THE GLOBAL CONTEXT OF U.S.-RUSSIAN RELATIONS
The general environment of U.S.-Russian relations up to 2020 will remain conflict-prone, especially as Russia and the United States lack a complex of stabilizing economic ties, like those in U.S.-Chinese relations. The nuclear missile parity remains the sole stabilizer.
The Problem of Strategic Stability
Maintaining strategic stability is the key issue in U.S.-Russian relations. However, the two countries understand it each in its own way.
The United States has traditionally viewed strategic stability from the standpoint of parameters for the development of strategic nuclear forces (SNF). Russia’s interpretation of strategic stability is confined to a set of factors easing the risk of nuclear war.
A common approach to strategic stability was agreed in the late 1980s. At their meeting in Wyoming on September 22-23, 1989, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and U.S. Secretary of State James Baker agreed on four principles of arms control negotiations:
- separating talks on offensive and defensive strategic weapons (i.e. missile defense and strategic offensive arms);
- putting special emphasis on the reduction of intercontinental ballistic missiles with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs);
- permitting the possibility of “breakout potential” (reduction through storing, rather than eliminating, warheads);
- excluding cruise missiles from negotiations’ agenda.
The logic of the Wyoming compromise was central to the Russian-U.S. treaties on strategic offensive arms START I (1991), START II (1993) and SORT (2002). In 2009, the situation changed, though. On two occasions – first, in Helsinki on April 20, 2009, and then in Amsterdam on June 20, 2009 – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia would conduct talks on strategic offensive armaments only if the Wyoming compromise were revised. The New START treaty, signed on April 8, 2010 (the Prague Treaty), not only lowered the cap on strategic nuclear forces to 1,550 warheads on either side, but also laid down new rules for a strategic dialogue:
- Russia and the United States shall retain the right to have “breakout potential”;
- the missile defense issue should be taken into account in the strategic balance structure;
- conventional precision weapons are to be removed from the negotiations’ agenda;
- no restrictions should apply to MIRVs;
- heavy intercontinental missile talks stop to be regarded as a priority;
- the easing of mutual inspections.
However, the signatories to New START differently interpret its preamble concerning “the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms.” The Russian Foreign Ministry sees it as a liability of the United States to limit the number of missile defense systems it can deploy, whereas the U.S. Department of State sees it as nothing than a parameter of future arms reduction talks. The ability (or inability) of Moscow and Washington to agree on a revision of the Prague compromise will remain central to the agenda of U.S.-Russian relations up to 2020.
Nuclear Arms Non-Proliferation
Nuclear arms non-proliferation is a conflict sphere of the U.S.-Russian relations. Formally, Moscow and Washington jointly press for strengthening the Nuclear Arms Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In fact, there have emerged differences between Russia and the United States stemming from their different policies towards outsider states in the international non-proliferation system.
Over the past twenty years the United States has formulated a counter-proliferation strategy. It envisages preventive confiscation of WMDs from the regimes that Washington regards as potentially risky. The modern U.S. policy of counter-proliferation includes the following options:
- buyout of the nuclear program from a potentially risky state;
- establishment of control over nuclear facilities in ‘problem countries’;
- partial recognition of the abuser’s nuclear status in exchange for its consent to observe international agreements;
- threats to use force and (in extreme cases) disarming strikes against nuclear and proto-nuclear facilities of ‘risky regimes’;
- tighter control over the closed nuclear fuel cycle.
Over the past fifteen years the United States has created a number of precedents. In Iraq the United States and its allies carried out a military operation on the pretext of confiscating WMDs from a ‘risky regime’. From Iran the United States demanded curtailing its uranium enrichment program. From North Korea Washington demanded the elimination of nuclear facilities under the control of the IAEA control and/or the five-party commission. From Pakistan the United States demands letting U.S. or NATO officials participate in the operation of the country’s nuclear potential. From India the George W. Bush Administration obtained consent to open its civilian nuclear facilities to the IAEA in exchange for partial recognition of its nuclear status.
