House Speaker John Boehner urged the Obama administration to retool its policy with Russia, warning that the country is sliding back to its Soviet ways and will soon be led by a man who “harbors intense Soviet nostalgia.”
“The American people deserve a clear, coherent strategy for how we will engage a resurgent Russia,” Boehner said in a speech before the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, according to prepared remarks. “In Russia’s use of old tools and old thinking, we see nothing short of an attempt to restore Soviet-style power and influence.”
Boehner spoke at a conference titled “The Risk of Reset: Why Washington Must Watch its Step with Moscow,” hosted by the conservative think tank. The event explored the administration’s “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations after years of what it described as botched relations under the Bush administration.
Despite the new approach, human rights have deteriorated in Russia and disputes over issues like Iran and Syria persist. Vladimir Putin’s expected return to the presidency has opened up the administration’s policy to a fresh round of criticism.
Boehner noted that he was not advocating for direct confrontation or open conflict, and highlighted arms control, counter-terrorism and trade as potential areas of cooperation between the two nations.
But he outlined several ways he saw room for a more aggressive approach.
““When it comes to Iran, the administration has a number of tools at its disposal – including U.N. sanctions, even though they were watered down by Russia,” Boehner said. “We should do more to compel the Kremlin to curtail its relationship with Iran, particularly related to its nuclear program and missile technology.”
Boehner also suggested that the U.S. could use Russia’s interest in joining the World Trade Organization as leverage in the dispute over Georgian border.
“The administration should resolve this stalemate in a manner that respects the territorial integrity of Georgia,” Boehner said. “Then--and only then--will movement on the WTO question be worth considering.”