Russia is essential to completing our mission in Afghanistan. Given sharp increases in the pace, number, and intensity of global challenges requiring collective action, Russia and the United States have the unique ability to act around the globe. Without our cooperation, organizations tasked with addressing these issues do not function effectively.

We have shared aspirations to address global challenges such as nonproliferation and terrorism. China, India, and Brazil hold no such aspirations. Europe seems uncertain.

Russia and the United States alone occupy Euro-Atlantic and Asia-Pacific security spaces and are central players in the Arctic, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Russia has a voice in organizations where the United States is not represented—the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

We have solid experience upon which to build to a new stage.

It is a cardinal principle of dialogue that it is most important to talk when a relationship is threatened. We need to talk about the relationship at ALL levels.

Hal Saunders is Director of International Affairs, Charles F. Kettering 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.

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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.

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Information that emerged recently regarding the further shift of the United States’ foreign policies toward the Asian region and diminishing U.S. attention to the Middle East (with the exception of the Israeli-Palestinian track) has already caused widespread reaction. If Washington truly intends to carry out the policies of the U.S. pivot toward Asia that was announced several years ago, this does not represent a significant disengagement by this leading global player from the effort to support stability in our restless world. In turn, emphasis on the Asian Pacific region cannot but have an impact on global and regional dynamics. It also serves as a testament to the United States’ increasing attention on relations with China.

No matter how one views the rebalancing of U.S. foreign policy, relations with the United States will remain at the heart of Russia’s foreign policy priorities. Recent progress toward the resolution of the crisis in Syria demonstrated that there are new advantages for those who support the strengthening of Russian-U.S. relations.

It is not by chance that last September, during the Valdai Forum, the Russian minister of foreign affairs made it clear that successful efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis will lead to the restoration of strategic cooperation with the United States on a wide array of important bilateral and multilateral issues.

In Russia the issue of respect for international law and adherence to UN decisions, including those pertaining to the use of military force, are of particular importance. Any attempts to circumvent international law will be perceived with extreme sensitivity in Moscow, and may affect relations with various countries and organizations.  Therefore, agreement on this issue between such prominent players as Russia and the United States will facilitate the improvement of bilateral dialogue.

The future of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of coalition forces represents an extremely important challenge for Russia. This issue is of concern to Moscow and its partners in the Collective Security Treaty Organization. It would be useful to gradually establish contacts between the Collective Security Treaty Organization and NATO. Such contacts would have a positive effect on Russian-U.S. relations due to the United States’ leading role in NATO. Certainly there are many obstacles, primarily stemming from the West, but it is worth considering.

Recently signed bilateral documents related to cyber security represent an important event. Our two countries should continue to actively consult with one another in order to expand agreements in the sphere of Internet governance and cyberspace on an international level, in order to overcome serious common threats. The voices of those who proclaim the importance of strengthening the economic foundation for Russian-American relations and of moving toward a significantly higher level of interaction in that sphere are becoming more prominent these days. Given all the obvious difficulties on this path, this would enhance predictability in Russian-American relations and diminish the chance of sudden changes.

Related to this, the ongoing formation of new trade and economic partnerships between the United States and EU, with the participation and under the auspices of the U.S. Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), should be noted. Thus far, it’s too early to assess the risks for Russia in this regard, but we must consider ways to jointly overcome possible misunderstandings. That may be facilitated by the strengthening of cooperation and mutual understanding at such important venues as the G-20 and G-8. But on the whole, it is useful to place economic considerations in the top tier of the agenda for Russian-American relations.

Igor Yurgens is chairman of the board of the Institute of Contemporary Development.

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.

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Edward W. WalkerUniversity of California, Berkeley, April 1, 2014

| U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine | NATO | PutinSanctions | EU |


Originally published on The Huffington Post. Read additional entries on Carnegie Corporation’s Huffington Post Column.

Although Russia has managed to consolidate control of Crimea without provoking a full-blown war with Ukraine, the crisis is by no means over, above all because the annexing of Crimea does not solve the Kremlin’s redline issue — Ukraine’s external orientation and possible NATO accession. If anything, it has made it worse.

The annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s heavy-handed pressure on Ukraine mean that there is now no chance that Kiev will integrate into any Russian-led political, economic, or security system. Instead, it will move as close as possible to Europe and the United States politically and economically, and already it is seeking Western military assistance. The fact that the current Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, indicated in a speech last week that his government has tabled the question of NATO accession for Ukraine does not prevent his government or any future Ukrainian government from changing its mind later. Meanwhile, NATO is taking measures to fortify its eastern defenses.

The upshot is that Moscow has solved one non-urgent strategic problem — securing Sevastopol as the home port of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet — but it now confronts a much more serious security challenge to its west. It is also saddled with the burden of keeping Crimea from collapsing economically even as the Russian economy enters a period of stagnation or perhaps decline.

Before taking comfort in Moscow’s predicament, however, it is important to ask whether an angry, nationalistic, aggressive, and cornered Russia is in the interest of Ukraine or the West. The stark fact is that Russia has the capacity to make life miserable for its neighbors, including Ukraine, and it will be much easier, and less costly, for Russia to undermine Ukraine’s economy and destabilize it politically than it will be for the West to turn the economy around and consolidate Ukrainian democracy.

More importantly, Russia has a great preponderance of force along its borders. If Putin is backed into a corner politically, or if he feels Russia’s national security interests are sufficiently threatened, he may well decide to invade eastern Ukraine. If that happens, Latvia and Estonia will be at great risk — both of these very small NATO countries share a border with Russia, have significant Russian-speaking populations, have tense relations with Moscow, and are virtually defenseless against a Russian ground invasion.

Were NATO to respond to a Russian incursion into eastern Ukraine by providing Estonia and Latvia with more credible defenses or by supplying Ukraine with lethal equipment, Russia might well decide to preempt and invade those countries as well. And of course a hostile and lawless Russia can do great harm to Western interests globally, whether in Iran and Syria today or some other crisis in the future.

In short, a permanently hostile and threatening Russia is not in anyone’s interest, least of all Ukraine’s.

The immediate task for Western policymakers is to deescalate the crisis and apply sanctions that deter further acts of aggression by Moscow. Washington, its European allies, and IMF should also provide the financial assistance that Ukraine needs to begin to address its dire economic problems as rapidly as possible. In the longer run, however, the West will need to come up with a strategic response that makes war less likely and Russia less able, or perhaps less willing, to destabilize its neighbors.

One option is to assume that Russia can only be deterred by sticks — economic sanctions, military assistance to Kiev, strengthening NATO’s eastern defenses, deepening Ukrainian, Georgian, Moldovan, and perhaps eventually even Belarusian integration into Europe, and leaving the door open to eventual NATO membership for Russia’s western neighbors. The rub, however, is that these measures virtually guarantee a hostile Russia that continues to resist Western encroachment tooth and nail, with all the attendant risks of conflict and economic and political costs.

The alternative is a strategic response that includes both sticks and carrots. Rather than proceeding as if Russia’s security concerns were entirely unreasonable and illegitimate, Washington could signal that it is willing to discuss Russia’s “legitimate interests” not only in Ukraine (as both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have stated) but elsewhere as well. The goal would be to negotiate an overarching security arrangement for a post-Cold War Europe that all parties can live with, including Russia.

To that end, the Obama administration could quietly suggest preliminary discussions with Moscow over the institutionalization of military neutrality for Ukraine, Georgia, and Belarus. The arrangement would preclude those three countries from joining any military alliance (which would mean that Belarus would have to withdraw from the Collective Security Organization) or from allowing foreign troops to be stationed on their soil (which would mean that Russia would have to remove the forces is currently has in Belarus). Each neutral country would be free to develop its own defenses as it saw fit, and each could choose its own political and economic alliances. Ukraine, for example, could join the European Union, while Belarus could join a future Eurasian Union. NATO would agree not to forward deploy forces in Latvia or Estonia, and there could be a new treaty on conventional force deployments that placed limits on NATO forces in Poland and Lithuania and Russian forces in Russia’s western and southern military districts. NATO would also agree not to add any new members that share a border with Russia.

