Us and Russia: Post-Election Security Challenges

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Obstacles to U.S.-Russian Cooperation in the Caucasus and Ukraine

By Andrei P. Tsygankov1

“US and Russia: Post-Election Security Challenges,”

US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA,

March 6-7, 2008

1. Introduction

Potential for the U.S.-Russian cooperation in the Caucasus and Ukraine exists and may be exploited in areas such as Georgia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine’ political stabilization, their relationships with NATO, counter-terrorism, demilitarization and energy security. However, obstacles to such cooperation are formidable. A future cooperation between the two nations will require a considerable time and effort by both sides and may materialize only if we fully understand these obstacles and draw correct conclusions for policy. This paper first reviews the existing potential for cooperation (section 2), and then addresses difficulties of exploiting it on Russian (section 3) and American sides (section 4). I argue that within the next two to three years important domestic considerations will prevent Russia and the United States from engaging in a systematic and mutually beneficial relationship.

Most important of these considerations concern the two nations’ political elites and are mainly of psychological nature. Russia is only recovering from the state collapse of the 1990s, and the fragility of this recovery is felt in weakness of the country’s governing institutions, as well as perception of the outside world, particularly the United States. While weakness of governing institutions makes it difficult for the state to isolate various lobbies and form a coherent policy, inadequate perception of the U.S. intentions at times undermines the Kremlin’s will to reach out to its principally important partner. In the United States the problem is different albeit also psychological. Its institutions are stronger and more mature, yet policy making process too has been wide open to influences of lobbies – mostly of Russophobic nature – largely because of a weak presidential leadership. In the absence of a strong commitment to relationships with Russia coming from the White House any bilateral cooperation becomes a hostage to special interests. In addition, the United States suffers from what Michael Gorbachev called the “complex of a winner”1 – a psychological inability to adjust to new international realities and incorporate others, including Russia, into the process of governing the world.

After reviewing potential and obstacles to the U.S.-Russia cooperation, the paper provides a tentative conclusion of the current state of their relationships and reflects on their future (section 5).

2. Potential for Cooperation

The United States and Russia could cooperate in at least five distinct areas of security relations in the Caucasus and Ukraine. One such area is political stability and territorial integrity. Azerbaijan and Georgia have developed acute issues of secessionism. Having passed the stage of active military confrontation, they have made little progress in bringing secessionist territories under control and continue to live in a shadow of war. Ukraine’s problem is that of deeply divided political elite, and it continues to experience serious risks to territorial integrity. In time Crimea has a potential of becoming a secessionist headache for Kiev. The historically pronounced regional divisions2 – with the east favoring stronger ties with Russia and the west eager to minimize those ties – have been threatening unity of the ruling elite.3

Assuming sufficient trust and political will on both sides, the United States and Russia could assist the three nations in strengthening their territorial integrity. For example, some joint security guarantees could be offered to Georgia in exchange for its signing a non-aggression pact against its secessionist territories. The United States and Russia could also offer some forms of assistance to the states in the region for alleviating poverty and building functioning law-enforcement institutions. If anything, Russia’s large market and currently booming economy should continue to be of significance in addressing instability in the region.4 It is time to realize that the challenge of the 21st century is that of building viable state institutions, rather than promoting Western-style democratization. Without important social and security preconditions in place, the latter may in fact breed instability5 thereby exacerbating the problem of democracy.

The second issue concerns expansion of NATO. Georgian and Ukrainian leadership expressed desire to join the alliance, while Russia continues to view the process as threatening its security interests. Following the summit of NATO in Bucharest Russia reiterated that it would do everything in its power to prevent expansion of the alliance and extension of its membership to Georgia and Ukraine. According to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Moscow will do all it can to prevent such membership in order "to avoid an inevitable serious exacerbation of our relations with both the alliance and our neighbors."6 President Vladimir Putin stated, “We view the appearance of a powerful military bloc on our borders, a bloc whose members are subject in part to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, as a direct threat to the security of our country. The claim that this process is not directed against Russia will not suffice. National security is not based on promises.”7 In the aftermath of the summit, to signal its dissatissfaction to Georgia, the Kremlin extended an additional assistance to the secessionist South Ossetia and Abkhasia.8 Moscow also expedited negotiations with Moldova over incorporation of Transdnistria provided that Kishinev stays a neutral state and does not join NATO.9 Moscow may be feeling that not all is lost in Georgia, and the no NATO membership in exchange for territorial integrity may still be possible to conclude.

One possibility to address Russia’s NATO concerns may be in separating the issue of membership from that of military presence. For instance, in response to Russia’s concerns, President Victor Yushchenko has recently suggested that he has no plans of stationing any military troops on Ukrainian territory10 effectively committing his nation to status of a neutral state. If NATO is indeed a political organization and not merely a military alliance, as many in the West claim, then such solution should not seem unfeasible. Enforcement of the Article 5 in such cases should be a subject of a separate negotiation. Other joint security arrangements, with or without NATO participation, must also be considered.

The third issue is counter-terrorism in the Caucasus. Related to the already articulated concern about Georgia’s instability, which the Rose Revolution has not adequately addressed, Russia remains concerned that Georgian territory may continue to be used by international terrorists as a transit point on their way to the North Caucasus. In the past, Pankisi Gorge and several other Georgia’s areas near the border with Chechnya were known to have terrorist camps. The U.S., Russia and Georgia have cooperated successfully in cleaning Pankisi of terrorist camps. With Chechnya largely secured, there remains an important issue of stabilizing the larger Northern Caucasus plagued by the weakness of political institutions, regional instability, and ethnic separatism. A growing number of terrorist attacks and jihadist networks in Dagestan, Ingushetiya, Northern Ossetiya, and Karachayevo-Cherkessiya11 leave for the Kremlin few options but to increase its military presence there and improve security measures in the short run. In principle, there is potential for Russia and the United States to cooperate in addressing the issue through joint military exercises, anti-terrorist centers, or establishment of limited counter-terrorist contingents to prevent possible border crossing from Turkey and Iran.

The forth issue is demilitarization of the Caucasus. With the United States and Russia arming their “clients” in the region – Azerbaijan and Georgia in case of the U.S. and Armenia, Abkhasia and South Ossetia in case of Russia – the region has became heavily militarized. One implication of it is a constant fear of war among the region’s residents. Armenia, for example, has no territorial integrity problem, but its citizens live under a constant threat of war with Azerbaijan. The latter has sharply increased its military budget and on many occasions threatened to use force to persuade Armenia to give up its political support for Nagorno-Karabakh.12 Azerbaijan’s economy is now 7 times larger than that of Armenia, and Azerbaijani military budget is over $1 billion.13 Some strategy of demilitarization is in order. Such strategy must include US-Russia guarantees of security for the states in the Caucasus and measures aiming to develop energy cooperation in the region.

To speak of the latter, one must acknowledge that the United States and Russia are increasingly at odds over how to exploit energy reserves and transportation routes in the Caspian Sea. For the U.S. with its constant concerns over energy supplies the region has been of importance since the end of the Soviet breakup. Russia’s economic interests include the need to protect energy pipelines, particularly the one that stretches through Dagestan to Novorossiysk. Energy continues to be the largest part of Russia’s exports, and the share of foreign trade with European nations is around 5o%. Without reliable protection of energy transportation, Russia’s energy-export dependent economy is in an extremely risky position. The energy issue directly affects the overall security situation in the Caucasus partly because the U.S. concept of oil supplies is linked to militarization and geopolitics. Ever since the crisis in the 1970s when the OPEC countries imposed oil embargo and raised the prices, the American policy makers have pursued hegemonic policies to control energy supplies. With Russia’s sharply declined ability to dominate in the region, Washington moved to develop a unilateral advantage in exploiting the Caspian Sea reserves and fostered special ties with Azerbaijan, the richest state in the Caucasus. With involvement of major Western oil companies – Washington built the BTC pipeline to bypass Russia in carrying oil to the territory of Mediterranean coast. Extremely expensive and 1,090 miles (1750km) long, the pipeline was completed in 2005 and is able to carry 1 million barrels per day.14 The approach continues to breed militarization in the region and is hardly conducive to development of an energy partnership with Russia.

A more productive way of exploiting energy opportunities in the Caspian region might include search for a joint exploitation of oil and gas pipelines going through territories of third parties, as well as attempts to institutionalize relationships.15 For example, the BTC could be exploited jointly. In the past Russian companies were invited to participate in the BTC pipeline, and the experience should be resumed and built upon. Another positive example is the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) that was established with memberships of Chevron-Texaco, Arco, Mobil, Shell, and the governments of Russia and Kazakhstan to carry oil from from Kazakhstan's Tenghiz oil field (the world's sixth largest) to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossisk. If the objective is to develop an energy partnership, then developing Russia-bypassing routes, such as Trans-Caspian or Nabucco, may only further exacerbate the mistrust from Russia, while pushing Kazakhstan and Turkeminstan to seek partners elsewhere (China). Opportunities from cooperating with Russia are both political and economic. Politically, energy partnership will contribute to development of US-Russia cooperation in solving other vital issues, such as terrorism, weapons proliferation and narcotics trafficking. Among other things, diversification of energy supplies away from the Middle Eastern countries will help to bring down oil prices and undermine funding for prominent terrorist organizations. For Russia, partnership with the United States promises new technologies, greater integration into the world economy and strengthening of political ties between the two countries.

