Thou Shalt Love Thy Enemy

(This piece originally appeared on Russia Beyond the Headlines)

Only a few month ago, a consensus among Russia watchers was that the return of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency will have little impact on U.S.-Russia relations. Andrew Kuchins of the Center for Strategic and International Studies predicted back in September 2011: “The possible election of Putin as the President of Russia will not signify a fundamental change in the direction of U.S.-Russia relations.”  But at the beginning of March, Kuchins concluded that the “reset” in U.S.-Russia relations was over and that “Washington should prepare for a far more contentious relationship with Moscow.”  Quite a change, isn’t it?  What went wrong?

Arguably, there are enough contentious issues between Washington and Moscow, starting with European missile defense.  Russia genuinely considers the future deployment of anti-missile defense systems in Eastern Europe as a serious threat to its security, and the Kremlin sees no reason to hide its concerns.  Speaking at a meeting in December 2011, Russia’s then-ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin warned that the country was facing a danger of becoming “easy victim” at the hands of some (unnamed by Rogozin) hostile forces.  Rogozin’s words shouldn’t be taken lightly: shortly after delivering this speech, he was appointed deputy prime minister in charge of military-industrial complex; rumors in Moscow were that this appointment was lobbied personally by Putin.

Then Putin himself invoked the image of the enemy at Russia’s door by accusing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in inciting the street protests that followed the Dec. 4 Duma elections.  Subsequently, in one of his seven election manifestos published in the Russian press, Putin made it clear that he considered the United States an unfriendly (“destructive”) force guilty of “democracy promotion” at gunpoint.

In Russia, subordinates always try to outdo the boss.  Taking Putin’s words as a nod, the Prosecutor General Yury Chaika alleged — without presenting any specific evidence — that the December protests had been financed from the abroad; Vladimir Popovkin, head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, attributed the failure of the unmanned Phobos-Ground probe to the action of American radar; Chairman of the Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs Alexei Pushkov suggested that the United States was keenly  interested in destabilizing Russia and would make every effort to weaken its government; and high-ranked United Russia party’s official Andrei Isaev went as far as to warn his compatriots that in 2012, they will face a “new battle for the freedom and independence of Russia against attempts by the United State of America to establish control over [the] country.”

The rising anti-American rhetoric in Moscow was closely watched in Washington.  But it wasn’t until the vote on UN Security Council resolution on Syria that the simmering tension broke into the open.  The U.S., along with 13 other members of the Council, voted in favor of the resolution calling for the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down.  Russia and China blocked the resolution on the ground that it would invite Libya-style military intervention .  Shortly thereafter, the shots flew over the Atlantic: Clinton called the Russian veto “despicable;” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov characterized this reaction as “hysterical.”

Curiously, many people in Russia seemed to sincerely believe that the escalating anti-Americanism was no more than a verbal excess of the ongoing presidential campaign.  Naturally, they expected that once the election campaign was over, U.S.-Russia relations would rapidly return “to normal.”  So when on March 6, Lavrov finally spoke on the phone with Clinton — “in a call that officials said had a ‘get back to business’ tone,” according to the New York Times, the sense in Moscow was that was that.

Well, it wasn’t.  In the heat of the presidential campaign, folks in Moscow have apparently forgotten that the United States was going into a presidential election campaign of its own and that critics of President Obama were looking for any opportunity to attack him.  For months, the president’s opponents have been painstakingly collecting every available evidence of his ”failed” Russia policy: the lack of progress on missile defense and Iran nuclear program; Russia’s support for Syria; harsh treatment by Russian state media of Michael McFaul, the new U.S. Ambassador to Russia; the parliamentary elections in Russia that many in the U.S. consider undemocratic.  All this logically came together after the March 4 presidential vote against the background of the “aggressive” anti-American statements.

In the coming months, Moscow will be watching how anti-Russian rhetoric is unraveling in the U.S., and it’ll hardly like what it sees.  The leading Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney makes no secret that the “reset” is really over if he’s elected president.  Anti-Russian sentiments are widespread in Congress, obstructing the Obama Administration’s efforts to repeal the notorious Jackson-Vanik amendment.  Some hawks have gone as far as to call for Putin not to be invited to the NATO-Russia summit in Chicago in May; they also question whether Obama should hold a bilateral meeting with Putin during the G8 summit at Camp David.

