Sunday, May 04, 2008
The New U.S. - Russia Relationship?
Both sides could still try to move forward to provide more definition--and the documents agreed at Sochi last month do give us a framework-but I doubt we will see much action.
One of the major stumbling blocks as well was the question of what both sides should expect to get. Over the last several years, Washington has, at times, become more comfortable with the idea of one-off coalitions and groups that come together to focus on only one issue--and therefore, this assemblage of states who come together to work on a particular issue are NOT expected to support the positions or interests or prioriteis of member-states on issues UNRELATED to the specific issue at hand. Take the Proliferation Security Initiative. Cyprus, for instance, is under no illusions that because it is part of the PSI--given its large merchant fleet and that it is an international banking center--other members of this initiative, working together to stem the likelihood of a nuclear terrorist attack which would have negative economic consequences for the PSI's members, even if they were not the actual recipient of the attack--are somehow obligated to support Cyprus' position on OTHER international issues (especially resolution of its territorial integrity). The same might be said of the Six-Party Talks on North Korea.
This runs up against a prevailing Russian interest that weighs cooperation alongside the continued restoration of Russia's great power status and interests--so that if cooperation with other states undermines that quest, it must be questioned.
I wrote in 2002 for TNI about this problem--where U.S. and Russian interests might collide--and think that the analysis holds up for 2008.
But what it also means for today is that I do think that the realist agenda for the U.S.-Russia relationship shifts. Now, an American realist wants to focus on preventing problems from opening up in the trans-Atlantic relationship OVER Russia. That is to say, most of the principal European countries are following a track vis-a-vis Russia that is similar to ours (and of most Asian states) vis-a-vis China. Yes, they have a number of complaints about a number of Russian internal and external policies; but those complaints don't lead them to assume that a more confrontational stance towards Moscow is justified. So, if the U.S. thinks that Russia's resurgence is now a problem--it may find it more difficult to find a consensus with the Europeans. The Bucharest NATO summit was a foretaste of this--and then begs the question, what political capital does the U.S. want to spend with Europe on the Russia account? At Bucharest, for instance, the president didn't "get" MAP for Georgia and Ukraine but got approval for missile defense and at least token increases for Afghanistan.
Just some thoughts.
Unfortunaely, the USG prefers backing every tin-horn Russophobe on Russia's periphery
When oil hits $250 a barrel due to declining global production, and Gas goes to 1000 euro/1000m2, the US will be forced to reconsider that, and Europe will rue the day it gave Poles and Balts control over its energy relations with Russia.