Russians Must Prepare
for Lengthy Stand-Off with the United States (Izvestia, Russia)
leaders have a slight advantage at the moment. … If Russia endures, in five to
ten years the critical foundations of American influence will wane. An
alternate system of payments and a reserve banking system, international banks,
reserve currencies and financial centers will emerge, accelerating the flight
from the dollar. … Is there a way around this? … We could proclaim Ukraine's neutrality
in perpetuity. This could be enshrined it in its constitution and guaranteed by
external powers. East Ukraine would become autonomous. Russia and Germany could
reach an agreement on joint support for Ukraine's economic development. A
mutual cessation of sanctions and counter-sanctions could then be agreed to."
Sergei Karaganov on when we can expect relations with the United States to improve
- and why it is unlikely to happen in the near future.
It appears that Russian-American relations have entered a
long period of confrontation.
Since 2012-2013, relations between the two countries have entered
a dead-end of mutual recrimination. Analyses of the current interests of our
elites indicate that things are only going to get worse. It is important,
though, that the confrontation not lead to full-scale war.
First of all, let us consider the interests of the United
After apparent victory in the Cold War and nearly achieving
the dream of a Pax Americana, America's ruling elite
sought to secure victory and even expand the their sphere of influence - including
through the use of military force. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, however, the
Americans and their allies suffered political defeat. The 2008-2009 economic crisis
diminished faith in the liberal model of economic development associated with
the United States and based on the Washington Consensus.
The divisions within the American elite have exposed the ineffectiveness of
their political model, and are yet another blow to American "soft
power" - which is a willingness on the part of
other countries to automatically follow America's lead, imitate them and obey
Meanwhile, all of these failures have occurred with the
backdrop in the 2000s of the rapid rise of "new" superpowers,
Since 2000, America's global position has plummeted from the
heights that American's conceit and the stupidity of everyone else who bought
into the myth of the "sole superpower" had allowed it to reach.
By the end of the decade, key member of America's leadership
began to think that the U.S. should cut back on its overseas responsibilities
and focus on domestic revival, which is precisely what Barack Obama has focused
on. Yet all that has done is widen the rift, uniting hard-line conservatives
and far-right religious groups with something approaching hatred. Faced with these
pressures, it is likely that Obama will be forced to replace his revanchist
In the meantime, as usual proclaiming a policy aimed at
maintaining peace and stability, the United States has de-facto adopted one
of destabilizing key regions of the world. This it has done by undermining the
remains of international law through the use of aggression and mass murder by
drones. This is a significant if not radical change in American foreign policy.
I am certain that for most members of the American foreign policy establishment,
even the suspicion that the United States would adopt a policy of destabilization
seems offensive, but such a course is obvious.
This rearguard strategy of creating zones of instability and
potential dependence has never been clearer to be seen than in its provocation
of the Ukraine crisis and its subsequent inflation.
Since Soviet times, Russian leaders have been under the
influence of the Cold War legacy of anti-Americanism and their experience of
politics over the last 25 years, during which they considered themselves to
have been treated unjustly and even deceitfully. As far as the Russian side is
concerned, any chance of establishing normal relations may have been lost as
far back as the bombing of Yugoslavia, which horrified even the most ardently
pro-Western members of the Russian elite. Vladimir Vladimirovich
Putin tried again after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States
- but it didn’t happen. What followed was a new wave of NATO and America's
withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty [in 2002].
The desire to try again with Obama was almost nil, and whatever little remains disappeared with Libya.
Russia, left with a complex due to its humiliation in previous years, made no immediate
attempt to constructively engage with the U.S.
Then both sides made a mistake with the "reset."
It was built on the legacy of the past, based on an unnecessary
agenda of strategic arms reductions. Meanwhile, more important questions went
ignored, such as the destabilization of the Middle East, and more importantly, the
Now the chances of finding a way out of confrontation are
slim. Theoretically, the possibility of an abrupt change in course remains.
Obama has no elections to fear and Putin is domestically strong. But the
balance of interests and mutual suspicion will interfere with the search for a
compromise. An escalation is more likely.
Moscow doesn't seem interested in avoiding confrontation.
Having failed to develop and implement a credible and effective strategy for
development, the Russian elite instead talked about modernization, and both
consciously and unconsciously began to look for excuses for their own inaction.
As always, they have returned to the idea of saving the country, which for 1,000
years has been based on defense and the idea of an external threat. That is the
way it kept itself going. Then a real crisis began - a genuine threat appeared.
For the United States, a lot is at stake in the Ukraine
situation. With its leader's reputation already declining, the U.S. risks
another humiliating defeat. The stakes are high also because Russia stands as a
symbol of the ever-growing and increasingly anti-Western "non-West." The
U.S. is fighting Russia, but it wants to intimidate China, India and Brazil. Through
the use of propaganda, it has encouraged people to believe, falsely to an
extent, that Russia is a "colossus with feet of clay" that can be thoroughly
defeated, completing the unfinished business of prior decades.
The United States has genuinely thrown caution to the wind.
Not only has it rejected all ethical standards in the information war, its
strategy is a very double-edged sword. By imposing sanctions that include
methods of payment like Visa and MasterCard, threatening to cut Russian banks
out of SWIFT [Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication] and
imposing personal sanctions against members of the Russian ruling class, the
U.S. is threatening to undermine economic globalization. These sanctions are
detrimental not only to Russia, but the system of finance and trade through
which America has enjoyed such influence. Everyone uses the modern financial
and trading system, but it is most beneficial to the Americans.
