EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
When a new administration comes to Washington, the flowery rhetoric and springtime promises are often less revealing than who is put where to run the place. That’s why many of Washington’s most scurrilous campaigns are backstage fights over potential appointments. And that’s why the successful campaign to block the appointment of Matthew Rojansky as Russia director on the National Security Council is not only a sad reflection of the poisonous state of the debate on Russian policy today, but also an ominous sign for Biden’s foreign policy going forward.
As director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Rojansky has been an articulate advocate of a commonsense realism on US relations with Russia. Facing what President Biden calls “cascading crises”—the pandemic, economic collapse and growing inequality, racial upheaval, catastrophic climate change—the United States needs to avoid draining conflicts abroad to rebuild its strength at home and focus on meeting the real security challenges of our time.
With China becoming a “near-peer competitor,” according to the administration, we should be trying to divide Russia from China, not drive them together. As Rojansky wrote, “America’s task is not to replace enmity toward Russia with a partnership…. It is to manage the current competition in ways that protect vital US interests while minimizing risks and costs, and allowing space for selective cooperation.” The United States has real interests in cooperating with Russia in reviving nuclear arms controls, helping to stabilize Afghanistan after US withdrawal, addressing climate change and more. This would suggest more dialogue and engagement with Russia and less posturing and confrontation.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.