Successive U.S. administrations have forfeited the chance afforded first by the collapse of Communism and again by 9/11 to integrate Russia into the West. Instead, the U.S. has either neglected Russia or openly disregarded its overtures and warnings on a range of regional concerns. The incoming U.S. administration needs a comprehensive approach to Russia based on a shared vision of European security, argues a new paper by the deputy director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Dmitri Trenin explains that without agreed-upon rules for the relationship, the United States and Russia could risk stumbling into a major conflict. A European security agenda must be built upon resolving outstanding hotspots, including Kosovo and South Ossetia, rebuilding the damaged arms control and nonproliferation frameworks, and crafting a more cooperative approach to Middle Eastern politics and terrorism.     

Key Conclusions:

  • The United States must avoid returning to Cold War-style policies—Georgia is not Germany, and Russia is not the Soviet Union.
  • Tensions between Russia and the United States are converging on Ukraine, important to both Russia and Europe. EU, not NATO, integration is the best way to keep Ukraine free and whole.
  • NATO has reached the safe limits of its eastward expansion. Any further move toward Georgia or Ukraine would be dangerous.
  • Russia should be treated like an equal partner in relation to dealing with the Middle East and Afghanistan.
  • Russia’s domestic policy should be left to Russia. Capitalism will continue to transform the political landscape, but it will take generations, not decades. And a democratic Russia would not equate to a more pro-American or a pliable Russia.

Trenin concludes:

“The idea that it may take two cold wars to solve the Russian problem, just as it took two world wars to solve the German one, may fit with America’s experience, but it is misleading and dangerous—not least to the United States. A successful U.S. policy toward Russia must proceed from realities, not past myths or dreams for the future. This will require courage. But the recent developments in the Caucasus and beyond may constitute a moment of truth that could cleanse U.S. thinking on Russia and finally help produce a strategy worth the name.”

About the Author:
Dmitri Trenin is deputy director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment, and co-chair of the Moscow Center’s Foreign and Security Policy Program. He has been with the Center
since its inception.