However, Russia is very cautious about the counter-proliferation policy. The Russian public is curious why the United States, while letting France and Germany conduct their own commercial policies in relations with ‘problem countries’, disagrees that Russia has the right to do so, too. Moscow has very strong fears the aforesaid precedents are the basis for applying the counter-proliferation strategy to Russia and China.
The World Order Structure
Over the past twenty years the U.S. policy developed a trend towards reforming the system of international law. The previous system, which emerged as a result of World War II, was tailored to suit a world of five great powers (the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China) and of at least two superpowers having approximately equal military potentials (the United States and the USSR). The end of the ‘cold war’ and the collapse of the USSR in 1991 brought about no fundamental shifts at the international legal level. The assertion of U.S. leadership requires that the United States conducts a policy of reforming the structure of the world order. This policy is conducted along the following lines:
- launch of international debates over ostensible ineffectiveness of the United Nations, in particular, of the UN Security Council;
- creation of precedents of action being taken by organizations or “clubs” of countries without UN Security Council sanctions;
- rejection of international legal restrictions on U.S. activity;
- encouragement of court trials of the leaders of sovereign states;
- creation of precedents of revising some norms of 20th century international humanitarian law (for instance, non-application of the 1929 Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War to the Taliban).
The United States employs several mechanisms that affect Russia’s interests. One is lowering the role of the UN Security Council as a key institution of international settlements. International speculations over the theme of Stalinism and the results of World War II with the aim to de-legitimize the United Nations are another. And politicizing the theme of corruption is third. Most corruption charges against the elites of other countries that U.S. and British media publish now and then have had no documental proof though. However, they create a political and psychological environment in which the leaders of sovereign states begin to feel uneasy.
The United States came up with the concept of energy security after the first oil shock of 1973. It envisaged: (1) the diversification of sources of fuels, (2) promotion of alternative energy industries, (3) free access to the sources of fuel, and (4) permissibility to use force for protecting energy interests. In 1975 this understanding of energy security became a program shared by the Group of Seven.
With Russia’s admission to the G7 the situation changed. Since 2005 Moscow has been pressing for a reform of the understanding of energy security in favor of greater respect for the interests of exporters. At the G8 summit in St. Petersburg (July 15-17, 2006) Russia managed to ensure that the summit documents include a new understanding of energy security as measures to maintain the security of the entire cycle of production, transportation and distribution of fuels. Since that time Washington has been devising and testing a variety of ways to resist Russia’s ‘energy weapon’ as Moscow’s new resource.
In the 1970s the energy market was the domain of U.S. and British companies (the “Seven Sisters”). In the 2000s, though, they ceded the leading positions to government-run corporations of Russia, China, the Gulf countries, India, Indonesia and Brazil. Hence the attempts by U.S. businesses to decartelize competitors. Russia and the United States lack a record of positive interaction in the energy sphere. Joint Russian-U.S. projects (for example, Sakhalin-I and Sakhalin-II) have proved abortive.
The British factor is an additional source of tensions. Up to the mid-1980s Britain had been the leading European energy power. But, as hydrocarbon production in the North Sea developed a downtrend, the role of energy supplies from the USSR/Russia soared. Germany began to take over as a transit hub of Russian hydrocarbon supplies. British diplomacy now tries to use the factor of Central and East European countries for emasculating Russian-German energy cooperation. This policy enjoys Washington’s wholesale support.
REGIONAL ASPECTS IN U.S.-RUSSIAN RELATIONS
The situation at the regional level remains conflict-risky. It is in the regions that there exists the risk of a U.S.-Russia military standoff, and under certain circumstances it may worsen towards the 2020s. At the same time, there are some regional stabilizing factors which may create conditions for U.S.-Russian constructive interaction.
For the past 50 years there were two conflicting approaches in the Euro-Atlantic area to how security is to be maintained. The Atlantic approach put the emphasis on the importance of preserving U.S. security guarantees for the NATO allies. The advocates of the Euro-Atlantic approach acknowledged U.S. leadership in Europe, but at the same time pressed for restricting Washington’s freedom of action through signing mutually binding agreements. The elites of the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway were defending the priority of Atlanticism. The countries of continental Western Europe (first and foremost, France and West Germany) opted for the Euro-Atlantic approach.
