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Thread: STRATFOR - The Western View of Russia Pt1

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    Default STRATFOR - The Western View of Russia Pt1

    A months-long White House review of a pair of U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations slated for Poland and the Czech Republic is nearing completion. The review is expected to present a number of options ranging from pushing forward with the installations as planned to canceling them outright. The Obama administration has yet to decide what course to follow. Rumors are running wild in Poland and the Czech Republic that the United States has reconsidered its plan to place ballistic defense systems in their countries. The rumors stem from a top U.S. BMD lobbying group that said this past week that the U.S. plan was all but dead.

    The ultimate U.S. decision on BMD depends upon both the upcoming summit of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany on the Iranian nuclear program and Russia’s response to those talks. If Russia does not cooperate in sanctions, but instead continues to maintain close relations with Iran, we suspect that the BMD plan will remain intact. Either way, the BMD issue offers a good opportunity to re-examine U.S. and Western relations with Russia and how they have evolved.
    Cold War vs. Post-Cold War

    There has been a recurring theme in the discussions between Russia and the West over the past year: the return of the Cold War. U.S. President Barack Obama, for example, accused Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of having one foot in the Cold War. The Russians have in turn accused the Americans of thinking in terms of the Cold War. Eastern Europeans have expressed fears that the Russians continue to view their relationship with Europe in terms of the Cold War. Other Europeans have expressed concern that both Americans and Russians might drag Europe into another Cold War.

    For many in the West, the more mature and stable Western-Russian relationship is what they call the “Post-Cold War world.” In this world, the Russians no longer regard the West as an enemy, and view the other republics of the former Soviet Union (FSU) as independent states free to forge whatever relations they wish with the West. Russia should welcome or at least be indifferent to such matters. Russia instead should be concentrating on economic development while integrating lessons learned from the West into its political and social thinking. The Russians should stop thinking in politico-military terms, the terms of the Cold War. Instead, they should think in the new paradigm in which Russia is part of the Western economic system, albeit a backward one needing time and institution-building to become a full partner with the West. All other thinking is a throwback to the Cold War.

    This was the thinking behind the idea of resetting U.S.-Russian relations. Hillary Clinton’s “reset” button was meant to move U.S.-Russian relations away from what Washington thought of as a return to the Cold War from its preferred period, which existed between 1991 and the deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations after Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution. The United States was in a bimodal condition when it came to Russian relations: Either it was the Cold War or it was post-Cold War.

    The Russians took a more jaundiced view of the post-Cold War world. For Moscow, rather than a period of reform, the post-Cold War period was one of decay and chaos. Old institutions had collapsed, but new institutions had not emerged. Instead, there was the chaos of privatization, essentially a wild free-for-all during which social order collapsed. Western institutions, including everything from banks to universities, were complicit in this collapse. Western banks were eager to take advantage of the new pools of privately expropriated money, while Western advisers were eager to advise the Russians on how to become Westerners. In the meantime, workers went unpaid, life expectancy and birth rates declined, and the basic institutions that had provided order under communism decayed — or worse, became complicit in the looting. The post-Cold War world was not a happy time in Russia: It was a catastrophic period for Russian power.

    Herein lies the gulf between the West and the Russians. The West divides the world between the Cold War and the post-Cold War world. It clearly prefers the post-Cold War world, not so much because of the social condition of Russia, but because the post-Cold War world lacked the geopolitical challenge posed by the Soviet Union — everything from wars of national liberation to the threat of nuclear war was gone. From the Russian point of view, the social chaos of the post-Cold War world was unbearable. Meanwhile, the end of a Russian challenge to the West meant from the Russian point of view that Moscow was helpless in the face of Western plans for reordering the institutions and power arrangements of the region without regard to Russian interests.

    As mentioned, Westerners think in term of two eras, the Cold War and the Post-Cold War era. This distinction is institutionalized in Western expertise on Russia. And it divides into two classes of Russia experts. There are those who came to maturity during the Cold War in the 1970s and 1980s, whose basic framework is to think of Russia as a global threat. Then, there are those who came to maturity in the later 1980s and 1990s. Their view of Russia is of a failed state that can stabilize its situation for a time by subordinating itself to Western institutions and values, or continue its inexorable decline.

    These two generations clash constantly. Interestingly, the distinction is not so much ideological as generational. The older group looks at Russian behavior with a more skeptical eye, assuming that Putin, a KGB man, has in mind the resurrection of Soviet power. The post-Cold War generation that controlled U.S.-Russian policy during both the Clinton and Bush administrations is more interesting. During both administrations, this generation believed in the idea that economic liberalization and political liberalization were inextricably bound together. It believed that Russia was headed in the right direction if only Moscow did not try to reassert itself geopolitically and militarily, and if Moscow did not try to control the economy or society with excessive state power. It saw the Russian evolution during the mid-to-late 2000s as an unfortunate and unnecessary development moving Russia away from the path that was best for it, and it sees the Cold War generation’s response to Russia’s behavior as counterproductive.
    The Post-Post Cold War World

    The U.S. and other Westerners’ understanding of Russia is trapped in a nonproductive paradigm. For Russia, the choice isn’t between the Cold War or the Post-Cold War world. This dichotomy denies the possibility of, if you will, a post-post-Cold War world — or to get away from excessive posts, a world in which Russia is a major regional power, with a stable if troubled economy, functional society and regional interests it must protect.

    Russia cannot go back to the Cold War, which consisted of three parts. First, there was the nuclear relationship. Second, there was the Soviet military threat to both Europe and the Far East; the ability to deploy large military formations throughout the Eurasian landmass. And third, there were the wars of national liberation funded and guided by the Soviets, and designed to create powers allied with the Soviets on a global scale and to sap U.S. power in endless counterinsurgencies.

    While the nuclear balance remains, by itself it is hollow. Without other dimensions of Russian power, the threat to engage in mutual assured destruction has little meaning. Russia’s military could re-evolve to pose a Eurasian threat; as we have pointed out before, in Russia, the status of the economy does not historically correlate to Russian military power. At the same time, it would take a generation of development to threaten the domination of the European peninsula — and Russia today has far fewer people and resources than the whole of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact that it rallied to that effort. Finally, while Russia could certainly fund insurgencies, the ideological power of Marxism is gone, and in any case Russia is not a Marxist state. Building wars of national liberation around pure finance is not as easy as it looks. There is no road back to the Cold War. But neither is there a road back to the post-Cold War period.

    There was a period in the mid-to-late 1990s when the West could have destroyed the Russian Federation. Instead, the West chose a combined strategy of ignoring Russia while irritating it with economic policies that were unhelpful to say the least, and military policies like Kosovo designed to drive home Russia’s impotence. There is the old saw of not teasing a bear, but if you must, being sure to kill it. Operating on the myth of nation-building, the West thought it could rebuild Russia in its own image. To this day, most of the post-Cold War experts do not grasp the degree to which Russians saw their efforts as a deliberate attempt to destroy Russia and the degree to which Russians are committed never to return to that time. It is hard to imagine anything as infuriating for the Russians as the reset button the Clinton administration’s Russia experts — who now dominate Obama’s Russia policy — presented the Russian leadership in all seriousness. The Russians simply do not intend to return to the Post-Cold War era Western experts recall so fondly.

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    Milf & Cookies sabbattack's Avatar
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    tl;dr

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    Συνεργάτης Μόσπιτ Ingolemo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabbattack View Post
    tl;dr
    People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect. But actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly...timey-wimey...stuff.

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    ρωχαμη πσησου για σταρκραφτ
    Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.
    J. M. Keynes.

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