3. Obstacles – the Russia’s Side

On the Russia’s side, obstacles to developing a broad cooperation with the United States are two-fold. Internally, the key obstacle is a continuous crisis of state legitimacy. Rather than viewing the Kremlin’s policies as indicative of imperialism,16 a productive way to understand Russia is to view it as a nation that has relinquished the Soviet state model and is now struggling to establish new political and economic foundations of its statehood. The post-Soviet Russia is a new state because it acts under new international conditions that no longer accept traditional patterns of imperial domination. Throughout the 1990s, the country almost had become a failed state17 in response to its original shock therapy choice of reforms at home and poorly conceived policies abroad. Having abstained from attempts to restore its empire and having created necessary macroeconomic environment, Russia has revived its economy and a good measure of political viability under leadership of Vladimir Putin. The country’s leadership has pragmatically integrated the previously excluded security elites in the ruling class and concentrated on building a “normal great power”18 – not by means of imperial grandeur, but through reformed macroeconomic conditions, favorable world energy prices, and stable political environment for economic growth and rising living standards.19 Although some have suggested that security elites became prominent and indeed dominant in influencing political circles and policy making process,20 in reality the state did not become a hostage to those influences. Putin’s designation of the liberally-minded Dmitri Medvedev is an important testement to it.

Still Russia’s political class remains divided, and domestic influences continue to be important – excessively so – in forming foreign policy. The state has not been consolidated enough to isolate pressures of these influences. Although Putin has been very popular with the general public, the elites have pulled him in different directions. For instance, with regard to the Caucasus and Ukraine some have long advocated stimulating and recognizing separatism in “politically disloyal” Georgia, Moldova and Azerbajian, and demanding a greater independence for Crimea in Ukraine, while others have insisted on preservation of status quo.21 The Kremlin is yet to work out an ideological formula among elites and to develop a policy capacity for purging most odiously corrupt and hawkish representatives of the political class. The emergence of a formally dualistic power structure with Dmitri Medvedev as President and Putin as Prime Minister may become an important step in the direction of forming an ideological consensus within the elite circles. By ruthlessly eliminating narrow political extremes, such as Mikhail Kasyanov and Dmitri Rogozin, the Kremlin has forged a liberal-conservative consensus that will guide Russia's modernization for the next five years or more. While sharing fundamental principles of reforming the economy and political system, Medvedev and Putin would be ideologically distinct. The former may emerge as a prototypical Russian liberal with a greater emphasis on developing civil society and rule of law, whereas Putin may be viewed as a modern conservative with his concerns for preserving stability, governance and independence.

Externally, the key obstacle to development of Russia’s cooperation with the United States has to do with the Kremlin’s deeply held suspicion toward the U.S. intentions and policies in the Caucasus and Ukraine as undermining Russian security interests. The suspicion has its roots in the American support for the colored revolutions that many in the Kremlin view as directed at Russia as well. President Putin insisted on Russia’s right to “decide for itself the pace, terms and conditions of moving towards democracy", and he warned against attempts to destabilize political system by "any unlawful methods of struggle.”22 The motive of non-interference in Russia’s domestic developments from outside only became stronger over time, and in his addresses to the Federation Council in May 2006 and April 2007, Putin put an even greater emphasis on the values of sovereignty and strong national defense.23 The Kremlin’s ideologists and theorists sympathetic to the official agenda [have] developed concepts of “sovereign democracy” and “sovereign economy,”24 insisting on the need for Russia to protect its path of development and natural resources. The Kremlin has also trained its own youth organizations, restricted activities of Western NGOs and radical opposition inside the country, and warned the United States against interference with Russia’s domestic developments. Russia’s elections too demonstrated the ample fear of outside interference, and willingness by politicians to resort to an anti-Western rhetoric.25

In addition, Russia feels humiliated by what it sees as lack of appreciation of its foreign policy interests. More importantly, a strong conviction in Moscow developed that the United States was indeed preparing to isolate Russia economically, politically and morally. Even mainstream politicians and analysts were now concluding that there was little in America’s political class that suggested a constructive attitude toward Russia in a future. For example, Director of the Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada Sergei Rogov spoke of the formation of a very negative consensus about Russia that united left-wing liberals and right-wing conservatives in the United States. In his assessment, the Cold War thinking that Russia must be contained and isolated has returned and "it is a very dangerous situation."26 President Putin’s criticism of the US-led “unipolarity” beginning with his speech at the Munich Conference, as well as his threats to withdraw from already signed international treaties, such as the Intermediate Nuclear Missile Treaty, meant to convey Russia’s frustration with its inability to develop more equitable relations with the United States. Rather than sending the message of a threat, the Kremlin was desperate to be heard that it was Russia, not America, that had to swallow the war in the Balkans, two rounds of NATO expansion, the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty, military presence in Central Asia, the invasion of Iraq, and, now, plans to deploy elements of nuclear missile defense in Eastern Europe.