It remains to be seen how Moscow will react to this “symmetric response.”  Putin’s third presidency has undoubtedly damaged Russia’s reputation in the world and also complicated political situation at home.  With the number of friends dwindling, the Kremlin may well decide to keep a good trusted enemy, whose image at the door – ready to break in – could help solidify whatever is left of the proverbial “Putin’s majority.”  In the Kremlin’s calculation, the cost of policy of the “reset” – which continuation demands certain level of trust in the U.S. partner – might have already outweighed its benefits.  One can be sure that if Putin did cry during his victory speech at the Manezh Square, he cried not over the death of the “reset.”

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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17 Responses to Thou Shalt Love Thy Enemy

  1. iastreb says:

    Dear Eugene,

    What seems to be happening is the opposite of the end of the reset. First, in marked contrast to its reaction to the Duma elections in December, the State Department very quickly declared the Presidential elections to be “clean”. This was followed in short order by some backpedaling on Syria, when the US announced that intervention is not feasible or desirable at this time, an offer to share the codes for its interceptor missiles in Europe to allay lingering Russian opposition to the US-built missile defense system, and a Russian offer of an air base in Ulyanovsk to help with US efforts in Afghanistan (and possibly to replace Manas when the lease expires in 2014). Obama has restated his intent to repeal Jackson-Vanik this summer.
    Some or all of these things may not come to pass, but what’s clear is that the US, at least under the current administration, has abandoned the attempt to use the Bolotnaia opposition as a lever through which to apply pressure on the Kremlin. Obama’s promotion of Medvedev stemmed from the fact that he considered Putin a more intransigent diplomatic counterpart in an environment where the US had fewer and fewer mechanisms for influencing Russia, was becoming ever more dependent on Russian goodwill in Afghanistan and Iran (and now Syria), and was becoming mired in increasing numbers of conflicts in Western Asia, and an escalating row with China. The “Decembrists” seemed to give the US an opening, but in the aftermath of Putin’s reelection, it became abundantly clear that, at least in their current configuration, the “revolutionaries” do not constitute a serious threat to Putin, and that there was no serious alternative to sticking with the reset, which meant seeking compromise and in some cases, offering concessions. This could change in the event of a Republican victory in November, but the odds of that are looking increasingly similar to Prokhorov’s odds in January or February. And on a symbolic level, Russia is a much less important issue in US politics than the US is in Russia to expect that election year needs to “get tough on the Kremlin” will result in any real policy change.

  2. Eugene says:

    Dear Iastreb,

    Thank you for your comment. I certainly agree with you that the Obama administration is trying to preserve the “reset” and that at the very minimum it isn’t looking for confrontation with Russia. However, US-Russia relations have long become a topic of US domestic policy/presidential campaign, and Putin’s return to the Kremlin is only giving Obama’s opponents additional ammunition. Obama’s Russia policy will be attacked constantly, even when the reason doesn’t really exist. Take, for example, the ridiculous Senate opposition to the MI helicopter deal.

    Today’s hearings in the Senate on JV prove my point, IMHO. My estimate of JV being repealed is 50/50 with the concomitant introduction of the Magnitsky bill and zero without.

    I tend to agree with you that the “Decembrists” don’t represent the immediate threat to the Putin regime. However, challenges to the regime may come from worsening economic situation in the country — and not from “Bolotniki,” bur rather from “Poklonniki,” the people whole loyalty to Putin is based on expectations of permanently improving living conditions. Remember the strikes of miners that helped topple the Soviet Union? So my point is that the image of the enemy at Russia’s door may be needed to deal with this specific challenge.

    Regards,
    Eugene

  3. Dear Eugene,

    I am afraid I have always been skeptical about the future of the reset. I have seen over the course of my life so many occasions when it seemed there had been a breakthrough in first US/Soviet and then US/Russian relations only to have hopes of this dashed that I have always had doubts about whether this latest attempt would be any more successful. Incidentally there may have been some people in Moscow who entertained real hopes for the reset but I suspect there were many others who didn’t. For there to be a true breakthrough in US/Russian relations there would have to be a fundamental change in Washington’s understanding of international politics and power relationships of which there is no sign. Possibly if the Jackson Vanik amendment is repealed (which I am sure it will be) and a proper commercial relationship develops that may change the picture. We are far away from that point yet.