The result would be a buffer zone between NATO and Russia that would reduce the risk of war and the need for NATO to reinforce its eastern defenses at great cost to its member states. It would also mean that Russia would not have to worry about NATO incorporating additional countries on its borders, which would relieve it of the need to increase military spending further in the face of a slowing economy. At the same time, Ukraine and Georgia could enhance their capacities to defend themselves with Western assistance, while Estonia and Latvia would remain part of NATO with less reason to fear a revanchist Russia.

With respect to Crimea, there is unfortunately no chance at this point that the Kremlin will return control of the region to Kiev. The only political solution that might help institutionalize a more stable international environment for Ukraine, albeit one that would be very hard for Kiev to swallow, would be financial compensation by Moscow in the form of a long-term natural gas contract at below market prices. A political settlement might also entail visa free travel to Crimea for Ukrainian citizens, even if Russia and Ukraine have visa regimes on the rest of their border. Doubtless even suggesting such a possibility at this point will enrage many Ukrainians, but a long period of negotiations with Kiev’s participation might convince a majority of Ukrainian voters that compensated recognition of a fait accompli is better than the alternative, particularly in view of the financial costs associated with supporting the Crimean economy.

It is worth noting that hard-nosed, geopolitical bargaining over an arrangement like this is something that Putin and the Russian foreign policy elite have been advocating for years, and as a result they may well respond to it positively despite the extreme anti-American and anti-Western rhetoric in the Russian media today.

None of this, of course, could be agreed upon quickly or easily, and any agreement would have to be approved by all affected parties. One reason why the occupation and annexation of Crimea was such a strategic mistake for Russia is that it makes negotiating a security arrangement that Russia can live with so much more difficult politically for Ukraine and the West. Any effort to negotiate with Moscow will be seen as appeasement in the face of naked military aggression. But critics should remember that the Nixon administration initiated an earlier détente with Moscow for very practical reasons, and it did so despite Moscow’s imperial control of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

By Edward W. Walker, Associate Adjunct Professor of Political Science and Executive Director of the Berkeley Program in Eurasian and East European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley

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.

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To be intellectually honest, we must admit: the relations between Russia and the United States do not have much chance to be radically improved. Unless of course, you do not take into account the possibility of dramatic changes of the international situation that cannot be predicted, such as a sudden attack from Mars or a threat from an approaching asteroid. Vladimir Putin considers the relationship with other countries in the spirit of the 19th century realpolitik. He sees them as ruthless—not a game—but a zero-sum fight. “First, we will eat what is yours, and then each will eat their own,” as Putin recently described the policy of Russia’s partners in the European Union. Moscow is sure the ultimate goal of the United States is to “weaken” Russia as much as possible. The Kremlin believed (alas, quite sincerely) that the protests of citizens and their struggle for political rights are the result of an American conspiracy. This attitude virtually eliminates long-term trust between Russia and the United States.

On the other hand, the growing burden of unresolved domestic and international problems (opposition from Republicans on health care reform, conflicts with closest allies, the uncertain future of Afghanistan) removes Russian-American relations from the sphere of foreign policy priorities of the United States. Washington simply does not have the time and resources to deal with them. To complete this gloomy picture one should add that our two countries do not have any serious economic interdependence, such as the United States has with China. Moreover, it is possible that in the future the United States will begin to export natural gas to Europe and will become a direct competitor to Russia in this most important area of its economy.

However, the unfortunate and obvious fact that the relationship is unlikely to improve does not mean it should be ignored. But the goal (if not to lie to ourselves) should be formulated differently: how to prevent further deterioration and degradation of mutual relations when there are clear contradictions in basic values ​​and interests. Unfortunately, if you stay on the ground of reality, the recommendations can only be given to the American side. Being a victim of its own stereotypes, the Kremlin does not think it needs any advice “from the outside.” Moreover, such recommendations will be perceived by it as interference in its inner sanctum—its foreign policy kitchen.

