NATO’s admission of three classes of a total of twelve former communist states and republics took place in the years 1999, 2004, and 2009. Each of the admitted states had undergone a preparation process known as the Partnership for Peace. The Russian reaction was very negative, as they strengthened their own military in response and also complained that NATO had now moved to their doorstep. At the alliance’s Bucharest Summit in 2008, NATO made the strategically important decision to deny admission to both Georgia and Ukraine. This denial may have strengthened the Russian resolve to invade the first in 2008 and the second in 2014. After the Russian absorption of Crimea, NATO tactics bolstered the position of other vulnerable states but also angered Russian leaders.
Both America and Russia, for different reasons, decided to undertake a policy pivot towards Asia. For President Obama, such a pivot may have represented a needed change from preoccupation with tough issues in the Middle East, Iraq, and Afghanistan. President Putin may have looked East in an effort to get away from constant preoccupation with issues related to Crimea and the eastern edge of Europe. The Asian-Pacific Economic Community (APEC) offered a common forum of communication for both wth other Asian states. However, both powers had different historical reasons for pursuing the overture to Asian states. For the United States, a major defense agreement with South Korea was a result of the Korean War of the 1950s, while its long engagement in the Vietnam War of the 1960s and 70s provided it with additional historical experiences in the region. Russia concerned itself with intensified trade relations and also defined the region to include Central Asian states that had formerly been republics in the Soviet Union. U.S. troops had been a presence in the region for decades, and the multi-state controversy over Chinese actions in the South China Sea also bore in part a defensive component.
During the late Cold War there was a serious effort by leaders in both capitals to defuse the tension and conflict that characterized their relationship during the 1950s and 60s. Commitments by both sides to the details of soft power approaches such as negotiating arms agreements such as SALT and the Helsinki Accords eased the climate of hostility somewhat, while the rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev, with his emphasis on perestroika and other aspects of reform, resulted in considerable retraction of the Soviet military both in size and from various points of involvement such as Afghanistan. However, there was usually either continuing underlying neo-Cold War tension between the two or vacillation between steps forward and backward. The initial Soviet move into Afghanistan combined with emergence of Marxist forces in locations such as Nicaragua kept American leaders in a state of military readiness. Provocative moves such as the build-up of the American nuclear arsenal under President Reagan in the 1980s were combatitive in tone with regard to Soviet leaders. Thus, positive and negative features combined in an uneasy mix at the end of the Cold War.
In terms of the ten theoretical approaches presented in Chapter One, the balance of power model carried the most explanatory force in tracing the evolution of the Russian-American relationship. The multipolar model also was strong in depicting the impact on Russian-American relations by other interested states, and it also is useful in studying the impact of that relationship on other nations and their leaders. Further, realism is the best theoretical tool in characterizing motives behind many policy initiatives of the two states. As a result, there were many points at which erosion in the relationship occurred. Their very different reactions to the Syrian civil war was one major example, but so also were continuing military provocations. Russians carried out numerous military exercises in very sensitive border regions, while the West was able to use NATO capabilittes to set up deterrents to Russian ambitions. However, convergence between the two did occur in some ways. Russian-American diplomatic tactics were minimal but meaningful, while President Putin also reached out in unexpected ways to nations such as Iran and Greece. American contacts were those of reassurance to Ukraine and the anxious states in the Baltic region as well as Poland.
The two unrelated events of the break-up of the Soviet Union and the allied victory in the Persian Gulf War made the year 1991 a significant turning point for both Moscow and Washington. A full fifteen nations emerged from the shell of the former Soviet Union, while revolutions in the formerly communist managed states of East Europe led to the emergence of democratic forms in all of them. The resulting Russian state was much smaller and weaker than the Soviet state that it supplanted. In contrast, American power surged forth with the coordinated victory in the Persian Gulf War over Iraq, after its invasion of Kuwait, that restored U.S. military credibility after the quagmire of the War in Southeast Asia. New doctrinal formulations emerged on both sides with the new Russian Constitution of 1993 that paralled the rise of the Yeltsin government, and with the New World Order as articulated for a time by the George H.W. Bush administration. The resulting imbalance of power was a major change from the dynamics of the Cold War but also a prod to the ambitions of Russian leaders like Vladimir Putin. However, balance remained with the mutual negotiations that characterized START diplomacy.
The Introduction will present key themes of each of the ten individual chapters to follow, in an effort to highlight the twists and turns of the Russian-American relationship in each. There will be particular importance placed on five analytical models as well as five theories that illuminate the key aspects of this evolving relationship. To what extent do the case studies, models, and theories explain either the convergence between the two powers or the erosion of good feeling between them? The images of their two symbolic eagles and parallel anthems will make memorable the analysis.
The historic Russian interest in the Balkans cmpeted with the American-led, changed NATO mission to generate considerable conflict in the immediate aftermath of the 1991 break-up of Yugoslavia. During the ensurng Balkan Wars, American and Russian interests clashed continuously during the Bosnian civil war of 1992-95. Further, the distinctiveness of the Kosovo republic within the shrunken Yugoslavia intensified these American-Russian differences. NATO air strikes took place both under the sponsorship of Operation Allied Force in Bosnia and in response to Serbian military incursions its own republic of Kosovo that included a 90% Muslim population. Conversations continued sporadically after completion of the NATO-Russian Founding Act in 1997, but military initiatives by the West threw them off the tracks.
Both Russia and America perceived critical events in the 2007-09 period in different ways. President George W. Bush made the Missile Shield proposal in an effort to defend against rogue states that were developing a nuclear capability. Both the Czechs and the Poles were keystones in implementation of that proposal, bud Russian reactions were highly negative. They responded in many ways and threatened to build up defensive capabilities in their enclave of Kaliningrad. However, in fall 2009, President Obama cancelled the U.S. backed proposal and called for a substitution. The Arab Spring of 2011 created more controversy between Russia and America, for American support for revolutionary forces clashed with Russian anxiousness about popular demonstrations in Arab Spring states that were similar to the flower revolutions in former Soviet republics in the 2003-05 time frame. The war against Khadaffy in Libya was an allied engagement that provoked sharp Russian criticism. Further, both the uprising in Egypt and the civil war in Syria pushed Russian and American leaders apart and created misunderstandings that percolated into their future relationship.
In the 1990s, Russia’s wars in Chechnya alientated the officials in the Clinton administration, for they deemed the response by the Yeltsin government to be an overreaction to the acts committed by Chechnyan terrorists. However, the Twin Towers attacks in 2001 created a certain common understanding between the two powers. In spite of the contrasting attitudes of the two towards bin Laden and al Qaeda during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, responses to global terrorism put them on the same page in the new century. With the support of NATO’s Article 5, the American decision to invade Afghanstan and dislodge the Taliban met with allied approval and support. However, there was considerable controversy between Moscow and Washington over the Iraq war that America commenced with the Coalition of the Willing in 2003. Russian leaders condemned this invasion as an illustration of an American overreach as well as an inappropriate response to the 9/11 attacks. One commonality in the effort to contain terrorism was considerable administrative centralization within both political systems.