    Incidentally, on the subject of Romney, whilst I am sure he means what he says, he is also an outstandingly successful businessman. I doubt he would stand in the way of business and commercial relations with Russia if he thought this was in the US’s best economic interests.

    As for the effect of Putin’s return on Russia’s international profile, whilst this is certainly unpopular in Washington and in northern Europe I suspect that elsewhere the response will be fairly positive. My impression is that Putin is fairly popular in Italy and Greece. Further afield Russia has strong relations with countries like India and China and Brazil through the BRICS arrangements and I would expect this to continue. Ultimately it is anyway always a mistake for a country to shape its domestic arrangements for the sake of foreign popularity, which experience shows is fickle. My view is that whether they like the return of Putin or not Russia’s partners will soon learn to lump it.

    • Eugene says:

      Dear Alexander,

      I like this definition of second marriage: the victory of hope over experience. In a sense, this is how I’ve treated the “reset” — with hope. Much in this hope was fueled by the expectation that both Obama and Medvedev will go for their respective second terms and have mo time to make the “reset” “irreversible.”

      There were some miscalculations on my part. I expected that Europeans would press the US to be more accommodating to Russia on the issue of AMD. In fact, NATO largely took the US position as is. I also underestimated the strength of the Russian MIC. In fact, they’d successfully lobbied unprecedented increase in military spending and now naturally need a good enemy to fight.

      Anyway, we are where we are. Naturally, the West will have to deal with Putin no matter what anyone thinks about him. Romney will be no exclusion. BTW, I’m getting increasingly disappointed in him. His campaign mistakes often make me question his intellectual capabilities. And I don’t want to open the discussion on why his business success makes him potentially good president. (Actually, he was quite decent governor of MA.)

      Best,
      Eugene

  4. Dear Eugene,

    One quick second point: aren’t you in rather too much of a hurry to dismiss US and western pressure on Russia? Putting aside disagreements over international questions (such as missile defence) the US surely does have a “democracy promotion” strategy (as it calls it) in Russia and elsewhere to which many people in the US seem strongly committed. Since this by any definition amounts to intereference in Russia’s affairs is it surprising that many Russians resent it and that it has become a thorn in the development of US/Russian relations and an issue in Russian domestic politics?

    • Eugene says:

      Dear Alexander,

      There is no denial of the fact that the US is trying to “promote” democracy — in the way the US understands it — everywhere, Russia included. This is a fact of international life, and Russia has to accept it and live with it. However, the idea that external interference can destabilize such a huge country as Russia strikes me as preposterous.

      Best,
      Eugene

  5. marknesop says:

    Hello, Eugene;

    As somebody once pointed out – I’ve long since forgotten who – Putin would be wasting his time to cater to the liberal opposition and their ‘intelligentsia” supporters, because they were always people whose votes he was never going to get anyway. So it is with Putin’s popularity – while you suggest his third term has “undoubtedly damaged Russia’s reputation in the world”, I am prepared to argue it has done nothing of the sort. It has, certainly, caused a great deal of bitterness among groups (the USA and UK) with whom nothing except groveling obeisance and immediate abdication would ever make him anything like popular anyway. The USA and UK are never, under any circumstances, going to support Russia being led by Putin as he is. So why should he waste time trying to be liked by these audiences?

    If Putin finds it convenient to cite the western threat to Russian sovereignty – is he wrong? You tell me. The United States has the world’s largest and most powerful military, is the world’s largest arms dealer – by far – in a continuing effort to build client states and ensure further employment and profit for its military-industrial complex, while constantly inveighing against Russia foe “selling weapons to terrorist regimes” like Iran, while the USA has on many occasions armed its own enemies; Iran stands as a shining example. Even if the western threat to Russian sovereignty were purely imaginary, turnabout would be nothing but fair play,

    http://pubrecord.org/commentary/5161/exaggeration-threat-then/

    as American intelligence agencies regularly blew the Soviet threat wildly out of proportion in order to substantiate bloated defense budgets and bring pet weapons projects to fruition.

    As well as having a gigantic military which its political system – supported enthusiastically by the electorate in most cases – is eager to use to enforce its will, the tone from Washington to Moscow is almost unrelentingly hostile and peremptory.