Alarm bells begin to sound
If Russia endures, in five to ten years the critical
foundations of American influence will wane. An alternate system of payments
and a reserve banking system, international banks, reserve currencies and
financial centers will emerge, accelerating the flight from the dollar. Furthermore,
there will be a greater tendency to establish trade groups outside of the World
For Moscow, the stakes are even higher. Losing this
confrontation will mean real defeat – for decades to come. It would undermine any
hope nurtured by the majority of our elite for a revival of Russia as a great
power and independent center of world economics and politics. And perhaps more
importantly for Moscow, it would qualitatively weaken the legitimacy and support
for the government, which is increasingly based on restoring a
sense of national pride and the belief inherent in a majority of Russians that "we
live in a great power."
America's elite doesn't want to retreat in Ukraine. Yet the
prize would the abrupt entry into the West's sphere of influence of a country that,
given the state of the Ukrainian economy, government and society, is beyond
redemption. The game is being played to achieve negative ends: to prevent Ukraine
from falling back under Russian influence, maintain the division of Europe, and
even more obvious, weaken Russia itself and almost openly,
topple the current regime - Putin in particular. The cost of such a policy to
the United States is fairly small. Most of it would be passed on to Europe,
Russia, and of course, the long-suffering people of Ukraine.
Taken from a dusty shelf, the scenario being played out by
the U.S. looks farcically and tragically similar to the Reagan Administration's
combat with the "evil empire." Only this time, instead of provoking
an uprising in Poland, one has been conjured in Ukraine, and instead of a
Korean Boeing [Korean
Airlines Flight 007], the plane that has been downed is Malaysian [MH17]. Both
were attempts to manipulate the price of oil and prevent the construction of
new pipelines linking Russia and Europe.
Russian leaders have a slight advantage at the moment. The
unification of Crimea created an upsurge in national pride and self-esteem and
a sharp increase in the president's popularity. It dealt a heavy blow to the
West's policy of expansion. It has accelerated the world's transformation from
one dominated by the West to a more equitable and less Westernized world order,
although how irreversible this is remains to be seen.
But after having lost the first round, when Russia transformed
an almost below-the-surface rivalry into a fierce competition of strength and willpower,
the United States is now focusing on the Europeans, seeking to shift the
battlefield to areas it is stronger - economic pressure and information warfare.
Russia is paying the price for its initial success with a deteriorating
economic climate and a damaged image in the West. Which incidentally, the
Kremlin hasn't been worrying about for the past year. A further cost –the
crisis is inhibiting a long overdue economic reorientation to Asia via the rapid
rise of Siberia and the Far East. Indeed, distracting Russia from turning east
remains one of the goals of U.S. and European policy. Success in the region
would strengthen Russia's trading position vis-ŕ-vis the West and strengthen
China, but also provide more room to maneuver for America's allies in Asia, reducing
their dependence on American guarantees.
Posted By Worldmeets.US
Also, direct injury to Russia's opponents is limited.
Therefore, apart from a largely-symbolic embargo on agricultural products,
Russia's strategy tends to focus on the division of Ukraine in the hope that
the West (namely Europe) will come to its senses and back down.
Is there a way around this? The worst cannot be ruled out.
Mutual suspicion is off the charts. "Black swans" - unforeseen
catastrophes or provocations like the downed Malaysian Boeing - could start
flying in flocks.
But there probably is another way. Inside Russia, society is
being mobilized to absorb the shock of economic reforms that will set the stage
for the rise of the Russian Far East. In August this year in Crimea, VV Putin
spoke of the necessity of focusing on domestic development.
We need to look for a long-term solution - better agreements
for a new status quo in Europe. The territory of present-day Ukraine will end
up being divided, or it will become a zone of joint development.
Russia needs a peaceful settlement with the West, and Europeans
need peace in Eastern Europe. Both players are threatened with international
marginalization if they fail to overcome their separation and merge their
efforts and capabilities.
We could proclaim Ukraine's neutrality in perpetuity. This
could be enshrined it in its constitution and guaranteed by external powers. East
Ukraine would become autonomous. Russia and Germany could reach an agreement on
joint support for Ukraine's economic development. A mutual cessation of sanctions
and counter-sanctions could then be agreed to.
These decisions seem a long way off, but the alternative is
war at the heart of Europe with the potential of a major catastrophe. Ukraine
has 15 nuclear reactors, which could doom the nation's people to decades of misery
and the deaths of hundreds and thousands of people - not only through conflict,
but the degradation of social and health care systems.
Such proposals are, of course, compromises, perhaps with a
slight bias toward the West. One can only hope that diplomacy will be given a
In any case, we can no longer put all of our eggs in the European
basket. Therefore, in parallel with efforts to negotiate with the West, we must
boost our efforts tenfold on the development of Siberia, the building of a new model
for diplomacy and economy in Asia, strengthen the Shanghai
Cooperation Association and its integration with the Eurasian
Economic Community, the Collective
Security Treaty Organization and with China's concept of a new Silk Road, with
South Korea's idea of a "Eurasian Community," and with the future
leader of the Middle East and Central Asia - Iran. Such a turn will be
difficult for Russia's Eurocentric elite.
Yet attempts to integrate with the West have not yet failed.
To turn our backs on Europe and our European roots would
be dangerous to the Russian identity and Russia's development. Dangerous, too, would
be to ignore and mismanage the potential of the east.
Hopefully, after four or eight years
passes, it is possible that the worst will have passed and a new settlement with
the United States will be possible. Objectively speaking, as it used to be said,
this would meet the interests of the parties and the entire world.
*Sergei Karaganov is
an author and chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy.