Cold War

RUSSIA IS NOT THE SOVIET UNION


It should be intuitively obvious to any observer of international affairs that the U.S.-Russia relationship matters for both countries, and for the world. The fact that such a question even gets asked is revealing, however. It seems to result from an implicit comparison with the centrality of the U.S.-Soviet relationship, which of course, in relative terms, was far more important for both countries, and for the world. But that comparison is misleading; Russia is not the Soviet Union and bipolarity has been over for almost twenty-five years. So compared to any other bilateral relationship that exists in the world today, the U.S.–Russia dyad is remarkably important: there isn’t a single global issue that isn’t affected by it. But the fact that the question is being asked demonstrates the extent to which the Cold War legacy haunts this bilateral relationship.

To “fix” the relationship, both sides need to recognize that it is broken, and that some serious effort needs to be made in order to repair it. The two governments have yet to undertake such an effort. For all its myriad successes, the “reset” of 2009 to 2011 was fundamentally about the “deliverables” produced by the relationship, and not about addressing the long-standing problems within the relationship. There are three primary problems or pathologies that plague bilateral ties. The most corrosive of these problems remains the fact that elements within both countries’ national security establishments continue to view each other as adversaries, almost twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War. These attitudes are most overtly manifest in the persistence of mutually assured destruction as the paradigm that defines the nuclear relationship. A second pathology is the yawning gap between Washington’s expectations about Russia’s post-Soviet political development and Russian realities, which have refused to conform to those expectations. Finally, U.S.–Russia rivalry in post-Soviet Eurasia also represents a continuing handicap on bilateral ties. Addressing these pathologies would involve good-faith engagement to find common ground, overcome misperceptions, and rethink assumptions. It would not produce “deliverables” fit for presidential summits. But without such an effort, the two governments will end up, once again, taking steps that force them to cancel summits, as President Obama did earlier this month.

Samuel Charap is Senior Fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Printable PDF

REGION-TO-REGION COLLABORATION IS OF CLEAR BENEFIT


The U.S.-Russia relationship will always be a critical component of U.S. foreign relations.  Unfortunately, neither the United States nor the European Union has been particularly effective over the past decade in recalibrating its views of Russia from a net consumer of foreign assistance to an economic and geopolitical co-equal among G8 nations.  The relationship going forward must be based on principles of parity and mutual interest, without an assumption that Russia, which increasingly sees itself as neither western nor Asian, will emulate a U.S. or EU political model.

Current textbook accounts of U.S.-Soviet relations in the 20th century are notably limited and largely unchanged since the time of the Cold War, which contributes to a persistent perception of the relationship in both countries in “zero-sum” terms.  As was the case in Germany and Japan, new and increasingly nuanced historical narratives are required to enable younger generations in both countries to comprehend past sacrifices and contributions of Russians and Americans in order to envision a common, cooperative future.

The U.S.-Russia dialogue is still defined by the symbolism of high-level meetings, rather than the substance of a rich exchange of entrepreneurial, scientific, cultural, social ideas across regions and municipalities.  Educational and research exchanges have decreased significantly over the past eight years, as have joint research projects with American universities.

A recently inaugurated university-based U.S.-Russia Innovation (Biomedical) Corridor between Maryland and Nizhnij Novogorod provides an example of the untapped potential for scientific, educational, and entrepreneurial cooperation at the region-to-region level, in this case genome-based cancer treatments.  Three more university-based economic clusters in the areas of new materials, “clean” engineering, and climate change research are proposed for 2013 to 2014.

Region-to-region collaboration is of clear benefit to U.S. and Russian partners.  It tends to draw on younger-generation researchers and entrepreneurs for implementation, stimulates local economic development (including small and medium enterprises), and is relatively protected from the vicissitudes in relations among central authorities in either country.

Dan E. Davidson is President and co-founder of the American Councils for International Education and professor of Russian and Second Language Acquisition at Bryn Mawr College.

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Printable PDF

BOTH SEEM CONTENT WITH STALEMATE


Objectively, more so than ever, U.S. and Russian interests converge on the most pressing global challenges, including weapons proliferation, terrorism, environmental degradation, pandemics, regional instability, failing and failed states. Absent active collaboration, it is impractical to fashion effective responses to these challenges.  Although more cooperation is ongoing in a number of these areas than is widely appreciated, domestic political considerations are having an unfortunate chilling effect, which could lead both states to assume very counterproductive positions.

Perhaps the two greatest dangers are that (1) the Russian leadership will conclude there is little reason to engage with the United States as it cannot deliver on issues that are of importance to Russia, a perception undoubtedly reinforced by the cancellation of the summit and an interpretation of this as evidence of President Obama’s weakened political position; and (2) the temptation on the part of the United States to attempt to punish Russia for perceived transgressions. The most disconcerting aspect of the situation is that leading voices in government in both countries today appear to be essentially content with the status quo stalemate, albeit for different reasons, and are disinclined to invest the political capital needed to promote greater cooperation.

Convene an “agenda-free” summit

In charting a course forward, it is useful to recall that even during the bleakest moments of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were able to set aside their ideological and political differences to cooperate meaningfully and in a sustained fashion in a number of areas, most notably nuclear nonproliferation.  It would be tragic—and very dangerous—were such cooperation to diminish in the post-Cold War period.  As such, it is worth considering the value added of reviving the high-level biannual nonproliferation meetings that covered the entire range of proliferation concerns held by either party.  More generally, it would be desirable to expand the number of bilateral and multilateral working groups at the Track 1, Track 1.5, and Track 2 levels that conduct business largely below the radar screen of politicians and the media.  It also is highly desirable to facilitate more exchanges among different groups of students and professionals in both countries, including educators, military personnel, agricultural experts, etc., and to promote collaborative educational activities such as joint graduate degree programs.

To the extent that one sought to return to the summit process, it might make more sense to convene an “agenda-free” summit at which the U.S. and Russian leadership could discuss global affairs in a broad and largely unstructured way (perhaps the closest model is the December 1989 Bush-Gorbachev summit at Malta). Such a discussion of shared and divergent threat perceptions should lead to the recognition that on many, if not most, issues the two parties desire similar outcomes but differ mainly on the means to obtain them.

A major obstacle to improved relations that must be recognized if it is to be overcome is the persistence of very different perceptions the two countries have of one another.  Both talk about the need for collaboration, but the U.S. tends to view Russia as a potential ally only when it is prepared to promote U.S. priorities, and typically is disparaging of Russian power, is insensitive to the legitimacy of Russian interests, and discounts the domestic support Putin enjoys for pursuing precisely those policies that are anathema to the United States.  For its part, while Russia may see the U.S. as in decline, it is hypersensitive to its own vulnerabilities and takes umbrage at the various “slights” that it incurs, although these are invisible to most U.S. policymakers.

