Why did the Russian take-over of Crimea come as a surprise to so many observers in the academic practitioner and global-citizen arenas? The answer presented in this book is a complex one, rooted in late-Cold War dualities but also in the variegated policy patterns of the two powers after 1991. This book highlights the key developmental stages in the evolution of the Russian-American relationship in the post-Cold War world. The 2014 crisis was provoked by conflicting perspectives over the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, the expansion of NATO to include former communist allies of Russia as well as three of its former republics, the American decision to invade Iraq in 2003, and the Russian move to invade Georgia in 2008. This book uses a number of key theories in political science to create a framework for analysis and to outline policy options for the future. It is vital that the attentive public confront the questions raised in these pages in order to control the reflexive and knee-jerk reactions to all points of conflict that emerge on a regular basis between America and Russia.Key topics include struggles over the Balkans, the expansion of NATO, the challenges posed by terrorism to both nations, wars fought by both powers in the first decade of the twenty-first century, conflict over missile defence, reactions to post-2011 turmoil in the Middle East, and the mutual interest in establishing priorities in Asia.
Partnership for Peace (PfP) and a staggered admission process
James W. Peterson
NATO established a PfP process in the 1990s and admitted 13 Eastern European states between 1999 and 2017. The Balkan wars of the 1990s sparked a concern that states in the region take responsibility for establishing a framework for stability within their own neighborhood. Later, those new NATO members played a significant role in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. A number of challenged Balkan states such as Kosovo did not become members, but the alliance took steps to support their defense needs. After the 2014 Crimean crisis, NATO took purposeful steps to counter new Russian threats to the region, and member contributions to defense budgets became a key point of controversy.
Only North Macedonia, after its 2019 name change, had prospects for entering NATO as a member, for its PfP contributions to alliance missions had been considerable. The tragic wars in which both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo had been involved in the 1990s made them dependent on the two alliances for protection and security rather than members at an early date. Serbia’s goals switched from membership in NATO to that of the EU after outside recognition of the controversial new state of Kosovo in 2008. Alliance politics theory is useful in explaining how gradual movement toward democratic patterns helped relieve stress within the region, while ethnic diversity remained a challenge to stability. Clearly, the alliances also closed geographic space that was a threat after the end of Yugoslavia.
Presidents Putin/Medvedev and Georgia W. Bush both adopted basically unilateralist approaches towards the three wars. There was commonality in all three wars, for each took place within ethnically divided states: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Georgia. Russia was wiling to permit American access to Central Asian air bases in republics that had previously been part of the Soviet Union. However, there was considerable controversy between the two over the Gergia war as well as the war in Iraq. Presidents Bush and Obama both utilized a common surge strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the final results in each were disappointing in terms of the continuing turmoil within the two nations. One positive feature of the effort in Afghanistan was support by NATO through its International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), whereas no allied naions provided help to Russia in its incursion into Georgia. Both nations incurred considerable costs, the Russians in global public opinion and the United States in considerable depletion of its treasury.
Models of power, systems theory, critical junctures, legacies, realism, and realism revised
James W. Peterson
There are five models that analysts have utilized in efforts to depict accurately the evolution of the Russian-American relationship from the late Cold War through the first part of the twenty-first century. While bipolarity characterized the early days of the Cold War, it yielded to a multipolar model in the last decades of that period. Post-Cold war patterns have centered on early American-centered unipolarity, re-emergence of multipolarity, and at times complex or chaotic patterms. In addition, five theories cast light on many of the details of the relationship. While legacy theory displays how some features of the communist past carry over into the post-communist period, the concept of critical junctures pulls our attention to key transitions in the political life and relationship of both powers. Debates about individual foreign policy decisions by both often center on the dialogue between realists and post- or revised-realist theoreticians.
Collapse of the Soviet Union and allied victory in the Persian Gulf War
James W. Peterson
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.
Duality of détente in the 1970s and neo-Cold War in the 1980s
James W. Peterson
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.
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.
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.
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.