    Russia is expected to put up with condition after condition the USA would never allow to prevail were the situations reversed. The USA would never allow monitoring of its electoral process by Russian NGO’s financed by the FSB; in fact, the USA went apeshit over a small group of Russian “spies” who developed no classified information whatsoever, and who appeared engaged in activities that bore a suspicious resemblance to lobbying. Encirclement of America by Russian ballistic missile systems? Ha, ha. Meetings between Vladimir Putin and U.S. opposition leaders, in the United States? I hardly imagine that would be tolerated. Russia sponsoring opposition activists to study – in Russia – political destabilization tactics? Come on. Yet every protest Russia makes to all these situations is brushed off as an authoritarian leader who is simply desperate to hold on to power.

    Putin and Russia have little to lose by hardening the national attitude – what’s the west going to do: embargo the world’s largest oil producer? Hello, second mortgage just to fill up the SUV. As long as the west continues to rely on a petroleum-based economy and has nothing like the domestic supplies it needs to be self-sufficient, Russia gains nothing by being conciliatory, and has had its palm spat in nearly every time it has extended its hand. Oil is sold on the open market, and besides being very difficult to control as to source, even the suggestion that the world was about to lose its biggest producer would send prices sky-high. Russia would sell through a third-party broker and make even more money.

    Moreover, business is not going to jump ship if it sees opportunities to make a profit. As seen here,

    http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/russia-stocks-rally-putin-win-536.cfm

    the promise of political stability is good for the markets, and while some might suggest they will not do business with the Putin regime, they will be the exception rather than the rule, will do it from spite and will miss out on profit opportunities others will be glad to take. The same reference mentions that, according to Citigroup, Russia’s per-capita GDP quintupled between 2000 and 2011. What other country can say the same? Why does the west hate Putin? Not, obviously, because he is bad for Russia.

    Hillary Clinton is alleged here

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/150543#.T2J9BnnleSp

    as having admitted the USA openly backed protest in Russia (which it did), and to have been coy about US money used to aid the opposition. However, the Obama government has begun to build a reputation for funneling cash through aid groups for “cultural promotion” which ends up in the hands of opposition groups; there are plenty of examples and I would be happy to cite them. Warmest regards,

    Mark

    • Eugene says:

      Mark,

      It’s no one’s business but the Russians whom they have as their president. And they have elected Putin. All I said is that Putin’s return to the Kremlin comes at the cost of damaged image. If this is a surprise to Putin’s advisers, he should fire them and find better ones.

      Sure, there is a long list of things that Russia doesn’t do in the US. But why? For example, Potatin recently gave $5M to the Kennedy Center. Anyone objected? Nope. 100 countries systematically lobby their interests in the US. Russia doesn’t. Why? You tell me.

      Who would have objected Medvedev meeting with whoever he wanted during his visit to the US? Did he ask? Well, instead he went to the Silicon Valley and got iPad…

      The vast majority of Russian “wounds” are self-inflicted. If Russian manufacturers can’t produce a decent peace of modern weapon — and up to 1/3 of military budget gets wasted or outright stolen — this is hardly a result of democracy promotion from outside.

      Best,
      Eugene

      • Hunter says:

        Eugene,

        You have a wonderful blog, but I think a couple of your points are looking at the picture from only one point of view,.

        Firstly:

        “It’s no one’s business but the Russians whom they have as their president. And they have elected Putin. All I said is that Putin’s return to the Kremlin comes at the cost of damaged image. If this is a surprise to Putin’s advisers, he should fire them and find better ones”

        I think the point Mark was trying to make is that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Russia’s image is only damaged by Putin’s return in the eyes of those leaders and countries who view Russia as damaged goods anyway even though the Russia of 2011 is far removed from the Russia of 1998 and the USSR of 1920s-1980s. I would be willing to bet that in the eyes of countries outside of the West (which constitutes most of the globe), his re-election has not damaged the image of Russia or himself. It would be interesting to see a survey on the matter.

