Sarah Palin on Russia


ABC has released excerpts of Charle Gibson’s interview with Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Among the parts released so far, the Alaskan governor’s views on experience, God, and US policy to Russia. Here is an excerpt of her comments on Moscow and how to deal with recent Russian-Georgian hostilities. Among her recommendations: that Ukraine “definitely” and Georgia too be given NATO membership — with the commitment that the US as a NATO member would be required to defend them from any future incursion by Russia, and that the US consider measures such as economic sanctions against Russia to punish it for invading Georgia.

PALIN: We cannot repeat the Cold War. We are thankful that, under Reagan, we won the Cold War, without a shot fired, also. We’ve learned lessons from that in our relationship with Russia, previously the Soviet Union.

We will not repeat a Cold War. We must have good relationship with our allies, pressuring, also, helping us to remind Russia that it’s in their benefit, also, a mutually beneficial relationship for us all to be getting along.

GIBSON: Would you favor putting Georgia and Ukraine in NATO?

PALIN: Ukraine, definitely, yes. Yes, and Georgia.

GIBSON: Because Putin has said he would not tolerate NATO incursion into the Caucasus.

PALIN: Well, you know, the Rose Revolution, the Orange Revolution, those actions have showed us that those democratic nations, I believe, deserve to be in NATO.

Putin thinks otherwise. Obviously, he thinks otherwise, but…

GIBSON: And under the NATO treaty, wouldn’t we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you’re going to be expected to be called upon and help.

But NATO, I think, should include Ukraine, definitely, at this point and I think that we need to — especially with new leadership coming in on January 20, being sworn on, on either ticket, we have got to make sure that we strengthen our allies, our ties with each one of those NATO members.

We have got to make sure that that is the group that can be counted upon to defend one another in a very dangerous world today.

GIBSON: And you think it would be worth it to the United States, Georgia is worth it to the United States to go to war if Russia were to invade.

PALIN: What I think is that smaller democratic countries that are invaded by a larger power is something for us to be vigilant against. We have got to be cognizant of what the consequences are if a larger power is able to take over smaller democratic countries.

And we have got to be vigilant. We have got to show the support, in this case, for Georgia. The support that we can show is economic sanctions perhaps against Russia, if this is what it leads to.

It doesn’t have to lead to war and it doesn’t have to lead, as I said, to a Cold War, but economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, again, counting on our allies to help us do that in this mission of keeping our eye on Russia and Putin and some of his desire to control and to control much more than smaller democratic countries.

His mission, if it is to control energy supplies, also, coming from and through Russia, that’s a dangerous position for our world to be in, if we were to allow that to happen.

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and his vice presidential pick Joseph Biden, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, have also expressed support for the extension of a NATO “Membership Action Plan” to Georgia. But Obama’s comments back in August on the issue also noted that he aspired to have a more cooperative relationship with Russia:

Going forward, the United States and Europe must support the people of Georgia. Beyond immediate humanitarian assistance, we must provide economic assistance, and help rebuild what has been destroyed. I have consistently called for deepening relations between Georgia and transatlantic institutions, including a Membership Action Plan for NATO, and we must continue to press for that deeper relationship.

The relationship between Russia and the West is long and complicated. There have been many turning points, for good and ill. This is another turning point.

Let me be clear: we seek a future of cooperative engagement with the Russian government, and friendship with the Russian people. We want Russia to play its rightful role as a great nation – but with that role comes the responsibility to act as a force for progress in this new century, not regression to the conflicts of the past. That is why the United States and the international community must speak out strongly against this aggression, and for peace and security.

While some of Palin’s stated policy proscriptions — extending NATO membership to former Soviet states – don’t appear wholly different from the Democratic ticket’s, one notes Palin’s tendency to the black and white view of the world and hardline antagonisms with which we have become quite familiar during the Bush/Cheney presidency. While Obama’s lean to acknowledging the reality: that we live in a more complex world comprised of “long and complicated” relationships with countries like Russia from which we want different things, including cooperation on matters such as preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons. And as we’ve learned, talking tough may make Dick Cheney feel good, but it’s hard to see what it’s done for the people of Georgia; and there are consequences too to style differences and rhetorical antagonisms — remember Freedom Fries and “Old Europe?” — which come at a real cost to American interests when trying to get other countries to contribute more troops to Afghanistan (or Iraq), to cooperation in pressuring Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

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