In 1994, Richard Nixon founded what is, today, one of the few bastions of realist thinking in the United States, The Center for the National Interest. The Center’s magazine, The National Interest explains realism here:
The United States, Henry Kissinger once noted, may be “the only country in which the term ‘realist’ can be used as a pejorative epithet.” Here we go again. The Center for the National Interest, which was founded by Richard M. Nixon in 1994, is being criticized for its embrace of realist principles, including outreach to Russia based on a combination of diplomatic and military strength. The last media frenzy that occurred surrounded the Center’s sponsorship of a foreign policy speech by Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. Now that the Mueller investigation has given the Center a clean bill of health, the critics are working overtime to invent new charges in the hope that something sticks.
The realist approach served as a bipartisan foundation for Washington’s approach to the world, providing a common framework for identifying threats and defending American interests abroad. Everyone from Harry Truman and Dean Acheson to Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger to George H.W. Bush and James Baker espoused a strategic realism that played a decisive role in ending the Cold War on American terms. Even Ronald Reagan, who talked about battling an evil empire, ended up signing sweeping arms control treaties with the Kremlin and consigning the Cold War to the dustbin of history.
The two major strands of American foreign policy that dominated during the post-Cold War period—neo-conservatism and liberal internationalism—may have disputed the appropriate mix of force and diplomatic persuasion, but they were united in pursuing a missionary foreign policy. They advocated what George Kennan once referred to as “the smug myopia which views American civilization as the final solution to all world problems; which recommends our institutions for universal adoption and turns away with contempt from the serious study of the institutions of people whose civilizations may seem to us to be materially less advanced.”
This approach has failed. It has led to debilitating wars in the Middle East that have sapped America’s treasury. It has helped turn competitors into enemies. Regions that once enjoyed the strategic benefits of a balance of power have been thrown into disorder and disarray. The world order that prevailed in 1989 is now in shambles.
The Center has always been a leading voice in Track II dialogue with a variety of countries—including, yes, Russia—in the belief that outreach is in the national interest.
This is why the head of the center, Dimitri K. Simes, is serving as a co-host of the television show aired on Channel 1 in Russia called “The Great Game.” In informing the board of the center about the show, chairman Charles Boyd explained that “although a different method than we’ve used before, this project strikes me as what our Center was established to do.
The show features contrasting stands. One viewpoint is articulated by Russian Duma committee chairman Vyacheslav Nikonov and with Simes explaining an American viewpoint.
The bottom line is that the show provides a valuable opportunity for prominent Americans who have served in government or are think tank experts or journalists to address tens of millions of Russians and the country’s elite in real-time with no fear of censorship.
Read more here.