        Secondly,
        “Sure, there is a long list of things that Russia doesn’t do in the US. But why? For example, Potatin recently gave $5M to the Kennedy Center. Anyone objected? Nope. 100 countries systematically lobby their interests in the US. Russia doesn’t. Why? You tell me”

        Given US over-reaction to just about anything Russia does apart from say “yessir!” whenever US leaders demand something (for instance Mark gave the example of “in fact, the USA [going] apeshit over a small group of Russian “spies” who developed no classified information whatsoever, and who appeared engaged in activities that bore a suspicious resemblance to lobbying.”) why would you expect Russia to systematically lobby their interests in the US when it is quite clear that such lobbying would be treated differently (in a more hostile fashion) than the lobbying of the 100 other countries which do it? Why waste money (literally) paying people to lobby your interests when it is 99.9% certain that the lobbying will be treated as “spying” or “subversion” by folks who are stuck in the 1980s mindset of the Cold War? You say Russian foreign policy to the US is perennially reactive and never proactive, but what if a proactive foreign policy is viewed as “interference” and “aggressive”? What happened when Russia proposed under Yeltsin that it join NATO? What happened when Russia suggested joint missile defence with a station in Azerbaijan? You can’t be proactive if the other party is in the habit of ignoring you or shooting down your proposals.

        And the lobbying is not guaranteed to work. I know of examples concerning Caribbean countries (Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago) where such lobbying was literally a waste of millions of dollars of taxpayer money. Jamaica recently lobbied the US over the fate of a drug dealer who was a major financial contributor to the former government. Naturally nothing came of that and the guy ended up being extradited anyway. T&T has in the past lobbied the US through Ainsley Gill and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide to do stuff that is supposed to be done by embassies (and T&T already has a embassy in Washington), so millions were wasted by the former government in a needless duplication of effort (notice how in both cases the lobbying governments have been chucked out). In the region more broadly a lot of Caribbean countries lobbied the US over the trade war between the US and the EU concerning favourable access to the EU market for bananas from the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) group of countries (under a REALLY long-standing trade deal). Needless to say their efforts were fruitless because the US was listening to Latin America which the primary source of bananas of major US firms like Chiquita. Lobbying only really works if the there is a confluence of interest between the lobbying country and the US. One should also keep in mind that all lobbying is controlled under the Foreign Agents Registration Act which has been around from before World War II and was specifically targeted against Nazi lobbying in the US.

        Thirdly,

        “The vast majority of Russian “wounds” are self-inflicted. If Russian manufacturers can’t produce a decent peace of modern weapon — and up to 1/3 of military budget gets wasted or outright stolen — this is hardly a result of democracy promotion from outside.”

        What are you talking about? Russia’s modern weapons aren’t bad. They just don’t get shown off on TV as often as US weapons. And in any case modern US weapons (at least their aircraft) seem more deathtraps (the F-22 which had an oxygen failure that nobody can still account for) or blackholes (the F-35 which is literally taking forever to be developed). The PAK-FA is likely to perform well for it’s role.

        • Eugene says:

          Hunter,

          Thank you for your comments. I like your first point and totally agree — even without a survey — that Putin’s return will be welcome (or simply ignored as a non-event) in most countries of the world. The problem is that the “West” can influence Russia’s position in the world more as the rest of the world combined. And, again, let me rephrase my point: if Putin wanted Lukashenko be happy about his return and didn’t care about Obama, then everything is fine. But if he expected Obama being as happy as Lukashenko, then, well, we’ve got a problem.

          As for lobbying, let me tell you this: I know personally a good dozen of people here in the US — some of them are ethnic Russians, but the majority are “perfect” Americans — who would like to work to advance Russian interest in the US. Some of them have connections in Congress, and you would be surprised to know how much interest is there in Congress to hear “the other point of view” about Russia. The problem is that Moscow has repeatedly shown absolutely no interest in communicating with these people. How would you know that something won’t work, if you didn’t try? True, there are many wasted efforts in lobbying, but you have to do that. After all, when investing money, you don’t expect that each invested dollar will immediately return you ten bucks.

          As for Russian weapons, those aren’t my insinuations. For the second year in a row, the military contracts haven’t been filled because the MOD refuses to buy expensive and low quality products the industry offers them. As for the amount of wasted money, this number was recently articulated by Rogozin, and he should know. BTW, Rogozin’s the topic of my next post. Take a look.

          Best,
          Eugene

          • Hunter says:

            Eugene,
            Thanks for the reply.