Since the mid-1960s, the Soviet Union put the stake on cooperation with Euro-Atlanticism. The Russian Federation is now continuing this trend. At the end of the 2000s and the beginning of the 2010s, Russia put forward some key initiatives, such as drafts of a European Security Treaty and Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative as an unofficial dialogue mechanism. Moscow seeks a package of agreements with the United States that would (1) restrict the United States’ freedom of action in matters of using force, (2) create a mechanism of joint discussions by Russia and NATO of European security problems and (3) put on record a system of Russia-NATO obligations in case of conflicts with third countries. Washington suspects that with these agreements Moscow would try to undermine NATO machinery.
Towards the beginning of the 2010s, Euro-Atlanticism was showing signs of crisis. The EU countries are now witnessing a renaissance of trans-Atlantic relations.
Firstly, France under Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012) dropped Gaullism as the basis of its foreign policy. France’s return to the fold of NATO’s military organization (2009), the Franco-British declaration (2010), the war in Libya (2011) and the joint Franco-British stance on Syria (2012) showed that Paris was mastering the role of the United States’ and Britain’s junior partner well enough.
Secondly, the “European Security and Defense Identity” project has grown weaker. On August 30, 2011, the West European Union was disbanded. Originally it was to be replaced by the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). But the EU countries failed to agree on parameters for a European peacekeeping force. The Franco-British agreements of 2010 remain the real military basis of the EU.
Thirdly, the line-up of forces in the European Union has changed. After the Libyan war of 2011 the Franco-German duo gave way to a Franco-British tandem, which is far more Washington-biased than the CSDP project.
When France dropped its Gaullist policies, Russia lost an influential mediator in U.S.-Russian relations – a role that once traditionally belonged to Paris. Russia grew increasingly disillusioned with the OSCE. The United States has not given up its plans for NATO’s expansion to the post-Soviet space. The failure of negotiations over the Russian draft of a European Security Treaty proved that Russia and the United States are still unable to formulate new common rules of cooperation in Europe.
U.S.-Russian relations in Central Asia are built on two conflicting trends. Russia supports NATO’s counter-terrorist operation in Afghanistan (although the Kremlin has regularly criticized the alliance for doing too little to fight against drugs production in Afghan territory). However, Moscow fears that Washington may undermine the mechanisms of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
The George W. Bush Administration’s 2002 National Security Strategy postulated three aims of U.S. regional policies. Firstly, Washington is determined to preserve its presence in Central Asia in the foreseeable future. Secondly, the existence of military infrastructures in Central Asia allows the United States to address a variety of tasks: from struggle against trans-national terrorism to restricting the resources of Russia and China. Thirdly, neither the Tashkent treaty of 1992, nor the SCO are hindrances to the United States’ system of relations with the Central Asian countries. That system may be consonant or dissonant with the interests of Russia and China.
The Republicans’ attempts to fast-track the democratization of Central Asia reached nowhere. The Obama Administration took the predecessors’ mistakes into account. The Chinese-Russian agreement on cooperation in the struggle against terrorism, separatism and extremism, signed on September 27, 2010, indirectly strengthened the United States’ positions. Tashkent, Dushanbe and Ashgabat took it as a major reinforcement of Russia’s and China’s positions. There emerged demand for the United States playing the role of a counter-balance to Russia and China.
Since U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tour of Central Asia in October 2011, the United States has conducted policies in the region along the following lines:
- negotiations with Central Asian countries on partnership in the forthcoming NATO troop pullout from Afghanistan;
- consultations with Central Asian countries over the possibility of continued U.S. presence in the region after 2014;
- support for Turkmenistan’s energy policies to create new south- and east-bound gas pipeline systems;
- Uzbekistan’s involvement in negotiations over Afghanistan separately from Tashkent’s SCO partners;
- a Dialogue Partner status for the United States in the SCO;
- promotion of SCO membership expansion.