One possible way to minimize the negative influence of domestic politics on U.S.–Russian cooperation is to embed collaboration whenever possible in more multilateral fora.  Examples where this already is ongoing, but could be expanded and intensified, are in areas such as nonproliferation and disarmament (P-5 consultations on disarmament are a good example, although they are not without a downside); counter-terrorism, nuclear security, nonproliferation education, environmental remediation, etc.

Very importantly, civil society must make the case loudly and clearly, that both sides need one another and acceptance of the status quo is unacceptable.

William G. Potter is Director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Printable PDF

RUSSIA IS DIFFICULT, BUT FAR FROM AN ENEMY


Russia is among a handful of influential global actors on almost every issue of vital national interest to the United States, from strategic nuclear stability and nonproliferation, to countering terrorism, responding to pandemic threats, and sustaining global economic growth based on free trade and energy security. Russia may seem to be a difficult partner at times, yet it is far from America’s adversary or enemy today. Tough talk and tit-for-tat posturing of the kind both sides have demonstrated in recent months are nothing compared to the potentially catastrophic results of real confrontation, which veterans of the Cold War worked tirelessly to avoid.

On the contrary, a broad range of mutual interests shared by Moscow and Washington has underpinned decades of successful joint initiatives in space, scientific research, cultural exchange, and conflict resolution, while the potential for U.S.-Russia cooperation in the future should be even greater.

Recognize Russia’s distinct national interests

Managing U.S.-Russia ties will never be easy or intuitive for either side. Although many vital interests are shared, there are important areas of divergence, and the current imbalance of political, diplomatic, and economic power, favoring the United States, inclines Russians toward particular sensitivity over any perception of bullying, undue meddling, or disrespect from Washington.

Successful engagement with Russia demands recognition of Russia’s distinct and legitimate national interests, even when they do not appear compatible with those of the United States.  While Americans may hope for accelerated progress toward liberal democracy and the rule of law in Russia, only the Russian people can decide the priorities and pace of their domestic development.  Respect for Russia’s independent interests and developmental course, with sustained attention and patience for official engagement, plus investment in the building blocks of the relationship such as trade promotion, ease of travel, and cultural exchange, offer the best chance to produce big bilateral accomplishments over time.

Matthew Rojansky is Director of the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Printable PDF

GET PAST THE COLD WAR MENTALITY


The U.S.–Russia relationship matters greatly now, for a multitude of reasons. A growing number of the most pressing problems facing the world today can only be addressed effectively through multilateral channels, and solutions to these problems will be more robust and lasting if both the United States and Russia cooperate to help craft them. Solutions to critical global challenges such as developing new technologies (and safeguards) for expanded nuclear power generation and addressing the threat of climate change are prominent examples. Achieving a lasting peace in Syria, and the Middle East more generally, will require U.S.–Russia cooperation of a different sort, but the need is just as urgent. Leaving Russia “out of the equation” will hinder progress toward addressing much of the international agenda, as well as weaken the international interface of Russia with the West, to the detriment of Russia’s internal development. In an era when the forces of globalization have transformed information flows and international interactions, Russia’s integration into the world economy and polity cannot be reversed.

Both the United States and Russia need to get past the Cold War mentality that persists in some quarters in both countries. That mentality, supported by outdated ideological bias and further advanced, on occasion, by commercial interests, is itself a continuing threat to world peace.

Focus on problems both sides want to solve

The U.S.–Russia dialogue needs to broaden and change fundamentally in tone. Participants should include representatives from official institutions, the private/commercial sectors, and civil society on both sides. The more “demand driven” this dialogue is, the better. Discussions should focus on addressing challenges and problems that both sides want to solve, including problems of a global nature where U.S.–Russian cooperation could make a positive difference. In a narrow but practical sense, academic exchanges would fit this agenda, as would “sister city” and other twinning arrangements involving civil society. Work to strengthen the Russian and international financial systems is another area where past cooperation, undertaken quietly and away from the inhibiting glare of publicity, has produced extraordinarily positive results, helping to build mutual trust and respect that has carried over into other areas of dialogue. Efforts to promote Russian and international economic growth, to help diversify the raw-materials-centered Russian economy, and to address common problems that are too complex for either country to address alone, would also be beneficial. Development of critically needed alternative sources of energy and long-term solutions to climate change are examples of global challenges from this last category.

Efforts reflecting ideological agendas, or one country’s attempts to tackle problems and shortcomings it perceives in the other, are unlikely to advance mutual understanding and deepen mutual respect. Such efforts are more likely to be perceived as meddling. In this context, cooperation to promote broad-based economic growth is more likely to produce positive results than efforts aimed head-on at “democracy building.”

J. Andrew Spindler, President and CEO, Financial Services Volunteer Corps.

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Printable PDF

NOT THE COLD WAR, BUT THAT IS A PROBLEM


Blaming Cold War thinking for the frictions in U.S.-Russia relations unfortunately distracts us from honestly facing and fixing the reasons why we seem unable to cooperate on truly important global security challenges.

A fundamental source of the friction is something only Russia itself can solve: its insecurity and resentment in the face of a rapidly changing world.  Russian insecurity is rooted primarily in its underperforming economy, long-suffering but restive society, and increasingly clumsy political system. As long as Russia’s political leadership rejects political and real economic modernization in order to cling to power, Russia will remain less prosperous and secure than it can and should be.

While the United States can do little about Russia’s internal political drama, it can do much to create opportunities for Russian social and economic integration through trade, investment, and education.  And to the extent that uncertainty and mistrust about America’s global security presence and policies feed Russia’s (misguided) fears that it is the target of U.S. schemes, focused diplomacy on even the toughest issues—most notably change in the Middle East and security in post-2014 Afghanistan—has to build a cooperative modus vivendi for the challenges ahead. Mutual reaffirmation to follow international law and utilize international institutions—even when doing so means compromise and policy adjustment—is in America’s interests because an insecure and destructive Russia is not.

The Cold War is not coming back, but that is no reason to pat ourselves on the back and ignore the need to invest in the American-Russian relationship. Looking backward risks tripping on the obstacles before us: it’s time to see those obstacles more clearly and adjust our path.

Celeste A. Wallanderis Associate Professor at the School of International Service, American University and Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States.

