Monday, April 06, 2009

My Pessimistic Take on the Reset Question

I am still a pessimist on the U.S.-Russia relationship (and here's some of my thinking at the New Atlanticist on the subject. That's great that Presidents Obama and Medvedev had a good meeting, that both seem like pragmatists who want to move forward. But they are both constrained--and those constraints hold back real movement on the relationship.

I cited Fedor Lukyanov's recent op-ed in Gazeta in the NA piece, but elsewhere he also had a good point--which is that right now we have a zero-sum set-up in the Eurasian space.

Any compromise on the former Soviet space is virtually out of the question. Washington will never recognize Moscow's right to a sphere of influence, since this goes against the spirit of American politics. The Kremlin, for its part, will never give up on its claims.

From Russia's perspective, if it doesn't possess a special status on the territory of the former Soviet Union, it will be unable to protect its vital interests in the spheres of security and economy.
So unless one side or the other compromises, there isn't going to be room for common ground--and in turn, that prejudices other initiatives that have been proposed.

Would be interested in your thoughts on the Bernard Finel piece that follows yours on the need to hedge against Russia. Do you think we can hedge and still have a good relationship?
Well, in the early 1990s, we demanded, and got, for a while, abject submission by the Russian government on just about every issue of US-Russian relations, didn't even repeal the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, and put far more effort into hedging against Russian revival than in supporting the development of FreeMarketCapitalistDemocracy in Russia.

We wanted B-2s more.

Now, Russia does not have a government that preemptively concedes on issues of US-Russian relations, and no longer thinks that "Okay Boris, here's what you've got to do next. here's some more sh*t for your face." is an adequate basis for US-Russian relations, even though the US government do.

So, no. The long-term effect of the reset will be trivial.
A Russian diplomant told me in the middle of 90s: "US will treat you with respect only if it needs you, or if it is afraid of you."

This is the root of problem.
I think this as not simple as Lukyanov sees. Without active U.S.'s meddling, the ex-Soviets will almost inevitably have to align their courses with Russia, at least to a considerable degree. Contrary to wisdom common in the West, that will do a lot of good. Lukyanov's view is that enmities and fears in the region are a natural part of its landscape, in reality they are largely artificial. America's best friends in the neighborhood are likes of Saakashvili and Yuschenko, who, with all due respect to their countries, are sick people, each in his own way. Withdrawing support from local lunatics may suddenly reveal that America doesn't have much to fight for in these places, and these places have to pay much more attention to their neighbors, i.e. EU and Russia, than to America.
Speaking of Lukianov himself, he is a part of American-fed small community of "Russian experts". He is definitely more serious than people like, say, Piontkowsky but he is obviously one of those. They throve in the confrontational atmosphere under Bush, it is not surprising that they hope things will stay the same way.

I don't want to sound like I am personally atacking him but one should take into account that such people exist. It's funny to see that sometimes Americans take them fully seriously, forgetting that these guys are actually American-made fakes.
Agree with Anonymous (1:37 PM). Once Americans stop marking the area around Russia and establish more meaningful and positive relationship with the Kremlin, their will realize that there is no reason to be concerned about Russia’s “near abroad.” In fact, Russia will help to keep things in line with the European/US/Russia agenda.

Unfortunately, quite a number of people in the US consider this strategically undesirable. Plus, Russia as an adversary keeps them in business...
Some interesting comments.

Regarding one of them, the review of foreign policy commentary appears to be limited, in terms of what gets propped, over other material - the latter which at times offers some salient analysis.

In this sense, I find this blog interesting and to a certain degree limited, vis-a-vis which sources get propped.
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