The Past, Present and Future of Russia-West Relations

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The Past, Present and Future of Russia-West Relations
Published 23-11-2014, 16:00

Michael Averko

New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic

From the Cold War period, Britain's Margaret Thatcher and American author Suzanne Massie are credited with influencing Ronald Reagan, to seize upon the existence of an opportunity for improving East-West relations. In the post-Soviet era, Western Europe and the American based individuals mentioned in the introduction to this panel offer hope for moving the US to a less confrontational (and dare I say saner) attitude towards Russia.

For a variety of reasons, Western Europe is more likely than the US to spearhead an improvement in Russia-West relations. To an extent, this is already evident (with the understanding that the EU nations aren't monolithic). This week, the EU decided to not increase sanctions against Russia. The EU and Russia have greater trade relations, when compared to America and Russia.

In terms of understanding international issues, it has been said that the US is geographically prone to being comparatively aloof than some others. The US hasn't had the level of major powers on and/or near its borders as some other nations, including Russia. America's decades long economic and military prowess, has served to discourage the art of compromise, in favor of a my way or the highway approach to resolving global differences.

In contrast, smaller nations with less might can't as easily affordto make stupid mistakes. This last thought can get challenged, when such countries feel that they've the backing of a major power - a pointed shot at the NATO/EU affiliated Baltic states (particularly Lithuania and Estonia), whose tragic past shouldn't be carte blanche for pursuing overly headstrong agendas, as evidenced by their rhetorical posturing, on the complex situation in the former Ukrainian SSR.

At present, NATO/EU members Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia don't appear to be so willing as some others to pursue a confrontational stance towards Russia. Public opinion polls in some major Western nations suggestively challenge the notion that Russia poses a great threat. A predominating bias to the contrary exists within the higher levels of North American mass media, body politic and academia.

Some recent examples include 

"Why Russia Worries About NATO Expansion", January 20, 1995

"Central Europe Still Feels Wary of Russia; The Bullied Bear", May 15, 1995

"Through Bosnian Smoke, Russians and Serbs Turn to the West", March 8, 1994

Looking back, some golden opportunities were missed at improving Russia-West relations, as a result of the faulty overview that was evident throughout much of the Western political establishment's liberal-conservative divide - at a time when Russia wasn't seen as great a threat.

In the long run, there's a decent to good chance of seeing noticeably improved Russia-West relations. Though remaining a powerful presence, America is reasonably predicted by some (including Zbigniew Brzezinski) to have less global influence in the foreseeable future - a process that has arguably started. Among American foreign policy elites, more time is perhaps needed, to redirect away from the dubious stances taken against Russia.

One current stumbling block is the advocacy for existing Western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, with the threat of increased measures, versus the official Russian view that the sanctions have limits in a globalized economy, which the Kremlin will be able to successfully manage. It remains to be seen how and when this particular matter will play out.

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