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Printable PDF

A RELATIONSHIP TO BE TENDED AND CULTIVATED


The relationship with Russia is a matter of continuing importance. For all its weaknesses, Russia remains a major power.  It is, among other things, a member of the UN Security Council, possessor of the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, a leading producer of energy, and an important neighbor of China. Russia has the capacity to help or to hinder the United States in the pursuit of many of its most important foreign policy goals: nuclear arms reductions; nuclear nonproliferation; European security; the fight against terrorism; stability in the Middle East (including the Iranian nuclear program and the Syrian civil war). It is a relationship that needs to be cultivated over the long term, not something to be attended to only as the occasion demands. It has to be assessed in light of the general strategy—easier said than done, of course, but nevertheless the right approach.

What can and should both countries do to “fix” the relationship?

I don’t know that the relationship can be “fixed.” I prefer a gardening metaphor to a handyman’s.  It’s a relationship that needs to be tended and cultivated. It is now going through a difficult period and the difficulties are embedded, to simplify grossly, in two different narratives.  The Putin narrative is one of resentment, of Russia exploited in the past and threatened in the present by the West. To many Americans (and Russians too), Russia is a country that has lost its way, to the point where one can ask whether the Cold War is over. Though misleading in important respects, these narratives exercise a powerful influence and make it difficult to identify a “quick fix.” This is a long-term project. Max Weber’s description of politics as “the slow drilling of hard boards” seems to fit here.

David Holloway is the Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History and a senior fellow of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Printable PDF

THE SHORT TERM VS THE LONG TERM


At the most basic level, these are still the two countries with the largest nuclear arsenals in the world, and overtly hostile relations between them are therefore not particularly good for anyone.  In a more pragmatic sense, there are many ways that Russia can help (or hinder) U.S. foreign policy interests, and vice versa.  Both countries are interested in how events unfold in Afghanistan and the Middle East, the trajectory of international terrorism, and the long-term rise of China.  And of course both countries continue to be interested in developments in Europe, even if not quite to the same extent as during the Cold War.  In many (but of course not all) of these cases, cooperation between the United States and Russia can help both countries achieve important goals.  Finally, the UnitedStates has long been seen as a friend of the Russian people by certain segments of the Russian population, especially those with more liberal political outlooks; some of these people may be the leaders of Russia in the future.  What the United States does today vis-à-vis Russia and the way it treats its own citizens may affect how those citizens feel about the United States in the future.

What can and should both countries do to “fix” the relationship?

Clearly, dialogue between the two countries is important if relations are going to improve.  But it may be time to think about the difference between getting things fixed in the short term and in the long term. Clearly, both sides face temptations to use their relationship to play to their own domestic audiences, and President Putin has undoubtedly made antagonizing the West a part of his strategy for maintaining support at home. In the short term, in the aftermath of the public decision to cancel the summit, the United States may find it can best advance its foreign goals by quietly re-establishing contact with the Russians at lower levels. (And to be clear, I think tying the future of U.S.-Russian relations to the fate of Edward Snowden would be a mistake.) But in the longer term, the United Statesmay want to consider ways to convince Putin that there are consequences to “playing the American card” so often for domestic consumption, especially in terms of using it to demonize his opponents at home as somehow un-Russian. Taking a firmer stance with the regime now might end up paying dividends down the road, although this will of course be tricky in practice.

Joshua A. Tucker is Professor of Politics and Russian and Slavic Studies, New York University.

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Printable PDF

LET US STRETCH OUR IMAGINATIONS


For the first time in a long time, the American airwaves are filled with talk about Russia and its relations with the United States. Opinions are many and varied, ranging from endorsement of President Obama’s cancellation of the summit with President Putin, to concerns about Obama’s decision; from attempts to rationalize Putin’s move to grant temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, to outright outrage about him snubbing the U.S. But whatever the view or the tone, experts, analysts, and officials are talking about Russia, and that is a good thing. That’s the silver lining in the summit’s cancellation.

But, it would be even better if more and louder voices in the United States would use this latest chapter in the U.S.-Russia saga to talk about the importance and the potential of this relationship.

The prevailing media discourse highlights the negatives. The Snowden affair is the final straw, many say, in a relationship that is going nowhere… at a zero, bankrupt, with nothing to talk about. Underpinning these views is a list of disagreements that are identified, explained, and deemed insurmountable.

By now, the American people have heard loud and clear what divides the two countries. But what about what unites them? What about mutual interests and concerns? Shouldn’t those be the focus of some discussions?

Let us stretch our imaginations for the sake of expanding the current conversations.

Nuclear arms reductions are considered at a standstill after the pivotal New START Treaty that was negotiated and confirmed during Obama’s first term. Perhaps this is the case. But both sides are eager to further reduce their Cold War nuclear legacy arsenals as neither country has the finances or the appetite to maintain weapons that cannot be used at their present numbers. If the stumbling block is the U.S. plan to develop a limited missile defense against a nuclear attack from Iran, or another foe, reaching a negotiated agreement on further nuclear cuts and a mutually acceptable defense system is not unimaginable. What is missing is not a common objective, but trust, confidence, and political will.

Regarding Iran, the two countries again share a goal in not seeing Iran acquire nuclear weapons. The Russians have strong economic interests in Iran, including in its civilian nuclear industry, and no desire for a nuclear-armed state in their neighborhood. Russia has put aside significant reservations to support the UN-led sanctions against Iran. The United States and Russia agree on the desired outcome. They differ on how to get to it. So, here too, if there is political will, trust, and confidence, finding a mutually acceptable approach to stifling Iran’s nuclear weaponization program is not unattainable.

Syria is highlighted as the latest and deepest source of frustration and division. And clearly, it is. Russia’s support for Bashar al Assad, along with U.S. insistence that the regime’s stepping down must be part of any negotiated settlement, have contributed to the human fiasco facing the Syrian people. Perhaps the situation is now beyond repair, given the spread and the depth of sectarian conflict in the country. But again, the United States. and Russia share ultimate goals—to contain the conflict, restore stability, and prevent Syria from falling into the hands of extremists. What’s missing is not a common vision, but again, trust, confidence, and political will to move toward it.

In each of these, and other cases that are mentioned as divisive, including terrorism, post-NATO Afghanistan, North Korea’s nuclear program, cyber security, energy security, and others, common ground can be found if the search is driven by understanding of mutual positions, respect for national concerns, objective assessments of reality, and, yes, trust, confidence, and political will.

So what is stopping this relationship from moving off an old and flawed pattern of two steps backward for each step forward?