That the post-revolutionary Georgia and Ukraine had expressed their desire to join NATO, only added to Russia’s sense of being vulnerable and politically isolated by the West. As Western officials demonstrated their support for Georgia,27 the Kremlin felt it had only one option left – a toughest possible response short of using force – and it sought to send a strong warning for both Tbilisi and the West officials. After the “spy scandal” in the late 2006 the Kremlin imposed tough sanctions against Georgia which was met with almost a universal condemnation in the West, but also served to validate Russia’s already formed suspicions vis-à-vis Western, particularly American intentions in the Caucasus. Although Western nations helped to defuse the crisis with arrest of Russia’s officers and too sought to discourage Tbilisi from using force against its separatist territories, the Kremlin did not see such efforts as sufficient in recognizing Russia’s vital tole in the region. In June 2006, Russia's Foreign Minister said Wednesday that Ukraine or Georgia joining NATO could lead to a colossal shift in global geopolitics.28 The Kremlin was determined to stop the alliance expansion, and the spat with Georgia seems to be a crucial test of will for Moscow. The so-called “frozen conflicts” are merely leverage in the Kremlin’s hands, and they will remain frozen until NATO bears out plans to continue its march to the East. The Russia-Georgia crisis has therefore became an indicator of a bigger Russia-West crisis. Some Russian analysts argue that if membership in NATO is the most important to Georgia, then Tbilisi is likely to obtain it at the cost of its territorial integrity.29 South Ossetia and Abkhasia continue to oppose Georgia’s membership in the Western alliance and to press for integrating with Russia. Such integration became one step closer after the United States’ recognition of independence of Kosovo although the Kremlin is still not prepared to legally recognize Georgia’s separatist territories.

In Georgia Russia’s policy and its new attitude of frustration only further reinforced the already strong sense that the Kremlin had no respect for Georgia’s independence. Just as Russia was frustrated with lack of recognition by the United States and NATO, Georgia demonstrates anger at what it saw as Russia’s lack of respect for its choice of foreign policy orientation. President Saakashvili and other officials were defiant and condemned Russia’s “imperialism” and unwillingness to honor Georgia’s independence. The discourse of anger and frustration comes clearly in many policy statements, such as the following from President Saakashvili (2007): “In my opinion, Russia is unable to reconcile itself with Georgia's independence. It wants to revert to the Soviet rule although this is impossible. Georgia is no longer a country that it was some four or five years ago, when we did not have either an army or police and corruption was rife in this country. Georgia is now able to protect its territorial integrity and sovereignty.” Capitalizing on special relationships with the United States and determined to benefit from the Russia-West growing confrontation, Tbilisi seemed determined to humiliate Russia further. Rather than discussing military neutrality after Russia’s withdrawal, a discussion in Tbilisi was under way that a future Georgia may not have objections against possible future deployment of weapons of mass destruction on their territory by NATO. The issue comes full circle when Russia insists that Georgia’s foreign policy choice is not independent, but instead is formed by the United States, a Tbilisi’s most important ally in the Caucasus.

4. Obstacles – the U.S. Side

The United States’ psychological problem is that of superiority complex that is evident in a broad range of its policies and attitudes, from “we won the Cold War” mood to expanding NATO, blocking development of Russia’s energy infrastructure and pushing the Kremlin to adopt Western-style democratization. Each of these policies betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of international and former Soviet realities. Russia is not a defeated power and has greatly contributed to the end of the Cold War. It has its own security and economic interests in the Caucasus and outside that are principally undermined by the process of NATO expansion and unilateral exercise of energy policies. Finally, Russia’s current imperatives are those of state-building nature, and these are broadly supported by the public. Further democratization may come, but no earlier than a strong middle class emerges and a sense of security from external threats sets in. The fact that the United States has generally abstained from offensive language without changing its unilateral approach is patronizing, and Russians justifiable see such behavior as offensive. As far as they are concerned, they are not going to gain an additional confidence from hearing that NATO expansion doesn’t threaten their interests – even if it is repeated hundreds times – because it is actions that matter, not words. And those actions include breaking promise of the alliance not expand given to Mikhail Gorbachev, denying Russia’s requests to be considered as a potential member, and failing to consult the Kremlin on Balkans and other issues critical to Russia’s security.