In the coming ten years, Russia’s worst fear in Central Asia will be a recurrence of the “2002 scenario.” In the spring of 2002, the George W. Bush Administration started probing into the possibility of the United States’ accession to the SCO or of acquiring an associate member status in it. The White House’s idea put the SCO on the brink of crisis. Uzbekistan welcomed the U.S. proposal, while China objected to Washington’s participation in the SCO. Only after leaving the question of U.S. presence on the sidelines the SCO countries managed to adopt the organization’s charter at the St. Petersburg summit on June 7, 2002. This factor increases the general conflict potential of U.S.-Russian interaction in the region.
The Pacific Region
The Asia-Pacific Region (APR) and international relations in the Pacific in general will be playing a growing role in U.S.-Russian cooperation by 2020. U.S.-Chinese rivalry is central to international relations in this region. Starting from the middle of 2010, the United States shifted to a revised policy of containing China, which is composed of several elements:
- revival of the ANZUS military alliance, created in 1951;
- creation of a new system of U.S. presence in Indochina by developing partnership with Vietnam and enhancing control over the Strait of Malacca;
- Washington’s wider military partnership with India;
- creation of a new association called Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The Obama Administration also tried to weaken Russian-Chinese strategic partnership. Throughout 2009 the United States invited China to agree to a “group of two” concept as privileged U.S.-Chinese partnership. In 2010, Brookings Institution experts produced a concept called the Northern Alternative of ASEAN: a hypothetical organization incorporating the United States, Canada, South Korea and, possibly, Japan.
Washington has the rocket and space resources up its sleeve. After ANZUS was restored in November 2010, Canberra and Wellington stepped up contacts with Roscosmos regarding the possibility of partnership in the sphere of space rocket technologies. The 1993 Russian-Japanese agreement on partnership in the sphere of peaceful exploration of outer space remains mothballed. Russia’s partnership with these countries in the field of rocket and space technologies would cause Beijing’s discontent.
Russia and the United States still have outstanding territorial disputes. Russia has not ratified the 1990 agreement on the delimitation of disputed areas of the Bering Sea. The United States and Japan refuse to recognize the Sea of Okhotsk as Russia’s territorial sea. Still undistributed remain shelf zones in the Bering Strait, where the border was drawn under the Russian-American agreement of 1867. (The latter was concluded long before the adoption of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and does not reflect its essence).
At the official level Washington has so far not raised the question of the United States’ direct contacts with Russia’s Far Eastern regions. But U.S. experts have been discussing the possibility of Russia’s Far East participating in the APEC on its own, separately from the rest of Russia. U.S. analysts have proposed such projects regarding the possibility of the Russian Far East’s membership in the TPP or a hypothetical Northern Alternative of ASEAN. Also, Moscow is aware of U.S. experts’ nostalgia for the Far Eastern Republic of 1920-1922.
Redistribution of powers among the federal government and Russia’s Far Eastern regions, discussed intensively throughout 2012, may pose a new problem. Transition of part of the capital city’s functions to a city in the Far East might spark discussions of re-arranging the Russian Federation along confederative lines. The United States may provide support for such trends by (1) generating proposals for independent admission of Russia’s Far East to various integration associations in the Pacific on its own, and (2) trying to enter into negotiations with Russia’s Far Eastern regions over the settlement of territorial disputes. A recurrence of the “British scenario”1 of the 1940s (the United States’ direct relations with regions, with the federal center playing the minimum role in this process) would be the most dangerous for Russia.
U.S.-Russian relations in the territory of the former USSR are very easy to forecast. Since the end of 1993, the White House, irrespective of which party was in power, has invariably sought to:
- support “geo-political pluralism” in Eurasia (i.e. the independence and territorial integrity of the former Soviet republics;
- build up a direct dialogue with the former Soviet republics;
- encourage the export of hydrocarbons along routes that bypass Russia;
- hinder the implementation of Russia’s integration projects.
The Obama Administration is very suspicious about the Eurasian Union project that Vladimir Putin proposed in October 2011. It would be logical to expect that the United States will indirectly resist these initiatives. Up to 2015 the key instruments that may be used to this end look as follows: (1) Washington’s support for politicians determined to distance their countries from Russia and (2) wider military and political cooperation (with direct or indirect U.S. support) between former Soviet republics and NATO and the EU.