Partly it is due to different worldviews, expectations, and aspirations. But, these are based more on perceptions than reality, and can be overcome through negotiations and engagements, as suggested above. A bigger obstacle is divergent political systems and values. And here, both countries need to alter their respective views of each other.

The United States must accept that Russia is not likely to become a Western-style liberal democracy in the immediate future. It is a socially conservative country, molded through a long history of authoritarian rule—a sentiment that the present Russian leadership is taking advantage of by introducing policies deemed regressive by the world’s democracies. Many of President Putin’s policies are supported by the majority of the Russian population, including his decision concerning Snowden. For the United States to wish that shared values are the basis of a relationship with Russia is as unrealistic as it is impractical. And in this respect, Russia is treated as a special case, as few other countries are held to the same standards.

On the other hand, for Russia to dismiss the impact of domestic policies that are shrinking civil liberties and narrowing the space of political activism in the country is as inaccurate as it is risky. As demonstrated by the global reaction to the anti-gay legislation, the world is watching Russia’s trends with deep concern. For Russia to aspire to great power status, particularly given the modest size of its population and unpredictable economy, it should be moving toward universal progressive values, not away from them. It should recognize that the United States is a guidepost for civil liberties that Russia should embrace rather than negate.

Narrowing the gaps and developing trust, confidence, and political will has to come from the top.

President Obama was initially right not to make Edward Snowden a pawn on a chessboard that advances to a queen. Yet, he did exactly that by canceling the summit. President Putin was initially right to ignore Snowden and deny him a chance to drive a wedge between the two countries. Yet, he did exactly that by granting Snowden temporary asylum. The actions of both presidents suggest exasperation with each other. Both have put effort and political capital into the relationship and neither got what he hoped for.

Starting from the presidents and going down to their advisors, the media, and the public, each country needs to accept certain realities about the other, move to narrow the gaps, and focus on what unites them rather than on what divides them. Only then can there be the kind of a paradigm shift that will enable this pivotal relationship to advance global stability rather than deepen insecurity. It is time to get this relationship right before global problems become really insurmountable.

Deana Arsenian is Vice President, International Program and Program Director, Russia and Eurasia, for Carnegie Corporation of New York. This article first appeared in the Huffington Post.

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Printable PDF

ANTI-AMERICANISM AND RUSSIA’S QUEST FOR A NATIONAL IDENTITY


Syria and its chemical weapons have emerged as a temporary opportunity for cooperation between the United States and Russia. The problem of Afghanistan drug trafficking may be another, a more lasting one. There are more issues where cooperation is problematic to say the least. Most importantly there’s no basis—such as trust or solid mutual interest—for sustainable relations between Russia and America. When trust is missing in a relationship, one way to avoid tensions is to reduce relations to a minimum. But even if the two parties try to pass over difficult and divisive issues, unexpected developments—another Snowden or another Magnitsky—can undermine the seeming calm. There may be no return to the confrontation of the Cold War—the world is just too different today and the disparity of power between the United States and Russia too broad—but the inability of the two nations to come to terms and a reluctance to understand each other is at times reminiscent of the Cold War period.

Almost half of the Russians share a negative perception of the United States, up from 27 percent just two years ago. This sharp decline is the result of the anti-American line pursued by the national television networks, which persistently portray the United States as a force for evil:  Russian nongovernment “agents” recruited by Americans undertake to weaken Russian statehood; Russian orphans are maimed by their adoptive American families; alien American culture is imposed on Russia in order to undermine its traditional values.

In the course of post-Soviet development, tides of anti-Americanism rose several times, but then a more reconciled tone would set in. This time there’s more to the current trend than merely an anti-American slant on TV. After all, the coverage of Russia in the American media can hardly be described as a model of objectivity. But in Russia, the intense anti-American rhetoric has not subsided for over two years now. And this rhetoric is accompanied by anti-American moves and policies, such as the harassment of the American ambassador, the eviction of USAID, or a ban on American adoption of Russian orphans, to mention just a few. Most importantly, anti-Americanism has become a major element of Russia’s quest for a national identity.

Although two decades have passed since the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union, up until recently Russia remained uncertain over the nature of her new statehood.  The Kremlin, and Putin in particular, were evasive on what post-communist Russia stood for. Russia was no longer communist or totalitarian, but she failed to produce a reasonably consensual narrative of what the Soviet past was about. She did not fully embrace the principles of a market economy or liberal democracy, but neither did she reject them. Nor did she decide whether or not she was essentially “European.”

Uncertainty and evasiveness were convenient because they helped muffle societal divisions. But in late 2011, public acquiescence was broken by the Moscow protests, and the Kremlin felt the urge to consolidate the majority against the Moscow troublemakers. This called for more clarity on values and principles, and a new identity. Over the past two years, this identity has gained explicitly anti-Western and antiliberal shape. The Pussy Riot trial, the “anti-gay” legislation, the overt and self-righteous xenophobia, or the detention of Greenpeace members are but a few examples of overt rejection of Western values. These and other antiliberal, antisecular, antimodern developments are driven by the  political shifts inside Russia, but today Russia’s foreign policy stance, and relations with the United States in particular, are largely shaped by her domestic policy agenda.

The identity currently in the making may be not too solid—there’s too much “against” about it and too little “for”—but for the moment it resonates well with the broad public mindset. As long as Russia’s quest for identity takes the anti-Western and anti-American path, this will preclude constructive or reliable relations with the United States. America can hardly make a difference in this process, especially since the United States itself is currently facing soul-searching questions regarding its own role in the world.

Maria Lipman is editor-in-chief of Carnegie Moscow Center’s Pro et Contra journal.

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationshipproject produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York in partnership with the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Printable PDF

THE TWO COUNTRIES’ SELF-PERCEPTIONS AND VISIONS OF EACH OTHER ARE POLES APART

Igor Zevelev, Moscow Office, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

| U.S. Foreign Policy | China | NATO | Putin |


The U.S.-Russia relationship still matters in today’s world, but in a way that is very different from historical patterns. The importance of the bilateral relationship does not look the same from the perspective of Washington and Moscow. America remains a significant “other” for Russia, though Russia has ceased to be one for the United States.

Vladimir Putin’s return to office and concerns over maintaining stability in the country in the spring of 2012 brought about a situation where domestic political considerations began to increasingly affect Russia’s foreign policy course. Today, that course is characterized by a combination of several conflicting narratives, which coexist in a general space of rhetoric on national identity, domestic and international security, and civilizational divisions. A relatively new and ascending narrative includes a mystical belief in Russia’s destiny to be a bulwark of traditional conservative values and moral principles rooted in Christianity.  It is accompanied by anti-Western rhetoric and continuing securitization of the relationship with the United States.  The Kremlin strives to preserve Russia’s constructed identity with the help of its great power status in light of what the Kremlin perceives to be attempts to establish American domination behind the rhetoric of universal values. Russia’s leaders are obsessed with preserving the great power image and with resisting the liberal West led by the United States at any cost. The United States is portrayed as a power attempting to meddle into Russia’s domestic affairs. In sum, for the Kremlin, the United States is an imagined important actor in both cumbersome domestic politics and international system that is increasingly viewed in “civilizational” terms.

The current American vision of Russia is much more down-to-earth. It emphasizes concrete security issues, where the two countries’ interests overlap, in spite of the differences in political systems. When the Obama administration made strategic stability the centerpiece of its Russia policy, it effectively reduced the bilateral relationship to the Cold War-era issue. The rest of the agenda is about securing Russia’s assistance in solving the problems that are important from Washington’s point of view.

Making U.S.-Russia relations hostage of Russia’s domestic politics and reducing them to the old-fashioned interactions in the fields of arms control and selected regional flashpoints are equally counterproductive. This should be fixed.

Russia’s national interest demands a de-ideologization of the Kremlin’s view of the world. Political realism must be freed from the chains of outdated dogmas and from Russia’s ambitions to oppose the imaginary and abstract “West” led by the United States.

U.S. national interests demand strategic vision and long-term foreign policy planning. Limiting cooperation with Russia to addressing a “crisis of the day” is short-sighted. The role of Russia in U.S.-China relations in the 21st century must be seriously discussed.  Under certain circumstances, the Kremlin may try to position Russia as a “swing state” in relations between the U.S. and China, a role that neither India nor any other great power can effectively claim. Russia may either choose to expand common ground with the United States, or try to balance its global leadership by cooperating with China. This range of choices is important for the United States on many policy levels. The United States is watching China closely and cautiously; part of this caution will be keeping an eye on Chinese relations with the rest of the world. Not losing sight of Russia will be a priority for the United States.

The U.S.-Russia relationship matters at this time because both countries face, in very different ways, the unprecedented challenge of adjusting their policies to a rapidly changing environment, which is increasingly shaped by other actors and where global governance is in shambles. “Fixing” this relationship requires creating a moment that will set the tone for the future of the U.S.-Russia relationship, as was done at the Obama-Xi summit in June 2013. An informal summit creating a positive, mutually agreed public narrative of a new type of relationship would help to overcome many difficulties arising from strikingly different visions of each other and the world. The expert community, not the bureaucracies, should prepare the “philosophical side” of the summit, such as the two countries’ relative power positions in the international system and their visions of global affairs.

Igor Zevelev is Director, Moscow Office, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. All views expressed are his own and may not necessarily reflect those of The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. 

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York in partnership with the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Printable PDF

IMPROVING RUSSIAN-AMERICAN STRATEGIC DIALOGUE


Despite the recent complicated developments in international affairs and in domestic politics in Russia and the United States, the relations between the two powers remain a key factor in the global situation. In any case, this holds true as long as the issue of international security remains high on the international policy agenda.

In this sphere, the effectiveness of combating the proliferation of nuclear weapons (and other types of weapons of mass destruction) and international terrorism, as well as the resolution of crises in a number of most important regions (the Middle East, South and Central Asia, and the South Caucasus) depend primarily on Russia and the United States. The recent agreements on Syria and the resumed talks on Iran’s nuclear program are noteworthy examples of the utmost importance of such cooperation.

The current foreign and domestic policies of Russia and the United States are such that there is little hope that in the key element of their relationship—nuclear arms control—a qualitative breakthrough is possible. The dialogue on nuclear arms control is currently at an impasse, where it was brought to in 2011 due to the disagreements over the U.S./NATO ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, consequently exacerbated by broader strategic, geopolitical, and ideological differences.

However, if chemical disarmament in Syria is successful and war in the Persian Gulf is prevented, it may be possible to open a new window of opportunity for the renewal of a serious dialogue on strategic armaments. Even the USSR and the United States, with all their contradictions, conducted such bilateral negotiations for more than 20 years and achieved considerable success in the form of the SALT/START-1/INF treaties.

The expert community, along with relevant state agencies, should prepare in advance for such a window of opportunity, in order not to waste time when the right moment comes and not to miss a favorable chance, as has happened more than once before. At the same time, one should not hope that it will be possible to simply pick up where things were left in 2011. The situation has changed, and this must be taken into consideration so as not to repeat the past mistakes.

First, unlike in the recent past, there is no longer just one major missile defense program, that of the United States, but two: the American and the Russian programs. The latter is being developed as part of the Aero-Space Defense program, which is the top priority of Russia’s State Armament program until 2020 (comprising 20% of weapons development and procurement allocations, or $110 billion). For this reason, the issue of Russia’s participation in the NATO missile defense program is no longer valid. One can only speak about finding elements of compatibility between the two systems and programs. But here lies the problem: the American missile defense system is being created to defend against rogue states’ missiles [P1] (although many  Russians are convinced that it is aimed against them), whereas the Russian Aero-Space Defense forces are being openly built first and foremost against the United States. It is clear that such systems cannot be combined or made compatible.

Second, throughout the development of its Aero-Space Defense program, Moscow seems to have lost interest both toward the idea of a joint missile defense system in accordance with the notorious past “sectoral missile defense” model (even if former President Medvedev seriously believed in this project), and also toward reaching legally binding guarantees that the U.S. strategic defenses would not be targeting the Russian nuclear deterrence forces. Although Russia continues to repeat its previous arguments at an official level, they sound more like lip service statements than proposals for reaching a real agreement. It goes without saying that Russia would not mind limiting the U.S. missile defense system, but it would hardly agree to limit its own Aero-Space Defense according to the same principle of “nontargeting” the other party, insofar as the Russian Aero-Space Defense system is being created precisely against the United States. A clear demonstration of this “new look” was provided by President Putin’s decision of November 2013 to disband the special interagency group that was organized in 2011 to conduct the dialogue with the United States on this issue.

Third, in reality, rather than missile defense, by all appearances it is actually the perceived threat of U.S. precision-guided conventional strategic offensive systems that have been coming to the forefront of Moscow’s strategic concerns. They include the existing sea-based and air-based subsonic cruise missiles, the development programs for supersonic cruise missiles, and hypersonic boost-glide delivery vehicles within the framework of the Global Prompt Strike (GPS) program. In this sphere, Russia’s lag is most pronounced, and it is obviously concerned about the survivability of its nuclear deterrence capability under a hypothetical U.S. conventional disarming strike.