            I would agree that the West used to be able to influence Russia’s position in the world more than the rest of the world combined. But that influence has weakened severely as Russia’s financial footing has stabilized. After all it was Russia recently offering the Eurozone a bailout (through further funding to the IMF) to the tune of billions of dollars; not the other way around (as would have been the case in say…1995). And Russia is now in the World Trade Organization (the only thing left to do is for Russia to ratify it I believe). Russia no longer seems interested in joining NATO and thanks to Sakashvilli a lot of NATO members would rather not touch Georgia with a 100-ft pole much less let it into the organization. Most Ukrainians are against NATO membership so a government is unlikely to arise again which has this as a goal. Even within the West there are countries which are not resolutely opposed to Russia (France, Germany and Italy to varying degrees). The thing about the West is that (the British and American governments in particular) still seem to think that they are in a technologically advanced version of 1982 or 1992 and not 2012. They are in debt up to their hairlines and very much depend on having a good working relationship with Russia and China in order to secure mutually beneficial outcomes (for the West and the Rest) in places like Afghanistan and the rest of the Middle East. Having badly damaged relations with Pakistan to the point where the supply route to Afghanistan is now always uncertain, they can’t afford to be brow-beating Russia just because they don’t like Putin for whatever reasons they may have. You said “let me rephrase my point: if Putin wanted Lukashenko be happy about his return and didn’t care about Obama, then everything is fine. But if he expected Obama being as happy as Lukashenko, then, well, we’ve got a problem.”. The thing is I don’t get the impression that Putin really does care about Obama being happy or not about his return. Hence there is no problem. Yeltsin may have cared, but the Russia of Yeltsin’s era was light-years removed from the Russia of 2012 just as the Russia of Yeltsin’s era was light-years removed from Stalin’s Soviet Union.

            As for the lobbying and weapons’ systems. I see your point and agree. With the unpaid lobbying that you referred to, that is one area where Russia really needs to do better. While it is true that when investing money you do not expect each invested dollar to immediately return $10, a good investor should be able to distinguish between potentially good investments (like the kind of lobbyists you were talking) and financial blackholes (like the kind of lobbyists and lobbying I referred to).

            • Eugene says:

              Hunter,

              In reality, there is no “either or” in our discussion. I’m not saying that Russia is doomed to collapse with Putin at the helm — at least, not because of what the West thinks about Putin. In fact, Russians, Putin included, would benefit from thinking less about other countries and focusing more on its own. Yet, when I read Russian media and official speeches (including those of Putin’s), I’m amazed with their obsession with the US. Some want to prove that Russia is worse than the US; some want to prove Russia is better than US. But somehow the US almost always gets into equation. If someone told me that protest actions in Moscow were CERTAINLY financed from abroad, my first reaction would have been Berezovsky. Putin’s was Clinton.

              Yet, you won’t deny that the country image matters. Let’s leave aside whether Putin’s third term damaged Russia’s image in the world. But there is no question that it didn’t add. Russia may still believe that having nuclear weapons, oil, gas, and veto in UNSC, it doesn’t need more friends. I believe that in the modern world, this is shortsighted position.

              Best,
              Eugene

              • Hunter says:

                Eugene,

                I never got the impression that you were saying that Russia is doomed to collapse with Putin at the helm. Far from it. I find your blog to be on the whole well balanced.

                I think the obsession with the US is a hold over from the Cold War, just as how the attitude of many US politicians to Russia is certainly a hold over from the Cold War. I think it would take at least another generation for the mutual obsession to end.

                “Yet, you won’t deny that the country image matters. Let’s leave aside whether Putin’s third term damaged Russia’s image in the world. But there is no question that it didn’t add. Russia may still believe that having nuclear weapons, oil, gas, and veto in UNSC, it doesn’t need more friends. I believe that in the modern world, this is shortsighted position.”

