The Transformation of Russia and American Policy

The World and I, December 2001 | Go to article overview

The Transformation of Russia and American Policy


Current Issues examines the transformation of Russia since the fall of communism in its Special Report this month. This is a topic of major importance to the United States because the future of Russia is of great moment for world peace and European security.

Despite its poor present circumstances, Russia is a potentially powerful state. It has a large population with a significant pool of skilled and cultured scientists. And it sits on a pool of important natural resources. Russia in the not too distant future will once again be a great state, and it is important to the United States that Russia play a constructive role in world politics befitting its potential greatness.

As an old and fierce foe of the Soviet Union and a former military budget hard-liner, I never was a foe of Russia or Russians. Indeed, I always regarded many academics who were in the Soviet establishment as friends and colleagues, for whom I cared as human beings.

The last several administrations have repeatedly claimed that they do not see Russia as a potential enemy. However, if I were Russian, I would see at least some American policies as anti-Russian. If the situation were reversed and a powerful Russia were trying to co-opt Mexico and Canada into an alliance, would we credit a claim that this policy was designed merely for purposes of international security and that it had no anti- American overtones?

If they were to claim such a policy was designed to protect democracy and brought a Central American state, which was dictatorial and which assassinated journalists not only at home but also abroad, into an extension of the alliance, as we have done with Tajikistan, would we take that statement at face value? If they were to oppose an oil pipeline that ran through the United States and stated to reporters, as some U.S. State Department officials did in the case of the parallel case of the Mideast pipeline, that this was designed to wean Central American states out of the American orbit, would we see that as a friendly policy? …

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