In addition to this general attitude of superiority shared by the American political class, there are three distinct Russophobic groups within the U.S. establishment that have pushed for a tougher Russia policy at least since the late-1999s. One important group includes military hawks or advocates of American hegemony, who fought the Cold War not to contain the Soviet enemy, but to destroy it by all means available. A number of military hawks in fact advocated a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union during the 1970s. An important part of this group also formed the core of the Committee of Present Danger and “Team B” that had produced a highly inflated assessment of the Soviet threat.30

The second group may be called liberal hawks and has important roots after the World War II and an agenda of protecting freedom and human rights in the world. Over time, however, the initial agenda of such agencies as Freedom House and Human Right Watch had been hijacked by the Cold War warriors and successfully transformed into a tool for fighting the Soviets. During the 1990s’ era of Bill Clinton’s presidency, the group has gotten stronger. That the Soviet threat had been eliminated has strengthened the sense of superiority of America’s liberal values and determination to promote those values across the world. In 1990 Francis Fuluyama first formulated his triumphalist “end of history” thesis arguing a global ascendancy of the Western-style market democracy.31 Marc Plattner declared the emergence of a “world with one dominant principle of legitimacy, democracy.”32 When the Soviet system had indeed disintegrated, the leading establishment journal Foreign Affairs pronounced that “the Soviet system collapsed because of what it was, or more exactly, because of what it was not. The West ‘won’ because of what the democracies were—because they were free, prosperous and successful, because they did justice, or convincingly tried to do so.”33 The group has gotten comfortable with the Russia of the 1990s and has assumed that the weakened and submissive state it has become would become a normal (and convenient) state of affairs.

Finally there is a group consisted of Eastern European nationalists, or those who fled from the Soviet system and the Warsaw Pact and now dreamed of destroying the Soviet Union as the ultimate way to gain independence for their people. After the Cold War, this group worked in concert with ruling elites of Eastern and Central European nations in order to oppose Russia’s state consolidation as well as promote NATO expansion, deployment of American missile defense system in Poland and Czech Republic and energy pipelines circumventing Russia as important guarantees against restoration of the neo-Soviet empire. East European nationalists have been typically pessimistic about prospects of Russia becoming a democracy, and they tended to side with military hawks in promoting American hegemonic agenda in the world. For instance, a former Estonian ambassador to Russia referred to it as a “growing monster that the world has not yet seen before.” He claimed that after the 2008 presidential elections, Russia would turn into “the most dangerous terrorist regime in the world and an exporter of terrorism next to which Hamas and al-Queda would pale.”34

What brought these diverse groups together was the missionary belief in the supremacy of American power and ideas and a hatred toward the Soviet system that at the time was justifiably perceived as the most important obstacle to the establishment of a US-centered international system. Most members of the anti-Russian lobby never believed in a peaceful transformation of the Soviet system, and, after that transformation finally took place, they never trusted the intentions of the new Russia and its leaders. The Cold War struggle instilled in them hatred not just for the Soviet empire, but for any political system that the Russians might create, so long as such a system presented a challenge to America’s world leadership and hegemony. Although post-Soviet Russia in the 1990s represented a sorry state of affairs – an impoverished population, an economy in shambles, and leaders desperate for Western advice and assistance – the Russophobic elites was worried about Russia’s revival. Fear of such revival of the “old Russia” became the unifying subject of its concern, as well as a successful strategy for rallying supporters, mobilizing the media and promoting an anti-Russian policy agenda.

These groups have diverse but compatible objectives of isolating Russia from Euro-Atlantic institutions and reducing its interests to those of West-controlled domestic transformation. With regard to the Caucasus and Ukraine, they have insisted on absorbing these regions into the Western area of interests and values. The colored revolutions to them were predominantly about increasing the West’s influence at the expense of Russia. For example, the leading advocate of US unipolarity Charles Krauthammer insisted during the 2004 US-Russia conflict over election outcomes in Ukraine that “ this is about Russia first, democracy only second. This Ukrainian episode is a brief, almost nostalgic throwback to the Cold War. ... The West wants to finish the job begun with the fall of the Berlin Wall and continue Europe's march to the east."35 Similar objectives have been set vis-à-vis the Caucasus in terms of including its states into NATO and the West-led system of energy security – against at the expense of Russia’s interests and influence. These groups have been generously publicized in the American media to the point that balanced analysts such as Charles Kupchan of Georgetown University wrote that “an anachronistic Russophobia is triumphing over a more sober assessment of Russia’s intentions and capabilities.”