In the Arctic Region there exists an objective contradiction between Russia and the U.S. Moscow is for preserving intact the Sector Principle of dividing the Arctic, which took shape in the 1920s. Washington is pressing for the internationalization of the Arctic Ocean and for an end to its sectoral division. Russia is determined to retain the Soviet sector of the Arctic through the recognition of parts of the underwater ridges Lomonosov and Mendeleev as extensions of the Siberian continental platform. Washington, as follows from the 2009 Arctic Region Policy, will be resisting this in every way it can.
Arctic disputes are closely linked with discussions on the future of the Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear forces. The United States is out to devalue the strength of Russia’s Northern Fleet – the basis of the SNF naval component. In this intention Washington has the backing of its partners. Norway and Sweden have never recognized Russia’s exclusive rights to the Northern Sea Route. Washington, Oslo and Stockholm regard the development of common ecological projects as Russia’s consent to reconsidering the status of this transport artery.
The ongoing discussion on the re-division of the Arctic is underway among five Arctic powers, four of which are members of NATO. Other Arctic powers (Norway, Denmark and Canada) are the United States’ allies under the 1949 treaty. True, the United States may have territorial disagreements with them, but none of these disagreements has a military-political connotation.
The Russia-Norway Treaty, concluded in Murmansk in 2010, may reconfigure U.S.-Russian interaction in the Arctic.
The treaty is proof of:
- the possibility of Russia’s dialogue with the other Arctic countries without the United States taking part;
- limitations of the format of Russia’s interaction with the Arctic allies of the United States (Norway, even after the delimitation of the disputed areas of the Barents Sea and Moscow’s concessions on Svalbard, refused to recognize the Northern Sea Route as Russia’s internal transport artery);
- the possibility that the United States may use Moscow’s territorial concessions as a precedent for settling Russian-U.S. border disputes.
The extremely adverse climatic conditions in the Arctic and the United States’ territorial disputes with Denmark and Canada may be viewed as stabilizing factors in U.S.-Russian relations. A certain positive role may be played by joint Russian-U.S. deep sea drilling projects in the Arctic Ocean.
U.S.-RUSSIAN RELATIONS SCENARIOS UP TO 2020
The ongoing trends in U.S.-Russian relations are a reason enough to say the “imposed consensus” model has exhausted itself. That model, dating back to the first half of the 1990s, implied U.S.-Russian cooperation should follow a U.S.- dominated agenda. The Obama Administration’s attempt to revive it in the guise of the ‘reset’ policy ran into Moscow’s resistance. Pretty soon this model may give way to any of the three options listed below.
Return to Minor Confrontation
The “minor confrontation” model would put an end to the ‘reset’ policy and bring back confrontationist rhetoric, the upgrading of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear potentials and a high level of regional conflict risks. This model of interaction may be a result of the following factors:
- lack of a missile defense agreement between Russia and the United States;
- failure in negotiations on a reform of the European security system;
- the growing U.S.-Russia rivalry in Central Asia;
- the negative attitude of the U.S. establishment (irrespective of party affiliation) to the personality of Vladimir Putin;
- a negative psychological climate in bilateral relations resulting from the White House’s criticism of the results of parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia.
The situation may resemble the events of 2007-2008. In response to Putin’s Munich speech the United States triggered a controlled crisis over Georgia with the aim to find out whether the Kremlin was really prepared to translate its “Munich warning” into reality. Such a crisis may be engineered any time over the next few years to probe the strength of Putin’s positions and his readiness to use force. The most likely spots for such attempts to be made are Russia’s territorial disputes with Japan, the prolonged military-political crisis over Georgia, attempts to replace the authorities of Belarus and territorial controversies in the Arctic. Also, there exists a risk of reciprocal escalation.
The conflict potential in the strategic sphere is now higher than it was in Soviet-U.S. relations in the 1960s and 1970s.
