Russia-US Relations: Neither Obstacles
Nor Impetus for Development
Novosti, by Mikhail Margelov, Chairman of the Federation Council’s
International Affairs Committee) — I think Vladimir Putin and
George Bush will make an inventory of Russia-US relations in Bratislava.
The two countries cooperate in the war on terror, in efforts to
prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, drug
trafficking, and AIDS, as well as in the Middle East peace process.
apparently need each other in these spheres, but declarations
are regrettably more frequent than joint actions. The results
of the actions that are taken often engender contradictions. For
example, the US military presence in Central Asia, though it has
many positive aspects, is limiting Russia’s influence in the region.
The presence of American troops means that Moscow is no longer
tackling problems single-handed, which affects its formerly indisputable
leadership in the region. Russia does not support the war in Iraq,
while the US divides terrorists into "good" and "bad."
As a result, the level of bilateral relations is lower than is
needed for effective anti-terrorist efforts.
interaction in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons
is not impressive either. The idea of the Non-Proliferation Treaty
is to prevent the emergence of new nuclear states and the proliferation
of dual-purpose nuclear technologies. Prevention has not worked
so far, as North Korea’s statement on its nuclear weapons recently
showed. And there is a battle of Russian and US interests with
regard to the provision of nuclear technologies to Iran.
bilateral energy dialogue is so far limited to declarations, though
the US would like to diversify its crude market. But it wants
control over global resources even more.
there are no visible obstacles to the development of Russia-US
relations, but there is no clear impetus either. The coincidence
of interests and partnership are two different things. Russia
and the US are facing two questions: Should they change anything
in their relations? And if the answer is yes, then are they ready
to do this?
Putin and Mr. Bush are expected to answer these questions in Bratislava,
the more so that their agenda is not limited by anything. At least,
President Bush did not say in his inauguration speech that relations
with Russia were deteriorating. Moscow is also talking about promoting
partnership. In other words, the key issue on the Bratislava agenda
will probably be the development of relations, which both parties
seem to want.
contradictions between them are mostly concerned with the CIS
and stem from the fundamental differences in their world outlook.
The top Russian leaders call for creating a multipolar world,
but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thinks such a world would
be dangerous and vulnerable. Russia is demonstrating its resolve
to strengthen its status as the regional power in the CIS, while
the US is a global power that is maneuvering between leadership
and hegemony. US troops are deployed in 120 countries, i.e., nearly
everywhere, which is why regionalism is not what Washington wants.
This is the root of contradictions on the amorphous territory
of the CIS, whose unity is unquestionable only geographically,
for many reasons.
American leadership is concerned about Russia’s role in the former
Soviet countries, which engenders accusations of authoritarianism,
the inevitable imperial policy, and so on. But the situation in
the zones of frozen conflicts – Transdnestr, Abkhazia, South Ossetia
and Karabakh – has taken a bad turn and Russia finds it difficult
to deal with it without the assistance of the global community.
On the other hand, the US and the EU cannot do anything (other
than destabilize situation) in the CIS without Russia either.
And the US administration is aware of this, despite its harsh
is one of the stumbling blocks in Russia-US relations. Knowing
that some people in the Georgian administration would like to
use military force to settle the Abkhazian and South Ossetian
problems, Georgian troop training under the American Train and
Equip program is a source of concern for Moscow.
and other contradictions will certainly be discussed in Bratislava.
The two presidents will spotlight the so-called nuclear file of
Iran and measures to stop terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Mr. Putin and Mr. Bush will undoubtedly exchange opinions on the
situation in the Middle East, including recent elections in Palestine
and Iraq, and discuss Russia’s accession to the WTO.
the US has advanced a doctrine of bringing democracy to the world,
the two leaders will probably speak about Yukos, media freedom
and Russia’s political reforms. The doctrine of bringing democracy
to the world is questionable, as formal democracy without liberal
roots cannot guarantee that a "democratic" but incompetent
state will not launch a war or harbor terrorists.
more aspect can be added to Russia-US relations: cooperation in
emergency management, which is crucial in view of the recent tidal
wave in Southeast Asia.
the whole, the US administration is continuing the policy of Mr.
Bush’s first term, with a promise that it will be more flexible
than the one pursued by the previous administration that was dominated
other words, America will gradually abandon the role of a global
dominator acting without any regard for the world community, and
will try to become a leader who respects the opinion of other
states and international institutes. If this promise comes true,
the Russia-US agenda will grow considerably.
addition, the Kremlin hopes Mr. Bush will confirm his participation
in the celebrations of 60th anniversary of victory in WWII in
Moscow. This is important for our relations.