In light of such a threat (however questionable it may seem to many experts), Russia views negatively the U.S. proposals to continue reductions of strategic nuclear weapons as a follow-on to the New START treaty and to limit nonstrategic (tactical) nuclear weapons. Moreover, it is primarily against this threat that Russian Aero-Space Defense is designed and deployed.

Based on this, as soon as a political window of opportunity opens, the limitation of strategic offensive nonnuclear weapons should become top priority. There is a precedent for this in the New START treaty which sets the limit on strategic ballistic missiles regardless of their warhead type: nuclear or conventional.

It is true that agreeing on new limitations of this type of cruise missiles and hypersonic boost-glide delivery vehicles would be much more complicated. This is all the more so, since Washington justifies these new systems in terms of their potential usefulness for striking rogue states and terrorists.

However, if there is political will and if serious strategic analysis is applied, it should be possible to draw a demarcation line between the stability of central strategic balance and the regional military tasks, and to combine treaty limitations with confidence-building and transparency measures. For more than 40 years of arms control history, in the presence of political will and with the support of the expert community, the two parties have been able to solve more complicated problems—even during the years of the Cold War.

Removal or tangible alleviation of the perceived threat of U.S. strategic conventional weapons would make it possible for Russia to proceed with the follow-on agreements on strategic and nonstrategic nuclear arms reductions. Moreover, it would be conducive to the redirection of its Aero-Space Defense from opposing the U.S. systems to defending Russian territory from strikes by missiles and aircraft of rogue states and terrorists. Such restructuring may basically use the same BMD/air defense technology but would imply a different deployment geography and warning-command-control systems. This would create a strategic environment for making U.S. and Russian defensive systems compatible and interfacing them in some elements to enhance their combat effectiveness.

This is the new key to further nuclear arms reductions and to eventually engaging third nuclear weapon states in the arms control process, and in a longer perspective, to the cooperation of some great powers in the development of their strategic defense systems, which, in turn, would imply building essentially allied relations among them.

Alexei Arbatov is a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences; head of the Center for International Security of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations; and chair of the Nonproliferation Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center. 

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York in partnership with the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Printable PDF

RUSSIAN-AMERICAN RELATIONS: HOW CAN WE BREAK THE DEADLOCK?


The state of Russian-American relations in recent years is such that some experts have been reminded of the Cold War or have predicted its revival. But are these predictions based on reality? If not, what are the reasons for problematic bilateral relations and how can we resolve these issues?

It appears that the main reason for the problem in Russian-American relations is that following the end of the Cold War, the United States did not abandon the containment policy applied to the Soviet Union, but transferred it toward Russia.

In the beginning of the 1990s, Russia opened its heart to rapprochement with the West, withdrew its forces from Eastern Europe, and together with NATO took on an active and effective role in peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Each Russian president, upon taking office, has given a perfectly clear signal about the readiness for rapprochement, including the possibility of Russia’s membership in NATO. Russia, significantly earlier than NATO, actively and decisively supported the United States in carrying out counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

However, the euphoria of rapprochement with the West and the United States was quickly substituted with disappointment and warranted distrust.  American policy toward Russia was akin to the behavior of a victor (in this case, the victor of the Cold War) over the defeated party. U.S. resistance to the natural processes of integration of states in the post-Soviet space was very obvious.  There was a clear desire to limit Russia’s influence and the march of NATO expansion continued from the Baltics to Ukraine and Georgia.

The list of factors negatively influencing Russian-American relations is long. All these factors are either the consequence of the prolongation of the containment policy toward Russia or are related to the absence of a consensus on solutions for various international security problems. It is significant that, during this period, anti-American attitudes were evolving among the younger generations of Russians.

It is clear that real improvement in Russian-American relations requires the abandonment of the containment policy toward Russia.

In addition, another reality has appeared that must be given proper consideration. Anti-Americanism has become a factor in Russian domestic politics. The growth in defense spending, now larger than that for education and health care, requires appropriate justification. Apparently, real growth in defense industry spending is connected not so much to the presence of military threats, as to an effort to narrow the technology gap by employing military research and development—a resurrected Soviet tactic. Attempts to motivate the private sector to invest in new technologies and modern production were unsuccessful. Therefore, the government attempts to resurrect the strength and scope of the defense industry and associated technical expertise. It is apparent that the downsizing of education and health care expenditures in favor of defense spending can be partially justified by U.S. policies toward Russia.

When discussing the goal of getting the United States to abandon its policy of containment toward Russia, an important nuance must be taken into account.

The policy of containing the Soviet Union was formulated in the United States almost immediately after the end of the Second World War. But with the advent of nuclear weapons, mutual nuclear deterrence became the principal component of containment. Practically all other components of containment became secondary. The shared understanding of the inanity of a nuclear arms race first brought about treaties on the limitation of strategic nuclear arms, followed up by treaties on their numerical reduction. The fulfillment of the START I treaty and the preparation and implementation of the SORT and New START treaties were now carried out between Russia and the United States—after the collapse of the socialist bloc and the Soviet Union, and after the end of the Cold War. Nevertheless, the preparation of new treaties vividly highlighted the fact that in their approaches to nuclear weapons, both states remain in the confines of Cold War thinking—the logic of strategic stability founded on the condition of mutually assured nuclear destruction.

That has led to a reality in which the policies of Russia and the United States ended up as prisoners of previously created nuclear weapons arsenals. Both states have land-based strategic missile systems, which even in routine mode can only be in a state of preparedness to immediately launch missiles against each other.

In this way, the state of mutual nuclear deterrence between Russia and the United States, independent from the presence or absence of political necessity, is maintained and will be maintained for purely technical reasons, if both sides do not undertake coordinated efforts.

Is it possible to depart from the state of containment while still adhering to the conditions of maintaining mutual nuclear deterrence? It appears not. For that reason, significant improvement of Russian-American relations requires focusing efforts on two key areas:

  • Renouncement of the policy of containing Russia:
  • Gradual consistent exit from the state of mutual nuclear deterrence.

These areas represent separate issues. Each has been studied extensively, especially exiting from the state of mutual nuclear deterrence. Abandonment of the containment policy, first and foremost, should include the renouncement of attempts to halt the expansion of Russia’s influence in the post-Soviet space and the cessation of active policies intended to draw states from the post-Soviet space into NATO.

Moreover, it is necessary to finally recognize the Collective Security Treaty Organization and to not hinder its cooperation with NATO in the sphere of security.

