Pavel Zolotarev is Deputy Director of the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences; Major General (retired).
Generally speaking, there are no grounds in Russian-U.S. relations for reviving the Cold War and going to the brink of mutual assured destruction. In the presence of common threats, geopolitical interests can adversely impact bilateral relations only to a certain extent. But the current tendencies do not give hope for their speedy improvement.
The current trend is such that military force is gradually turning from a foreign policy tool into a military power potential. The purpose is to solve political tasks without using military force but relying entirely on the superiority in military potential.
Russia and the U.S. have become hostages of Cold War weapons, above all ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles which cannot be placed in a reduced launch readiness status without violating the normal mode of operation. Therefore, the system of “mutual assured destruction” must be maintained.
The West does not want to see Russia strong; it fears it. However, it seems that it is not the West but Russia itself that is driving the country onto a self-destructive path. The executive power has become hostage to forces whose well-being depends on defense orders. Moreover, under the influence of these forces a new defense policy of Russia has begun to take shape.
At a roundtable event in Moscow, top experts debated the “hypocritical” and “insincere” foreign policies of both Russia and the West in the post-Cold War era.
Vladimir Putin has mentioned several times that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical mistake. Although these words were often interpreted as his desire to constitute that country, there is little reason to believe this.
The April 16 referendum will focus on power distribution rather than institution building. In other words, the organizers saw it as an opportunity to expand the President’s powers and allow him to rule longer. In their turn, Turks perceived it as an institutional choice to contribute to the development of the state.
If the larger picture defies prediction, the immediate future is scarcely more transparent. In the U.S. case, the known unknowns are numerous. They begin with the question of how much deck furniture Trump is willing to overturn in order to pursue an “America First” strategy.
In the wake of the For Fair Elections protest movement in Russia in 2011-2012, the Kremlin initiated a new strategy of state-society relations that was aimed at diminishing the propensity for protest in the next election cycle.
Belarus’ traditional structural dependence on Russia is increasing, and Minsk’s freedom of maneuver continues to shrink.