First, Russia and the United States have approached critical levels of SNF reduction – to 1,550 operational warheads on each side.
Second, over the past twenty years Russia and the United States were upgrading their SNF far slower than in the 1970s and 1980s. So the potential for putting nuclear systems out of order would be far smaller than it had been before 2009.
Third, the chances of achieving a compromise over the missile defense issue are getting slimmer. Washington is investing huge funds into this project, and U.S. businesses are getting major military contracts. The Americans have no idea what major concession by Moscow they might exchange their consent to conclude a missile defense agreement for.
Fourth, Russia, faced with the risk of a fast missile defense buildup by the United States, may quit the INF treaty of 1987 with the net effect of re-creating the situation of the 1980s – a stand-off in Europe based on intermediate and shorter range missiles.
The “minor confrontation” scenario would reduce U.S.-Russian relations to a level of contacts on ways of easing military tensions and resuming the dialogue on military and political problems. Preserving New START and devising conflict prevention measures would acquire priority. Russia and the United States will be interested in a go-between, like the one France was for a long while. Possibly, the British diplomacy may cope with this mission, if London eases its dependence on Washington.
The Stagnation Scenario
The stagnation scenario in U.S.-Russian relations is based on freezing the current trends. Its main features are:
- preservation of the system of mutual nuclear deterrence and nuclear missile parity as the basis of U.S.-Russian relations;
- slow-going missile defense talks without any tangible results achieved;
- faster attempts by the United States to upset Russian-Chinese strategic partnership and (in case of failure) the reformatting of India’s policy towards confrontation with Moscow and Beijing;
- indirect rivalry in Central Asia against a backdrop of public rhetoric about common interests in Afghanistan;
- high level of rivalry in the territory of the former USSR and in Europe (where Russia, just as the USSR in the 1960s, is trying to play on EU-U.S. contradictions);
- preservation of demonstratively constructive contacts between the leaders of Russia and the United States irrespective of which party a future U.S. president may be from;
- reduction of the bilateral relations agenda to arms control.
Apparently, Central Asia will become the largest bundle of contradictions. With a high degree of probability Washington will be trying to emasculate the SCO and the CSTO. There are two ways in which it may try to achieve this. Wide support for the opposition in Central Asian countries is one. U.S. integration with the SCO structures is another. Greater instability of the region will be the net effect in both cases. This scenario will undergo the most dramatic test in 2018-2020. New START envisages no intermediate SNF reduction dates. Theoretically either party may first declare the intention to carry out the main reductions not step by step only to walk out of the treaty at the very last moment. In that way it will be able to keep its SNF at the 2010 level. In the event New START collapses, either Russia or the United States may have a competitive edge.
At this moment the ‘stagnation scenario’ looks most probable in further bilateral relations. Nuclear missile parity is the basis maintaining the stability of U.S.-Russian relations. Until 2016-2017, Moscow and Washington will be monitoring each other’s ability to deploy a missile defense and upgrade the SNF. After that (approximately by 2018), the elites of Russia and the United States in their actions will depend on whether or not there is a nuclear missile parity.
The Positive Scenario
The positive scenario currently looks as the most difficult to be implemented. The U.S.-Russian relations are 80-percent pegged to the problems of arms control. Without a missile defense treaty Russia will not agree to conclude any more SNF agreements. Therefore Moscow and Washington should try to find solutions to the most complicated problems at the pre-strategic level.
First, Russia and the United States should enter into a dialogue over tactical nuclear weapons. Achieving a real TNW reduction by 2020 is hardly possible, but the package of TNW negotiations may include the following aspects. Firstly, Article 7 of the NPT treaty regarding the presence of TNW in the territories of third countries needs specification. For Russia it is important to resume negotiations on creating a nuclear-free zone in Central and Eastern Europe. These negotiations, which the Russia-NATO Founding Act of 1997 provides for, are in a frozen state.