By renouncing the policy of containing Russia, the United States will acquire a responsible partner in providing regional and global security under the complex circumstances of a more and more globalized world. Responsible partnership presupposes partners who are capable of having and defending independent views concerning the resolution of new problems, while concurring in defining the common, ultimate goal. Only this kind of partnership can provide for the sustained development of the world system.

Pavel Zolotarev, major general (retired), is deputy director of the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and president of the All-Russian Public Foundation for the Support of Military Reform.

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York in partnership with the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Printable PDF

RUSSIA AND THE UNITED STATES ARE DESTINED TO BE PARTNERS

Sergey Oznobishchev, Institute for Strategic Assessments

| U.S. Foreign Policy | Syria | NATO | Cold War |


The recent upsurge of cooperation between Moscow and Washington toward a resolution of the Syrian crisis demonstrated once again that the most urgent regional and world security issues cannot be resolved effectively in the absence of close U.S.-Russian cooperation.

This is also true with regard to a much broader array of important global-level problems. Dismantling the Cold War machine and confronting global threats and challenges—terrorism and nonproliferation being among them—are a few of the most urgent from the first-order agenda of problems to be resolved. This list may be further expanded.

Another important goal, which is also impossible to reach for any country on its own, is a nuclear-free world—a distant dream that should, however, be realized if we really want to build a safer world based on new security principles. There is no logical explanation why we should be unable to make an attempt and start moving, in much more practical terms, to this noble goal and agree on a certain timeframe and on measures to be implemented—as it was presupposed in the mid-1980s according to Gorbachev’s multistage plan for the elimination of nuclear weapons by the end of the 20th century.

It is also difficult to find rational reasons to justify why we cannot proceed further with arms control, taking into account that efforts in this field were implemented even in the decades when Moscow and Washington considered each other to be “potential enemies.” It seems that all of a sudden we have to look for an explanation for the things we considered to be a natural common interest for dozens of years.

Is it some new outstanding threats that have emerged? Or, which is more probable, is it something that went wrong in U.S.-Russian relations, unprecedentedly reducing the level of mutual trust?

I suppose that in such a short piece there is no need to go into detail and remind readers what concrete steps led to the present unsatisfactory state of mutual relations. Experts and politicians on both sides can enumerate a lot of them. And all their assessments should be taken seriously—for they will reflect the perception of the two sides.

The Russian specialists, most probably, will point to the one-sided U.S. and Western policy over a long period of time of ignoring Russian concerns (on the enlargement of NATO, for instance). The U.S. experts will be emphasizing the “value gap”—differences in the ideological foundations of approaches to the resolution of domestic and external issues. A lot of other discrepancies will be found.

Hence, to improve mutual perception is the first priority task, and what is even more important, to refrain from creating again the image of the other side as a potential enemy. Let us also do everything in our power to reestablish mutual trust.

Let us try to put aside the issues we cannot solve for the time being. Let us take the most urgent and fundamental issues, agree on some of them, put others down on the list of our concerns and try to discuss them openly. We are really lacking such an open dialogue, particularly at the expert and public level. But such a dialogue should be a standing one, not the sporadic attempts at discussing disconnected topics, which the politicians often prefer to do. The dialogue should embrace the fundamental issues of our relations, including the military and strategic ones.

At the official level, it is essential to start building the foundations of the mechanism of partnership—when, at least, neither of the sides is introducing steps that will definitely raise concerns of the other. In parallel, attempts should be intensified to revitalize the arms control process. To improve relations, cooperation should be started in all possible spheres.

What could draw us into tighter relations and make partnership more probable is a common “grand project” which would incorporate an ever-increasing number of spheres of science, technology, economics, and human relations. This should be a project of a new kind, for instance, to oppose the threat from space (an asteroid striking the Earth, which is now taken as a rather serious threat by certain Russian officials) or cooperative preparation for an expedition to distant planets.

In view of the common goals and challenges that Russia and the United States are facing, they are destined to be partners, if the national elites do not sway them off this course.

Sergey Oznobishchev is the director of the Institute for Strategic Assessments and department head at the Center for International Security of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations.

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York in partnership with the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Printable PDF

RUSSIAN-AMERICAN RELATIONS IN A CHANGING GLOBAL SECURITY ENVIRONMENT

Feodor Voitolovsky, IMEMO RAN

| U.S. Foreign Policy | Cold War | Syria |


After the end of the bipolar confrontation, the global economic and political order has become more interdependent, more complicated in its structure and framework of actors. The security environment has dramatically changed too; it has become more affected by different types of international and transnational challenges. Has this emerging world become more secure or not for Russia and the United States? And does the current state of relations between them really match the depth of the changes and challenges? Both answers are negative.

The case for of a new world war between major powers is the lowest since the beginning of the 20th century. It has become almost excluded from the intentions of the two nuclear superpowers. But the international system has not become more secure and predictable for all responsible players in each concrete field of international security.

The political atmosphere of Russian-American relations is still developing under the strong influence of the ideas and attitudes formed during the final period of the Cold War and the first years after it. The two countries still carry the controversial political legacy of mutually exaggerated expectations and attention to traditional military issues. Psychologically, relations between the two nations were seriously damaged during these years by ahistorical beliefs in rapid progress and the succeeding natural mutual disappointments. During the last 10 years, sometimes because of serious international reasons but mostly under the influence of fickle winds of domestic politics, the haze of mutual mistrust and inertial zero-sum psychology was still saturating the minds of Russian and American political elites. Such a model of interaction is becoming a more and more costly game for both powers. It is giving other actors plenty of opportunities to use the Russian-American unwillingness to cooperate with each other and to start common initiatives in nonmilitary security in their own interests. Each time Russia and the United States face new security challenges, they prefer to see them separately from the bilateral agenda.

Of course, Russian-American nuclear strategic stability and bilateral arms control regimes will be one of the principal elements of the military balance between two countries for the long term, even when and if both sides reach new levels of reductions and want to go further. But the problem is that such traditional military topics are still overshadowing other security issues, which are not directly interconnected with Russian-American interaction but can become an area of cooperation. The experience of the last three years since the Prague Treaty has shown that, in the case of reaching new levels of strategic arms reductions, the deficit of Russian-American dialogue on new global and regional security issues could quickly become filled with stereotypes and phobias of the past. In this case, both sides are beginning to use small competing claims as an imitation of serious politics. The paradox is that common attention to the new security issues gets even lower when the next phase of the strategic arms reductions is not among the priorities of both governments. Now we are in such a period again. And it depends on the political farsightedness of both governments if they will find new drivers for the broader 21st century security dialogue, or will prefer to wait for several years more for a window of opportunity to do big deals on strategic offensive and defensive weapons and not waste their political capital on other issues that still seem to be too small for a positive agenda.

