of Bush's courageous act in ending the prohibition against defenses to ballistic missiles that the system should be offered to Russia as well. The reasoning behind the decision to build such a system was a need to protect against nuclear missiles aimed at the U.S. by rogue nations like North Korea and now Iran. And also to guard against terrorists using the bomb and technology secured from rogue scientists like Dr. Khan who had been in charge of Pakistan's nuclear program. He successfully developed the bomb and was selling the so-called Muslim bomb to others.

Prior to all of this, the Soviet Union and its successor Russia as well as the U.S. relied on the concept of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) which would deter both the U.S. and Russia from attacking one another knowing the other would respond and both nations would be destroyed. Russia fears the U.S. would use nuclear ballistic weapons believing it could ward off a Russian response with its new anti-ballistic missile capability. That fear is legitimate and must be removed which can be done by providing Russia with our technology. Even better would be joining forces to build a joint system as we have joined forces to explore space, currently building the new space platform together.

According to The Times, Putin "expressed alarm that an effective antimissile shield over the Untied States would upset a system of mutual fear that kept the nuclear peace throughout the cold war. 'That means the balance will be upset, completely upset,' he said."

Russia is a great nation. Its people admire and respect the people of the U.S., and I believe that admiration and respect is reciprocated. In World War II, we joined forces with the USSR to defeat the common enemy, Nazi Germany. With hindsight we know that we could not have won that war without the Soviet forces, primarily Russians fighting shoulder to shoulder with us. They suffered 10 million military deaths, in addition to millions of other casualties in that war which they called the Great Patriotic War.

Russian citizens know the feeling of defeat which they suffered in Afghanistan. They know the pain of terrorism in their homeland. We have so much in common. We should not allow the current rift to continue.

We know that when we needed our NATO allies to stand with us in Iraq, most shirked or totally failed in their obligation to stand with us as we had stood with them in World War I, World War II, and the cold war which had threatened their very existence as independent countries. Today even our closest ally Great Britain is leaving our side. In all candor, it hasn't played a totally committed role with us. We had 140,000 troops before the pending surge in Iraq, and the British have 8,000. The French have none, and the Spaniards have withdrawn their meager forces. Our Arab regional allies have no troops on the ground. Do they remember that we protected Saudi Arabia from Iraqi invasion and freed Kuwait from Iraqi occupation?

My belief is that if a true, sincere, and total economic and military alliance were fashioned with Russia, we would be assured of victory over Islamic terrorism. A Pax America and Russia, guaranteeing peace throughout the world, while not easy to do, is nevertheless doable.

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

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