Russian website says today’s realities prevent US from isolating Russia


Text of report by Russian political commentary website on 14 June

[Article by Nana Gegelashvili, director of the Centre for Regional Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences United States and Canada Institute: "Washington’s Russia policy in the context of the Ukrainian crisis"]

The Ukrainian crisis is now a test for the United States as a "superpower" and chief helmsman of the world order. Undoubtedly, the unsurpassed economic and military might of this country enable it to still maintain its superpower status. But does this mean that in the era of the formation of new power centres with both comparable economic potential and their own vision of a security system Washington is capable of remaining the chief international arbiter?

One further question directly connected with the role of the United States in the modern world is whether Washington has at the present time a firm conviction of the need to consolidate and maintain this world order under the conditions of overexertion in which the United States has found itself. The fatigue that has built up in Americans from the extremely unpopular wars in Iran [as published] and Afghanistan begun by G. Bush Jr as part of his declared anti-terror campaign, the slow pace of recovery of the American economy, and the far from unambiguous reform of health care launched by B. Obama together with other domestic-policy problems have given rise in the American electorate to doubts as to the expediency of the lead role of the United States in support of global security.

And, truly, the majority of Americans express their consent to support America only for a war for the defence of treaty allies or the emergence of a threat. The American voter thus does not feel the least desire to support Washington’s interference in regions that are not of critical significance for the United States. It would appear that it will each time be increasingly difficult for Washington to conduct high-cost military operations outside of the sphere of its traditional allies and in the absence of support of the electorate. Even the most bellicose politicians in the United States have to acknowledge that the United States truly has no vitally important interests in Ukraine. Furthermore, nor can Washington fail to understand that there simply could be no direct Russian invasion of Ukraine. At the present time the world’s sole remaining superpower is thus avoiding military intervention for a settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, and, despite the tough rhetoric of B. Obama directed at Russia in connection with the events in Ukraine, both fatigue and extreme apathy may be read in it simultaneously.

Today’s realities are such that the US possibilities of remaining a superpower are, indeed, shrinking somewhat, which has to do both with the consequences of the global financial crisis and the domestic-policy problems which have driven Washington to overextend itself. It was these factors which dictated B. Obama’s intention to put the United States at the head of two giant integration associations -Trans-Pacific and Transatlantic partnerships – which affords Washington an opportunity to shift the accomplishment of many tasks onto the EU.

The sanctions announced by Washington on account of Russian support for the unilateral proclamation of the independence of the Republic of Crimea and designed to deter an invasion of Ukraine and the Republic of Crimea becoming a part of the Russian Federation, which followed this, as, equally, the continued escalation of the situation in southeast Ukraine, are seen by the United States as a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity [sentence as published]. A new package of Washington’s latest sanctions against key sectors of the Russian economy – the banking sphere, power industry, finances, technology, and arms – is in the drafting phase.

But the effects of the sanctions policy against Moscow on the part of Washington could be not that favourable not only for Russia but for the United States as well.

In the context of the Transatlantic Partnership the United States has been forced to act in close harness with the EU and to pay heed to its position. Understanding the high degree of Brussels’ energy dependence on Moscow, which could be an obstacle to Washington within the framework of implementation of its transatlantic energy strategy, the United States could compensate the quantities of energy resources that the EU needs. This could be done both with significant quantities of its own US strategic oil and gas reserves intended for the short term and through the use of the extremely ambiguous and environmentally unsafe technology necessary in the development of shale gas and geared to the long term. This would contribute to the United States becoming the biggest producer of energy resources and would afford Washington an opportunity to compete with the main suppliers of hydrocarbons and, notably, the Russian Federation. Considering that implementation of the energy strategy could take several decades, it is recommended that the EU countries begin to invest capital in the building of the infrastructure necessary for obtaining gas from the United States in short order.

But the close partnership between the United States and the EU could be weakened primarily through both the lack of readiness of the EU as a whole and of Germany in particular for the transition to suppliers of energy resources alternative to Russia, considering both the uncertainty of the financial costs having to do, mainly, with the construction of the new infrastructure and with the timeframe. Second, the role of so powerful a factor as the trade and financial relations between the EU and the Russian Federation that have been developing successfully between both countries over a lengthy period could also cast doubt on the likelihood of close partnership between the United States and the EU.

Third, considering the upsurge of far-right sentiments in Europe and also the results of the recent elections to the European Parliament, Brussels could acquire greater independence in the context of the Transatlantic Partnership. And, finally, this could also to a considerable extent have to do with the consolidation of the economic positions of the EU itself in the future.

It is clear that the Ukrainian crisis has given NATO a second wind, which has contributed to the return of the alliance to its key deterrence and collective security commitments. In the view of NATO strategists, it is essential to increase the alliance’s military potential and, equally, to disperse it over the entire territory of the members, ensuring here its permanent presence in the Central European and Baltic countries. But without serious financial support from the EU countries providing for an upward revision of the defence budgets of each NATO member, such a possibility will be extremely complicated. This will have to do primarily with the financial difficulties of practically all the EU countries, where only Germany is an exception. But under the conditions of the division in German society owing to the EU’s sanctions policy against Russia and also to the presence there of a strong pacifist mood largely determined by this country’s history in the 20th century, doing this will be extremely difficult. But the main danger for NATO will be the conflict with such new dangers as non-traditional wars – insurgent war (hybrid war).

It would appear that nor does the Obama administration have a particular desire to resort to new sanctions against Moscow and recognizes that it is essential to make Russia part of the international system, not isolate it. The following factors are contributing to this. First, Washington understands that modern realities are compelling all global international actors to act within some polycentric system of international relations, where mutual economic competition and the level of economic dependence on the outside world are coming to be unprecedented.

Second, the CIS has been declared a most important priority of Russian foreign policy since the election as president of V. Putin in March 2000. Joint efforts for a settlement of conflicts in the CIS participants and the development of cooperation in the military-political field and the security sphere, particularly in the fight against international terrorism and extremism, are coming to be the main priorities. The experience of recent years has shown that Russia now really is prepared to take real steps to defend its interests on the space of the former Soviet Union. This, Moscow believes, is required both by problems of security and economic considerations. And Washington has to understand here that Ukraine, whose strategic significance it is hard to overstate, represents a sphere of vitally important interests for Moscow. In Moscow’s view, therefore, the West’s attempts geared to the integration of post-Soviet countries in Euro-Atlantic bodies – the Eastern Partnership programme launched by EU strategists, the NATO plans for the alliance membership of some post-Soviet countries -could not have failed to have caused it particular concern, which could not, in turn, have gone unnoticed by the Americans.

Third, Russia continues to regard the young independent states of the post-Soviet territory as part of a former country – the USSR – whose successor it was. This is explained to some extent as a response to the defeat of the Russian Federation in the cold war and its loss of status of world superpower, and Washington cannot fail to take account of this as well. Moscow proceeds here from the consideration involving its long experience of joint coexistence with the post-Soviet countries and also from the recognition that it is it which is the guarantor of their security. Furthermore, in Moscow’s view, the Ukrainian crisis exposed the entire incapacity of the Ukrainian elite for ensuring the country’s sovereignty, for which outside management both on the part of Russia and the EU is essential. All this together with the financial problems which Ukraine is experiencing today will create serious difficulties for Moscow, which also Washington cannot fail to recognize.

Fourth, the United States cannot fail to consider also that we are living in an era when international law creates conditions for its interpretation in different directions, and this sets a precedent in the absence of necessary reforms or a new architecture of international institutions – the United Nations, OSCE, IMF, WTO, IAEA, and others.

Today neither the Russian Federation nor the United States is about to halt the process of a reduction in the number of strategic nuclear warheads even under the conditions of the acute tension that has arisen between them owing to the situation in Ukraine. The interests of both countries are interconnected in many spheres (the Syrian problem, Iran, Afghanistan). Furthermore, Moscow at the present time not only successfully guarantees the stability of the biggest state with nuclear potential but also ensures stable supplies of energy resources, and this is of tremendous significance for the West.

Despite the entire complexity of this most acute crisis, which could both alter the disposition of the principal key players on the global chessboard furthering increased confrontation and secure for them the so necessary reconciliation, it would appear that today’s realities will prevent the United States from isolating Russia and torpedoing the engaged process of Moscow’s incorporation in the international system.

Source: website, Moscow, in Russian 14 Jun 14


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