Due to several conditions, these groups’ influence on policy making has been notable. Among those conditions are lack of commitment to a strong relationship with Russia in the White House, a largely uninformed public, and absence of Russian lobby within the United States. Although Russophobia is not in American national interests, the identified groups have generally succeeded in feeding the media the image of Russia as a country with a well-consolidated and increasingly dangerous regime. A testament to it, for example, are thousands of articles in mainstream American press implicating the Kremlin and Putin personally in murdering opposition journalists and defected spies,36 relative to only a handful of pieces in less prominent outlets questioning such interpretation and insisting on lack of evidence.37 The Lobby has also created a relatively cohesive group, in which elites with diverse core interests often converge on the subject of Russophobia by participating in joint events and signing joint public letters that push the policy line of taking a tough stand against Russia.38 Organizations such as Project for a New American Century, Committee for Peace in the Caucasus, Freedom House and Center for Security Policy advocate different aspects of US hegemony, yet Russia is invariably presented by them as a leading threat. Finally, the Lobby has succeeded in having leading members of the American political class advocate the Russia-threat approach. Some influential members of Congress and policy makers in the White House have been sympathetic to the Lobby’s agenda and prone to use of the Russophobic rhetoric.39

5. Conclusion

Overall, progress in the U.S.-Russian relations in the region remains sporadic and crisis-driven, not systematic or strategically thought out. The two nations have cooperated in cleaning of terrorists Pankisi Gorge when the situation became especially difficult and when, along with Georgia, the sides agreed on urgency of acting to prevent the threat. They have also found ways to cooperate in restraining Georgia’s especially militaristic and ethno-nationalist policies. For instance, in the late 2007 tacitly supported by Moscow Washington presented Saakashvili with ultimatum of removing the most odiously hawking Minister of Defense Irakli Okruashvili from the office. The United States and Russia also continued to share important counter-terrorist intelligence information. However, the bigger picture of the two nations’ cooperation is less than impressive mainly because Washington continues with its unilateral policies in the region. While restraining Saakashvili’s most extreme plans, it continues with policies of bringing Georgia to NATO without addressing Russia’s concerns. Washington also continues to push Ukraine in direction of gaining NATO membership. It continues to arm narrowly-based militaristic regimes in Azerbaijan and Georgia. And it continues to seek control the Caspian Sea reserves and isolate Russia from energy infrastructure in the region.

Although it matters greatly who comes to the White House in November 2008 – John McCain, Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama – the larger issue is still the American political class, and a psychological adjustment that needs to be made by both Washington and Moscow. The above-described superiority-inferiority complex cannot be conducive to a robust bilateral cooperation. The United States’ healing of its imperial complex is going to take time, may be a long time if the country’s leadership will continue to disregard new international realities and insist on remaining the governing center of the world. Winston Churchill once famously commented that American politicians “always do the right thing in the end – they just like to exhaust all the alternatives first.” If this indeed is the case, the meaningful cooperation with Russia is going to be delayed. Russia too needs to get comfortable with its newly acquired wealth and influence and act as a more responsible world power. It is only natural that after the years of decline and humiliation the Kremlin would emerge as more assertive in defending its interests. When there is a greater room for Russia in the world – in terms of its regional influence, economic integration in Europe and Asia, and a meaningful participation in international security institutions – there will be new opportunities to engage the Kremlin. Although in a short run chances of the U.S.-Russia partnership are slim, in a longer run the leaders of the two countries may learn – to quote George Kennan – to defend their interests as real statesmen must that is without “assuming that these can furthered only at the expense of others.”


1 Associate Professor of International Relations and Political Science, San Francisco State University, CA.

1 Mikhail Gorbachev, “History is not preordained: a new cold war can be averted, “ The Guardian, January 18, 2007.

2 For analyses of Ukraine as a regionally divided nation, see Wilson 1998, 2000; Molchanov 2002. Mikhail Molchanov, Political Culture and National Identity in Russian-Ukranian Relations (Austin: Texas University Press, 2002); Andrew Wilson, Ukrainian nationalism in the 1990s. A minority faith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998); Andrew Wilson, The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).

3 As of this writing, Ukrainian parliament cannot convene for two month due to a split between the Orange coalition and the Party of Regions.

4 For a broader argument about the role of Russia’s economic attractiveness and soft power, see Fiona Hill, Energy Empire: Oil, Gas, and Russia’s Revival (Washington, DC: Brookings, 2004); Andrei P. Tsygankov, “If Not by Tanks, then by Banks? The Role of Soft Power in Putin’s Foreign Policy,” Europe-Asia Studies, 2006. Vol. 58, No. 7, November.

5 See Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder, Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2007).

