Russia and America: Destined for Conflict?
Many say that without Ukraine Russia cannot be an empire. This is true, to a point. Conversely, however, Russia’s elite and much of its public believes that Russia can never be secure if Ukraine becomes a hostile nation and particularly if it joins a hostile alliance. Russian leaders have already seen how NATO’s new members have changed the character of the alliance in its dealings with Moscow. A NATO influenced by not only Poland and the Baltic states, but also Ukraine, may form an existential threat for Moscow. This in turn would place both Ukraine’s and NATO’s security in terrible jeopardy—a development that America should seek to avoid.
Relations between the two sides have deteriorated to dangerous levels. It’s in the U.S. national interest to explore better relations with Russia from a position of strength, something that will require both patience and realism in acknowledging that the effort may not succeed. If Moscow refuses to oblige, Washington should do whatever is necessary to protect its interests. Since this is likely to be risky and costly, it should not be America’s first choice.
Dimitri K. Simes, publisher and CEO of the National Interest, is president of the Center for the National Interest.
Image: RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missiles. Kremlin photo, Creative Commons license