Russia and Obama's Second Term

January 30, 2013 Topic: Great Powers Region: Russia

Russia and Obama's Second Term

There is little potential for a broad strategic dialogue between Washington and Moscow.

The fundamental reality is that both Russia and the United States have entered a new phase of international relations. Russia, having ensured its own sovereignty and policy independence, is seeking to build its relationships with all countries from the point of view of its own priorities. On this basis it tries to establish a balance of powers that effectively protects its interests in the Near Abroad and maintains its own economic and military-political security. It is naïve to believe that Russia is mentally separating itself from the culture of the West because it does not share the Western value system, as Dmitri Trenin wrote in December, or that it is becoming close to China almost to the point of being its junior partner. Such suggestions have little basis in reality. Russia is simply trying to work for its own interests, within accepted diplomatic rules, in order to gain advantageous bargaining positions.

The United States also has entered a new phase. It is going through a painful and complex transition from unilateral global domination to a policy of creating balance-of-power arrangements in various regions of the world so as to preserve American presence and influence. Thus, there will be inevitable ups and downs in U.S.-Russian relations as the two countries partner on some issues on which it is beneficial for both of them to be allied, and compete and experience tensions on other issues, where their vital interests diverge. This means there isn’t much chance of consistently smooth relations between the two countries.

There is little doubt that the economic and military-political resources of the United States and Europe are continually shrinking in relation to other nations whose wealth and power are expanding. This poses greater opportunities for such countries to form alliances and coalitions in order to serve mutual interests and undermine the domineering behavior of a unipolar power center over these less-powerful nations.

Andranik Migranyan is the director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in New York. He is also a professor at the Institute of International Relations in Moscow, a former member of the Public Chamber and a former member of the Russian Presidential Council.