The level of trust between Russia and the United States during the last two years was too low to predict any serious breakthrough in bilateral cooperation on modern security challenges, even when they include international terrorism, religious political extremism, transnational crime, illegal financial networks, maleficent cyber activity and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, instability in the Middle East and Africa, uncertainty about Afghanistan’s future, and unpredictable scenarios of possible crisis on the Korean peninsula. But Russian-American collaboration on the Syrian crisis has shown the real possibility for cooperation on a broader variety of international problems. If such activities were not something extraordinary and interaction among officials and experts concerning the broader security agenda was valued as much as communication associated with big arms control issues, it could give us a chance to go beyond routine cycles in our relations.

Dr. Feodor Voitolovsky is head of the Political Section of the Center for North-American Studies at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences.

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationshipproject produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York in partnership with the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Printable PDF

BUILDING, NOT “REBUILDING,” STRONG U.S.-RUSSIAN RELATIONS


There should be a complete academic analysis and careful choice of language in setting the task of the project. U.S.-Russian relations have never been something that may deserve “rebuilding.” In reality, there was a short-lived attempt on both sides to continue the Soviet-U.S. relationship after the disintegration of the USSR. The meaningful U.S.-Soviet relationship that emerged in the late 1980s toward the end of the Cold War, and which was based on strategic cooperation, indeed deserved “rebuilding.” But newly born in 1992, Russia was not the USSR, and could not be regarded as a substitute.

U.S.-Russian relations as such started in 1992 with great enthusiasm and evident absence of solid ground. The happiness of the Americans (because of the death of the rival superpower, which left them as the only power at the top) was coupled with rosy hopes for “democracy” in Russia. These hopes were largely based on the promises of the then-Russian leader, Boris Yeltsyn, who was ready to promise anything, including democracy, in exchange for the support he badly needed. Thus, the first illusion appeared that contributed to the emergence of the problems in U.S.-Russian relations: that Russia might become a democracy and a friendly nation.

This illusion was coupled with another one largely shared in Washington: that Russia was too weak to be reckoned with. The unilateral decision to extend NATO to the east, practically to the Russian western border, followed in 1995. It was not yet an invitation to a new controversy but was accepted by many in Russia as a sign of a still powerful anti-Russian trend in American policy and as a strong imperative to put under question the real attitude of the United States toward Russia.

Both facts appeared as a result of either a gross misunderstanding of the events that brought an end to the USSR or a wrong reading of the real situation in Russia after the end of Communist rule. Russia did not become a democracy, and there were powerful residues of Stalinism in the country, which badly needed an enemy both inside and outside. Inside the country there were the Chechens, outside it was NATO.

In this sense, what the United States has done perfectly fits the interests of those in Russia who were standing “with one leg in the past” (as President Barak Obama once observed). While actively criticizing the U.S. government for its inadequate decisions (in addition to NATO enlargement, there was also the war in Yugoslavia), they were happy that their worst forecasts were coming true and that this enabled themto continue to hope that their grip over the country would survive.

No doubt that did not contribute to something like establishment of a sound and cooperative relationship between Russia and the United States. Actually only once, during the first year of the Obama administration in 2009, was the task of improvement of these relations mentioned: the “reset.” It was hailed on both sides as a “way out” but in reality did not mean much. Behind the eloquent and exotic surface there was a strange idea to go back (to what point?) and restart the (nonexistent) relationship. Very touching, but with little practical sense.

In practice the relationship was split into three identifiable parts. The first one, going back a long way (to Soviet-American times), was on strategic arms control. The rules in this area were set long ago and made it possible to reach a new agreement on strategic arms reduction (START-3). Taking into consideration the existing state of affairs in this area, both sides may plan for the future though it will not necessarily be an easy job.

The second area is the problem of conflict resolution in different parts of the world, both from the times of the Cold War and from the recent heritage (Korea, Taiwan, India-Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria). Evidently both sides have rather similar interests in these situations and could cooperate on a much more regular basis. What is needed is the political will to work out an appropriatemodus operandi.

Number three is the group of global problems where Russia and the United States simply must cooperate: nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction; prevention of aggression; financial crisis; food, water, and energy security; protection of the environment; space research; development of the Arctic; and some others. This is not a strictly bilateral relationship; but it strongly ties together the interests of Russia, the United States, and the other members of the global community.

The task of building (and not “rebuilding”) strong U.S.-Russian relations should start somewhere at this point. The rest is the subject for thinking and discussion.

Victor Kremenyuk is deputy director of the Institute for the U.S. and Canadian Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Printable PDF

THIS IS NOT A NEW COLD WAR

Jack Matlock, Former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union

| U.S. Foreign PolicyPutin | Cold War |


As they deal with the most serious international problems facing the world today, Russia and the United States need to cooperate with each other and with other countries. Russian and American interests are congruent as regards the most serious international problems in the world today—terrorism, organized crime, the spread of disease, and threats arising out of poverty and failed states, to name just a few. No one country, not even the most powerful, can alone cope with the challenges these problems present. Both Russia and the United States must find a way not only to cooperate, but to attract as many other countries as possible to take part in their efforts. In short, for the United States, Russia will be either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. For Russia, the United States will either be part of the solution or part of the problem. Both countries are too large and too powerful to be successful free riders; the problems will only get worse if there is no cooperation.

There is no simple “fix,” but one should recognize that the underlying U.S.–Russia relationship, though needing repair, is not as bad as recent disagreements and unwise legislative action in both countries might suggest. We are not in the midst of a new Cold War, though both countries exhibit destructive hangovers of outmoded attitudes. Planned meetings by presidents should not be canceled or postponed even if it appears that no concrete agreements can be reached. When U.S.–Soviet relations were at a nadir in the mid-1980s, President Reagan and Secretary of State Shultz steered away from the endless arguments over specific issues but concentrated on areas of common interest, stressing that both countries were injuring themselves by spending too much on arms, and solicited suggestions from the Soviet leaders as to how to deal with common problems. This led, gradually, to creating a degree of trust that enabled us to end the arms race.

Instead of talking exclusively or largely about Snowden, Syria, and missile defense, Presidents Obama and Putin could usefully step back from current arguments and compare their assessments of the most important problems in the world and discuss how each thinks these problems should be addressed. The result could be that both might find that there are areas where each could adjust his government’s negotiating positions to make closer cooperation possible.

Jack Matlock is a former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union.

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Printable PDF