Spock: Jim, there is a historic opportunity here.
Kirk: Dont trust them! Dont believe them!
Spock: Theyre dying.
Kirk: Let them die.
The exchange above is from the 1991 movie Star Trek VI. Its science fiction on the outside, but its brimming with contemporary political commentary underneath, and its theme is the end of the Cold War.
With the Klingon Empire crumbling (an unsubtle metaphor for the collapsing Soviet Union), Spock wanted to engage the Klingons to help them and to foster the development of a Klingon Empire more friendly to Starfleet. Kirk wanted to step on their throats.
In the real world, Spocks approach carried the day, and when the Soviet Union collapsed, America engaged Russia, lending aid in reconstructing its ruined economy and hoping that a liberal, progressive Russia would emerge to play a constructive role in the international system.
We now know how that worked out. It was a colossal blunder.
Klingons, as Captain Kirk warned, are not to be trusted. Neither are Russians. Look at the evidence.
All of Russias recent activities on the international stage indicate an unrepentant hostility to the American-led international order. It brazenly invades its democratic neighbors and shows little regard for the rights, lives and aspirations of minorities in its border areas. It uses its oil and gas lines as tools of economic blackmail against its Western neighbors. It provides arms to Syria and nuclear fuel to Iran. It threatens Poland with nuclear attack, and it schedules naval exercises with Venezuela.
Inside Russia, things look no more promising. Economically and politically, it resembles the petrodollar autocracies of the Middle East more than the liberal, dynamic states of Western Europe.
Culturally, it is almost medieval in outlook. Russian women have a second-class status, and instances of rape and battery are frequently regarded by Russian police and bureaucrats as too insignificant to warrant investigation. Racist violence occurs in Russian cities with alarming regularity, according to Amnesty International. Stable family structures are rare. Unwanted and neglected children are common and a shocking 56 percent of all pregnancies in Russia are aborted.
Whatever the architects of American policy envisioned, it wasnt this. And thats why I propose the Captain Kirk Plan: Instead of engaging the Russians, we should crush them.
The United States is well positioned to pressure the Russian state to destabilize. Russia is internally weak and vulnerable to disintegration from within because the foundation of its security resides in the vast distances with which it shields itself from external invasion and insulates itself from destabilizing foreign influences.
Neither Hitlers armies nor Napoleons could successfully traverse the vast Russian steppe, but America shrewdly neutralizes this geographic advantage in piecemeal fashion, pushing east by absorbing former Soviet states into NATO. Ukraine, too, will soon fall into the Western orbit.
This will open the way and will bring Western culture and ideas to Russias doorstep, delegitimize its government and promote democracy and self-determination in its secession-minded provinces. Only such a reinvigorated containment policy, vigilantly implemented and carried to its logical end, will inally close the curtain on the Cold War.