Monday, April 28, 2008

Last Thoughts: U.S.-Russia Relations

Listening to our last speakers in the final session, in particularly Igor Yurgens talking about the future direction of the Russian economy, got me wondering. Let's assume that the Russian economy continues to grow, Russia becomes the economic center of the region, continues its path of constructing interlocking businesses with Europe, and also continues reforms that promote the rule of law and greater transparency and democracy in decision-making.

What then?

Is Russia fundamentally a revisionist or status quo power? (And, from the luncheon discussion, when does revisionism become revanchism?)

Are Russia's goals for the reconstruction of its power fundamentally at odds with key U.S. interests--meaning that the future of the U.S.-Russia relationship may depend a lot less on personalities (or have less room for good personal relations between leaders from being able to insulate the relationship from these developments).

Just some final thoughts.

Nik, Russia is a revisionist power, in that the Russian government are determined to recover things the West swindled them out of back when Gorbachev and Yeltsin foolishly thought that the USG would befriend Russia if Russia gave enough concessions.

It didn't have to be this way, of course. If US policy towards Russia had been something other than "Okay, here's what you've got to do next, here's some more sh*t for your face.", we would be in a different position. The Russian government would now see benefits to maintaining good relations with the US, rather than unremitting costs, and so the USG would have some leverage with the Russian government.

But now, since the Russian government understands that the USG will never go anything to help Russia, and cannot realistically harm Russia much, the USG simply have no leverage with the Russian government.

Russian revisionism will succeed, due to the simple fact that the West needs Russia far more than Russia needs the West. It didn't have to be this way, but that's how it is.
Depending on what is among key American interests, of course. If promoting primordial nationalism as ruling ideology in Eastern Europe is a crucial American policy, the answer, I am afraid, is that Rissia will certainly become revisionist.

Let's face it, at the beginning of 1990s, in places like Baltia and Ukraine, America placed its bets on people emotionally and even personally closely related to Nazis. Regimes that emerged as a result will not be acceptable for Russians. It is in everybody's interest to ensure their peaceful transformation until things turn chaotic.
US policy toward Russia over the last 17 years is a disgrace. It shows to Russians (and others) that we cannot be trusted.
The more general point in Alexey Pushkov's comment is relevant here too. What are the intentions of Putin-Medvedev and the rest of the Russian establishment regarding Russia's ex-USSR neighbors, NATO, etc., etc.? I think that asking and answering those kind of questions will render moot efforts to draw a line between revisionism and revanchism and figure out where "Russia" fits.
This seems to be the list of demands: no NATO expansion to our borders beyond what we can't control already (Baltics), no NATO deployments in eastern Europe close to us; stopping efforts to build pipelines that bypass us or seek to reduce our economic influence in Europe; letting Russia consolidate the post-Soviet space (mainly in economic terms); and Russia's opinion on world affairs taken into account and not just brushed aside.

Resurgence or revanchism? You make the call.
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