                I would agree, but Russia doesn’t seem to be that short of friends. Relations with China, India, Brazil and many other emerging markets countries seem to be generally good. And relations with Germany, France and Italy are fair. Even relations with Poland have improved somewhat (they still are not what one would consider friends, but still there has been an improvement – whether or not it will last is a different story). Relations with most of the rest of the former USSR are generally friendly as well despite any disagreements over certain issues (which is normal anyway, even the countries in the West have disputes between themselves at times). Relations with Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, etc seem to be pretty well. Certainly the perception presented in the western media is that Russia is friend-less but that is only because in the western media, only the West counts (a striking example is the events in Mali which have been going on for months now but have now only been picked up by the western media as a result of an ongoing coup attempt even though Mali’s misfortunes are very closely linked to what happened in Libya which was a major focus of the western media until Gaddafi got lynched). Having more friends is always good, but real friends accept you for who are and not what they want you to be. With that in mind I would suggest that Russia and America can become friends over the long term (especially if Russia stops ignoring the type of lobbyists you are talking about). Aside from that country however, the impression I gather is that Russia is generally on good terms with the rest of the West (Norway, France, Germany, Italy, and even Japan (when one ignores the Kurile dispute)) except for Britain. And with Britain that genuinely seems to be a waste of time to even contemplate improving relations. Britain seems to exhibit a remarkable degree of Russophobia and generally subtle xenophobia (as evidenced by Euroscepticism). When pretty much the rank and file of the establishment and even regular people seem to quite eager to say or write negative things about Russia for no real discernible reason other than because it is Russia then attempting to improve relations is likely to be futile and Russia would have to wait on the British in general to firstly overcome their prejudice and secondly to then make steps to improve relations. It is unlikely to happen soon though as it seems to have become deeply ingrained into British culture possibly because from the 1800s onward the general theme of Anglo-Russian relations has been rivalry, conflict and suspicion (Crimean War, intrigue over Turkey, Central Asia and India, Bolshevism and the Red Scare, the Cold War) interspersed only briefly with cooperation because of necessity (Napoleonic Wars, World War I and World War II).

      • Thanky Thanky for all this good information!

  6. iastreb says:

    I would game the Jackson-Vanik odds about the same as you do, and I would agree that the Poklonniki pose a more serious threat to the regime if the economy gets worse. But I’m not sold on the need for an enemy (in both the US and the Russian case) as being the determining factor in the US-Russian relationship. It’s not that Republicans (or even Obama) wouldn’t want to stick it to Putin in order to score political points. It’s that there are much bigger fish to fry – most importantly, the Iran-Israel crisis (and Syria and Afghanistan are at this point factors in this crisis as well). The US has boxed itself in to such an extent that it is relying on any country with influence in Syria and Iran to keep the crisis from careening toward war. Antagonizing Russia is the last thing the US wants. And now that both Pakistan and Afghanistan are steamed at the US, and basically asking US troops to start heading home, Obama would also prefer it if Putin didn’t shut down the Northern Distribution Network in the run-up to the election. Assuming that none of these considerations matter, it’s hard to see what aggressive moves toward Russia the US can undertake now that the election is over. It’s hard to imagine a US administration supporting a seriously nationalist opposition.
    As for Putin amping up the rhetoric in the event of further protests, he might – but what else? Invade Georgia? Give Iran S-400s, or Syria a nuclear umbrella? There is a good talk given recently by Fedor Lukyanov at Argumenty i Fakty, where he says, correctly, in my opinion, that despite the harsh rhetoric, Putin’s foreign policy a laid out in his pre-election article is fundamentally defensive, and calling the US to reverse course on what is a self-destructive policy, not threatening retaliation of any kind. Watch it at:

    http://www.aif.ru/onlineconf/5705

  7. Eugene says:

    If my post created the impression that I consider the “enemy approach” as the driving force of US-Russia or Russia-US respective policies, then, perhaps, I presented my views in a wrong way. What I was trying to say is that it may be a FACTOR in both, and in both cases for purely domestic reasons. Saying it differently, the image of the enemy won’t serve as the break in the relationship; it will rather be a speed-limiting tool.

    To your last point: totally agreed. I always considered — and wrote here on multiple occasions — that Russian foreign policy, especially towards the US, is perennially reactive, never proactive. I’m afraid that even Putin will be waiting for what the next American president says about the relationship instead of saying what these relations must be in Putin’s views.

    Eugene

    • iastreb says:

      I like this formulation – the domestic agenda serving as a speed-limiting tool – better than Kuchins’ conclusion that the reset is “over”, and the relationship will be far more contentious. It seems to me that his original stipulation that little will change about the relationship was much closer to the mark.
      Re: Russia’s US policies being reactive rather than proactive – probably true, and not just about Russia – despite its decline, the US is still in a different weight class than any other country, and having a proactive stance is easier said than done. Especially when countries like Russia make proposals – regarding missile defense, a common security structure in Europe, enriching fuel for Iranian reactions – that are completely ignored by the US.

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