6 “Russia again Vows to Block NATO Enlargement,” RFE/RL Newsline, April 9, 2008

7 Vladimir Putin, “Press Statement and Answers to Journalists’ Questions Following a Meeting of the Russia-NATO Council,” Bucharest,, April 4, 2008.

8 C. J. Chivers, “Russia Expands Support for Breakaway Regions in Georgia,” New York Times, April 17, 2008.

9 “Moldovan President, Transdniester Leader Hold Landmark Talks,” RFE/RL Newsline, April 14, 2008.

10 Victor Yuschenko, “Ukraine’s Membership in NATO Will Pose No New Threats to Russia,” Vremya Novostei, No 29, February 22, 2008.

11 Gordon Hahn, Russia’s Islamic Threat (New Haven, 2007).

12 Giragosian, Richard, “Military Buildup in South Cacausus Adds to Tensions,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, October 16, 2006, available online at <>

13 Sohbet Mamedov, “Baku vooruzhayetsya,” Nezavisimaya gazeta, June 25, 2007.

14 Ariel Cohen, U.S. Interest and Central Asia Energy Security, The Heritage Tribune, November 26, 2006 <>

15 Analysts proposed, for example, that Russia and Western nations build an energy consortium and that Russia be brought into the International Energy Agency (Ira Straus, “Why a U.S.-Russia alliance makes sense,” The Russia Journal, April 26, 2002 <>)

16 For such view, see for example Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard (New York: Basic Books, 1998); Charles Clover, “Dreams of the Eurasian Heartland,” Foreign Affairs 78, 2, 1999.

17 For characterizations of Russia of the 1990s as a weak or failing state, see, for example, Stephen Holmes, “What Russia Teaches Us Now: How Weak States Threaten Freedom,” The American Prospect, No. 33, July-August, 1997; Peter J. Stavrakis, “The East Goes South: International Aid and the Production of Convergence in Africa and Eurasia,” In: Beyond State Crisis? Postcolonial Africa and Post-Soviet Eurasia in Comparative Perspective, edited by Mark R. Beissinger and Crawford Young (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2002); Jens Meierhenrich, “Forming States after Failure,” In: When States Fail: Causes and Consequences, edited by Robert L. Rotberg (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004); Vladimir Popov, “The State in the New Russia (1992-2004): From Collapse to Gradual Revival?” PONARS Policy Memo 324 <>; John P. Willerton, Mikhail Beznosov, and Martin Carrier, “Addressing the Challenges of Russia’s ‘Failing State’,” Demokratizatsiya 13, 2, 2005.

18 Andrei P. Tsygankov, “Vladimir Putin’s Vision of Russia as a Normal Great Power,” Post-Soviet Affairs, 2005. Vol. 21, No. 2, April-June.

19 The ratings developed by Russian analysts differ from those of Western agencies, such as Freedom House and Fund for Peace, considerably. (For details, see these organizations’ websites at and One example of is publication of “Geopolitical Atlas of Contemporary World” (Melville, A. Yu., M. V. Ilyin, Ye. Yu. Meleshkina, M. G. Mironyuk, I. N. Polunin and Timofeyev, “Opyt klassifikatsiyi stran,” Polis, No. 5, 2006). While recognizing the constraining role of various threats on Russia’s development, Russian analysts assign for their country relatively high ratings of “stateness” and “international influence.” Unlike the Freedom House, they also classify Russia as a democracy, albeit an imperfect one, which may invite scholars to re-evaluate meaning of the concept in Russia’s conditions.

20 Both Russian and Western analysts have speculated that the security class has become omnipresent in policy making. See, for example, O. Kryshtanovskaya and S. White, “Putin’s Militocracy,” Post-Soviet Affairs 19, 4, 2003; Daniel Treisman, “Putin’s Silovarchs,” Orbis, Winter 2007. For alternative perspectives on the objectives and the role of the security class, see Sharon Werning Rivera and David W. Rivera, “The Russian Elite under Putin: Militocratic or Bourgeois? Post-Soviet Affairs 22, 2, 2006 and Bettina Renz, “Putin’s Militocracy? An Alternative Interpretation of Siloviki in Russian Politics,” Europe-Asia Studies 58, 6, September 2006.

21 Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and a number of State Duma deputies, in particular, have been active in advancing these kinds of objectives.

