>Thievery enablement is now no longer a sustainable Russia policy. So what do we do? In two words: buy it, or, more precisely, buy Siberia and neighboring territory from Russia.
>Almost eight years ago, Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations proposed in a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece that the United States buy Siberia from Russia for $2 trillion. At the time, Russian President Boris Yeltsin had offered to sell oil fields, production plants and land to the United States to help pay down some of Russia's then-$70 billion in foreign debt. President Bush turned Yeltsin down, reasoning that it was one thing for America to win the Cold War, quite another to buy up its assets in a fire sale.
>Times have changed. Russia's gross domestic product is roughly half the size it was in 1991 and nearly half of its people?more than 60 million of them?live below the poverty line. The poverty line in Russia makes the poverty line in America look like Southampton. The near-term outlook could hardly be bleaker.
>Russia is a country on the verge of economic implosion. Mead's proposal fixes all that with the stroke of a pen. A $2 trillion purchase of Siberia pays off Russia's debt, stabilizes its currency, upgrades its infrastructure (which would be done by American businesses, thus helping alleviate the U.S. current account deficit) and leaves more than enough left over to pay all the back wages of every last pensioner. There would even be enough left over for an Alaska-style rebate to every Russian citizen, assuming the kleptocracy doesn't skim off more than the usual 33 percent.
>In return, the United States would acquire a land mass larger than its own with a population of roughly 30 million people. "The combination of new territories in Asia," Mead wrote, "and a vast, suddenly solvent market in European Russia would amount, literally, to a new frontier with new opportunities and challenges for generations to come? This deal would double our size and put us on the Pacific Rim at the intersection of China, Korea and Japan.
>Of course, if the idea were even proposed at a meeting of Clinton administration foreign policy decision-makers, it would be shot down in an instant. Too risky. Too tricky. They'd lawyer it back to an IMF loan guarantee program so fast it would make your head spin.
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