What are the major issues confronting Russia?

Zakheim worries about Russia's policies it home and its cozy ties to Iran.
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TRANSCRIPT

Dov Zakheim: Well it’s a number of things. First, clearly the Russians, because they want to show that they have muscle, are muscling people around in a way that probably isn’t good for stability. I mean look what just happened in Estonia. And I suspect that if the Russians were treated the way, I don’t know, we treat the French, the British or whatever, there would have been a way to get the Russians to back down without them losing face. They are very concerned about their sphere of influence. I mean they have their equivalent of the Monroe Doctrine, and they’re worried about that. But yet if you look – I think it’s Turkmenistan – we have bases there and so do they. And in spite of all the friction, the Russians are prepared to have us have missile defense systems in Azerbaijan, which is part of why I think we should grab that idea. Even if it doesn’t work perfectly against Iran, by having those systems there with the Russians, do you honestly think the Iranians will trust the Russians again? I mean just to do that, just to give the supreme leader in Tehran nightmares over whether the Russians are really colluding. And the more the Russians tell the Iranians, “Oh no, we’re not,” the less the Iranians will believe them. So the Russians are prepared to work with us. And if we do that, I think we can temper some of this . . . this desire to be the big bully on the block. I think the way that we get more democracy in Russia . . . The Russians clearly don’t want our NGOs operating there. But again, I mean, I think that’s one that we do have to push, and . . . but we do it in a way that makes it non-threatening, and not all NGOs are threatening.

Recorded on: 7/2/07