22 Vladimir Putin, “Poslaniye Federal’nomu Sobraniyu Rossiyskoy Federatsiyi,” March 2005.

23 Vladimir Putin, “Poslaniye Federal’nomu Sobraniyu Rossiyskoy Federatsiyi,” May 10, 2006, April 26, 2007

24 Vitali Tretyakov, “Suverennaya demokratiya. O politicheskoi filosofiyi Vladimira Putina,” Rossiyskaya gazeta, April 28, 2005; Vladislav Surkov, “Suverenitet – eto politicheski sinonim konkurentnosposobnosti,” Moscow News, March 3, 2006; Aleksandr Tsipko, “Obratno puti net,” Literaturnaya Gazeta, No. 19, May, 2006. Not all in the Kremlin share the notion of sovereign democracy. For alternative perspective from the current President Dmitri Medvedev, see his “Dlya protsvetaniya vsekh nado uchityvat’ interesy kazhdogo,” Ekspert, # 28 (522), July 24, 2006

25 Neil Buckley, “Clan with a plan: All the contradictions of Vladimir Putin’s Russia,” Financial Times, November 29, 2007; Robert Coalson, For Russia's Most Powerful Man, Fear Still A Factor, RFE/RL, November 30, 2007.

26 ”Leading Russian Americanist Fears U.S. and EU Will Rally on ‘Anti-Russian’ Basis,” RFE/RL Newsline, February 23, 2005.

27 Many Western officials insisted on immediate cessation of the sanctions, and the special representative of the NATO Secretary-General Robert Simmons extended his support for Tbilisi during his demonstrative trip to Georgia in the midst of the crisis.

28 RIA Novosti 2006.

29 Anatoly Tsyganok, “On the Consequences of Georgia’s NATO Entry,”, January 2, 2008 <>

30 “Team B” was commissioned to provide an alternative to the CIA intelligence reports on the Soviet Union. It faulted the CIA for relying on “hard” data rather than “contemplat[ing] Soviet strategic objectives” thereby setting up the United States for defeat by the Soviets. It also credited the Soviet Union with developing some new types of weapons, and it underestimated the Soviet economic weaknesses. Among those involved in organizing “Team B” and directly participating were William Van Cleave, Daniel Graham, Foy Kohler, Paul Nitze, Richard Perle, Richard Pipes, Seymour Weiss, Paul Wolfowitz (For details, see Anne Hessing Cahn, Killing Détente: The Right Attacks the CIA (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998); Paul C. Warnke, “The B Team,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists , January/February 1999; Team B Strategic Objectives Panel, International Relations Center, Silver City, NM , accessed on September 27, 2007).

31 Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” The National Interest 16, Summer 1989.

32 Marc Plattner, “The Democratic Moment,” in The Global Resurgence of Democracy, edited by Larry Diamond and Marc Plattner. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1992. Plattner later became co-editor of the Journal of Democracy. Also see Marc C. Plattner, “Democracy Outwits the Pessimists,” Wall Street Journal, October 12, 1988.

33 William Pfaff, “Redefining World Power,” Foreign Affairs 70, 1 (1999, p. 48. This vision was finally legitimized on the highest policy level when President George H. W. Bush announced the cold war “victory” of the US in his 1992 State of the Union message.

34 As cited in: Yelena Shesternina and Maksim Yusin, “Goryachi estonski paren’ soskuchilsya po ‘kholodnoi voine’,” Izvestia, January 31, 2007.

35 Charles Krauthammer, “Why Only in Ukraine?” Washington Post, December 3, 2004.

36 It would be impossible to cite all of them, but some example include: ”Russia's Murder Mystery,” Washington Post, August 31, 2006; Anders Aslund, “Putin Gets Away with Murder: It's time to confront the Russian leader,” The Weekly Standard, October 23, 2006; David Satter, “Russia: Rebuilding the Iron Curtain,” Testimony to U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, May 17, 2007; ”Russian Poison,” Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2007; ”Charged With Murder,” Washington Post, May 23, 2007; Jim Hoagland, “Dealing With Putin,” Washington Post, May 27, 2007; ”Geopolitical Diary: The Curious Politkovskaya Case,”, August 28, 2007; Fred Weir, “Suspicion of Kremlin's tack in Politkovskaya murder case,” Christian Science Monitor, August 29, 2007; Jim Hoagland, “With Russia, Pray for Cynicism,” Washington Post, September 2, 2007; Michael Weiss, “The Cool Peace? Resolved: Russia is becoming our enemy again,” The Weekly Standard, November 7, 2007.

37 See, for example, Charles Ganske, “One Cold War Was Enough: Russia Needs Our Help, Not Our Condemnation,” World Politics Review, November 19, 2007 <> ; Justin Raimondo, “Is Russia Democratic? Yes ­ but so what?”, December 3, 2007 <>

38 An Open Letter to the Heads of State and Government Of the European Union and NATO, September 28, 2004 , accessed on October 4, 2007.

39 See, for example, the bipartisan Council of Foreign Relations report Russia’s Wrong Direction as well as multiple statements by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Russia’s new “imperialism.”

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