Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

The Future of Russo-American Partnership

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

The Future of Russo-American Partnership

Article excerpt

The Russo-American and Russia-NATO agreements of May 2002 have transformed the strategic landscape in innumerable ways. For the first time since 1945 the operational effectiveness of Russia's military forces is in the West's vital interests. Thus administration officials, commenting on the emerging Bush strategy of preemptive military actions, stated that they are fine-tuning that policy to show that America has options beyond armed intervention, including joint operations with Russia and other powers.1 Despite such U.S. plans, in fact the Russian armed forces' internal debilities, and cognitive dissonance with Western notions of war, all but preclude effective cooperation with the West. Without such cooperation, however, their already weakened capability will continue to decline, placing Russian democracy and security at ever-greater risk. And while the new accords also create new opportunities for deeper, sustained, and regular cooperation on arms control, proliferation, the war on terrorism, and Eurasian regional security, there are potential traps ahead in those relationships.

Many Russians, including the vast majority of the military-political elite, view the 2002 agreements as very one-sided in favor of the West. Thus first deputy Chief of Staff General Yuri Baluyevsky openly stated that the May 2002 Moscow treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms Reduction (SORT) was unacceptable because it allowed the United States to store warheads that would not be counted in the signatories' total arsenals.2 Consequently the West's victory has already become a target that domestic opponents of reform can attack. Although Washington and NATO seemingly got all they wanted, Russia apparently gained only access to a more institutionalized framework of partnership and a potential end to the structure of strategic hostility implicit in the mutual deterrence paradigm. So while a genuine Russo-American partnership is within reach, America's withdrawal from the ABM treaty, retention of a sizable reserve offensive nuclear force, differences over regional security in Eurasia, trade disputes, Russia's continuing support for Iran's nuclearization, and Russia's persisting democratic deficit make it harder to realize that partnership than would otherwise be the case.

Furthermore, as Russia's economy slows down or even returns to recession, as is now widely expected, and given the continuing trend to curtail democratic reforms, a backlash could entwine foreign and defense policy in Russia's domestic politics and obstruct the realization of this new partnership's potential. We could soon return to a situation like that in the 1990s, in which Putin will always be on the defensive in foreign policy, as Boris Yeltsin was, and thus will be unable to advance reform and democratization. And as reforms sputter, Russia's internal cohesion is at some risk.3

The Dimensions of East-West Partnership

The new East-West relationship's multiple dimensions include arms control, regional security in Eurasia, economics, and democratization. Arms control comprises reductions of offensive weapons, construction of strategic defenses, and nonproliferation. Regional security includes Russia's future relationship with NATO (and the EU); the extent and nature of joint partnership in the war on terrorism; the extent and nature of both sides' approach to issues of regional security in Ukraine, Transcaucasia, and Central Asia; regional security in the Middle East-an issue having special resonance because of the urgency of proliferation questions there-and the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the Far East no current or urgent issues irrevocably divide Moscow and Washington. But certainly the nature of each government's relationship to China and Russian military assistance to China are constant concerns of policymakers in Washington and in Moscow. As Lilya Shevtsova observes, the specter of a rising China and declining Russia severely constrains the policy perspectives and policy space available to Russian leaders. …

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