A Realistic Appraisal of Future Prospects for Russia-West Relations

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A Realistic Appraisal of Future Prospects for Russia-West Relations
Published 30-04-2016, 04:50

Sergey Karaganov

"Strategic considerations imply that a significant recovery of Russia-US relations will be a long process"
It won't be smooth sailing for a while
Originally appeared at Izvestia. Translated by Julia Rakhmetova and Rhod Mackenzie

The author is an influential Russian pundit, lobbyist, and think-tanker. He is currently a dean at the Higher School of Economics

How do you view the Russian-American relationship? Is it any warmer?

Not at all, but there is movement towards more constructive interactions on various problems. Relations are unlikely to warm up for years if the American elite doesn’t change its attitude, its determination to restore its dominant position in all areas.

We’re seeing a kind of revenge for the defeats the American elite inflicted on itself in the 2000s, but a messianic role is in America’s genes. If reforms improve Russia’s economic situation, Russian-American relationships would benefit. Americans count on Russia’s economic weakness, so they can finish squeezing it back to the 1990s.

Regarding the American election campaign, are Donald Trump’s positions those of a significant part of the American elite, and could his views be popular under a new administration, or are they just electioneering?

A significant part of American society and a relatively significant part of the American elite agrees with Trump. However, the deciders are coalescing against Trump.  

The fact that Hillary Clinton suggests some of the same things doesn’t make the elite happy either. This election will be unique in that both candidates have more people who hate them than they have supporters. More than a half of them detest Clinton and two-thirds can’t stand Trump and will not vote for them.

America is going through a very hard time policy-wise. There is a split among the 1% itself, and between the 1% and the population at large, and it is fraught with unpredictable foreign policy consequences. Russia is relying on its longstanding tough policy vis-a-vis the US to prevent any wild adventures from ocurring.

How do you estimate the chances for a reboot under a new administration?

There could be a tactical reboot for a while; however, strategic considerations imply that a significant recovery of Russia-US relations will be a long process. The first consideration is that the West - America to lesser extent than Europe - is losing its leadership position, and Europeans have become convinced that Russia is an enemy.

The European media’s picture of Russia is beyond good and evil – even worse than that of America’s. Many Europeans among both the leaders and the general population support Russia. But Europe’s policies include an anti-Russian stance, so it’s no easy ride.  

I believe the reboot was a failure from the very beginning. There was a possibility of a formal dialogue and nuclear arms limitations, but no one was interested at that time. Now they are probably more interested. If we accept the offer after the current confrontation, it will be a good thing tactically, but we would have to make sure our European and American partners respect our interests.

Do you think European opposition leaders could mediate between Russia and the US to improve the relationship?

The relationship between Russia and Europe is already improving. But we need to understand that one of the reasons for the Ukraine crisis was a deliberate desire of part of the Ukrainian and American elites to prevent Europe’s rapprochement with Russia and China. The Ukrainian crisis was part of this policy and will remain so.

Tactical agreements are possible, particularly given that Europeans have seen that anti-Russian policies don’t solve their problems. America will try to prevent a Russia-Europe rapprochement far into the future, while Europe is in a multi-faceted crisis, almost a meltdown. We hope the European project will not break up, but however much Europeans may also wish for it, the Union could come apart, with the US and Russia fighting over its remains.



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