The TNW problem actualizes discussions on the German issue. The Moscow Treaty of 1990 lifted from Germany the remains of the occupation status. But it left in effect the 1952 Bonn Treaty’s bans on holding referendums on military and political problems and on demands for the withdrawal of foreign troops until the conclusion of a peace treaty, on the development of some components of the armed forces and on adopting foreign policy decisions without consultations with the victor nations. Berlin’s demand for the removal of U.S. TNW from Europe cuts the ground from under U.S. nuclear guarantees. This puts a question mark over the nature of Germany’s future policies. Russia and the United States may get back to the theme of concluding a full-fledged peace treaty with Germany and of restoring Germany’s full rights as a legal entity in the military sphere.
Second, Russia is interested in including the British factor in the START talks. Britain’s SNF has been part and parcel of the U.S. system of nuclear planning since 1962. The United States may develop the SNF above the New START limits under joint nuclear programs with London. France’s return to NATO’s military organization in the spring of 2009 made the situation still worse.
Third, the INF treaty deserves special attention. Britain and France are not parties to it and theoretically they may develop this class of missiles. At the moment they have no weapons of this type, but at some future date they may bring this problem to the fore again and restore the program for creating intermediate and shorter-range missiles and land-based cruise missiles. (For instance, upgraded versions of the joint Franco-British air-launched cruise missiles Storm Shadow).
Fourth, Russia and the United States should formulate the rules of military cooperation in Europe. Now Europe has got back to the situation of the 1960s, when the parties had no rules of the game in the military sphere to follow. NATO’s military operations in the Balkans devalued the CSCE’s Stockholm Document on Security and Confidence Building measures in Europe (1986). The CFE treaty collapsed when Russia froze its observance in 2007. A resumption of talks on conventional armaments in Europe might serve as evidence the ‘reset’ policy is continuing.
Next to this group of problems there stands the issue of a package of joint liabilities Russia and the United States should work out in case of a conflict with third countries. During the bipolar confrontation such liabilities were put on record in the 1973 Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War. Under Mikhail Gorbachev the list of its provisions was expanded within the framework of the 1989-1990 Vienna agreements on confidence-building measures. After 1991, Russia and the United States have preferred to sidestep this issue as a legacy of the Cold War. The conflict over South Ossetia proved that this sort of optimism was premature.
The outlook for U.S.-Russia dialogue in other regions is less clear. However, the parties have the potential to establish such negotiating mechanisms. In the Far East, settling disputes over sea areas should become a high priority task. In Central Asia it is important for both parties to identify the format of cooperation regarding NATO’s pullout from Afghanistan and the prospects of Washington’s interaction with the SCO. The latter option envisages the possibility of wide negotiations on regional security problems.
The implementation of these measures will create a positive agenda for Moscow-Washington relations. Otherwise Russia and the United States may see a rerun of the 1970s, when arms control problems in Europe upset Detente.
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The failure of all previous attempts at U.S.-Russia rapprochement prompts two conclusions. First, the problems in bilateral relations stem not from the ill will of the leaders of Russia or the United States, but from deeper causes. Second, the high level of the conflict potential in U.S.-Russian interaction is not so much a legacy of the Cold War as evidence of systemic contradictions.
In the period ending in 2020 three scenarios will be possible in U.S.-Russian relations. One scenario is pessimistic; it will spell the end of the ‘reset’ policy and a return to the “minor confrontation” of the 2007-2008. Under another, ‘stagnant’ scenario, bilateral relations will be confined to the search for a compromise on arms control. And in keeping with the third, positive scenario the parties will continue to look for solutions at missile defense and strategic offensive arms talks and develop a positive agenda for bilateral relations. Certainly, the positive scenario does not mean Russia and the United States will abandon the conflict model of mutual nuclear deterrence. But in parallel Moscow and Washington may try to develop stabilizing economic ties.
In this sense it is completely unimportant to Moscow who is in power in Washington. Both Republican and Democratic administrations will seek to reduce strategic armaments. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are likely to make a major compromise on missile defense or nuclear forces in Europe. Neither will recognize the priority of Russia’s interests in the territory of the former USSR, or ease the mechanism of U.S. military presence in Europe. Rhetorical vocabulary and the degree of readiness to listen to the other party will make the sole difference.