As to the U.S. side, it is obviously necessary for it to revise its policy regarding Russia. It is hardly necessary to question the highest principle of this policy, existing almost from the time of the Clinton administration: we must work together where our interests coincide, and argue where they are not the same. The question is how the United States determines Russian interests. It seems that the attempts to estimate these interests based on rational assumptions seriously mislead the American side. Here is just one example. In September 2013, speaking in Berlin, President Obama offered to continue a joint reduction of nuclear arsenals, to 1,000 warheads. This would seem to be a remarkably generous offer. Russia cannot reach the ceilings of the new START treaty, so real reductions in both warheads and delivery vehicles would have to be carried out only by the United States. All Russia would have had to do would be to give up its extremely expensive nuclear buildup program. However, Moscow resolutely rejected the U.S. proposal, simultaneously accusing Washington of its intention to achieve total military superiority over Russia by the implementation of the concept of Prompt Global Strike.

I think it was a mistake to try to consider Russian interests from a purely pragmatic point of view: that Moscow was granted the opportunity to keep nuclear parity with the United States at a lower level, while saving several dozen billion dollars. The Kremlin sees its interest in an entirely different sphere—in self-affirmation in the international arena as a country equal to the most powerful country in the world, the United States. From this point of view, the public announcement of U.S. proposals without prior approval from Moscow was initially doomed to failure. From the Kremlin’s point of view, if Russia agreed it would have looked to be obediently following the recommendations of Washington. It could have been different if possible reductions had been discussed in the course of secret negotiations (Putin genuinely respects only something secret) in order to carry out not a unilateral, but a joint initiative of Russia and the United States. Yes, this approach could deprive President Obama of laurels for being the single person striving for nuclear disarmament. Yes, maybe applause in Berlin would go in this case not only to him but also to Putin. But now, in the midst of a scandal (that U.S. intelligence bugged the Federal chancellor’s phone), who remembers the standing ovation at the Brandenburg Gate? And this important agreement, if it had been achieved, would be in force today.

In this sense, the Russian-American road map for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons looks like an almost perfect model, since it came in the form of a joint initiative that was based on Senator Richard Lugar’s proposal previously rejected by Moscow.

I suspect someone will accuse me of cynicism. He or she can say that in order to achieve positive results, I urge indulging the Kremlin’s ambitions. It is not true. I am just calling for a correct assessment of Moscow’s motives. In this sense,  Washington’s tough decision to “take a break” in relations with Russia has been extremely positive. In this situation it seemed Moscow was likely to take a tough stance. But none of this happened. The decision by the White House to take a break caught Kremlin strategists off guard. Moscow has no ideas of its own in the field of foreign policy. All that Russian diplomats are able to do is to immediately declare any American initiative hypocrisy and perfidy. Washington proposes to reduce nuclear arsenals—then it wishes to obtain superiority through conventional weapons. The White House abandoned the fourth phase of European missile defense deployment—this masks the intention to get a strategic advantage. However, all of these arguments make sense if the dialogue with Washington is continued. And with no dialogue, these complaints are losing value. Russian foreign policy, which has been and remains “America-centric,” turns into a dull recitation of certain phrases in the void. China will be completely indifferent to Russian complaints about American missile defense.

Thus, the improvement of relations with Moscow is possible if Washington manages to assure Moscow that this would strengthen the idea of ​​Russia as a great power, equal in caliber to the United States. The main problem is to reach something real positive from this improvement.

Alexander Golts is the editor-in-chief of the Internet publication Yezhednevny Journaland is one of Russia’s leading journalists specializing in military issues. He has authored several books, including “The Russian Army: Eleven Lost Years,” also published in English by MIT Press.

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.

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No Good Options

Timothy Frye, Harriman Institute, Columbia University

Calls to arm Ukraine have helped to galvanize diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the crisis, and over the longer term, the Ukrainian Army will need more weapons and better training, if only to enforce any peace agreement…

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