Daniel W. Drezner

What is the nature of the Russian-American relationship?

With Obama in Russia today, there are soome different blog takes on what to expect from bilateral relationship.  Dave Schuler thinks Russian and American interests are increasingly incompatible:  [T]here isn’t much basis for a good relationship between Russia and the United States. Russia’s population is dwindling, its economy languishing, it survives largely by selling its ...

With Obama in Russia today, there are soome different blog takes on what to expect from bilateral relationship. 

Dave Schuler thinks Russian and American interests are increasingly incompatible

[T]here isn’t much basis for a good relationship between Russia and the United States. Russia’s population is dwindling, its economy languishing, it survives largely by selling its natural resources. Russia would be a difficult market for American goods and its natural customer for its oil and gas is Europe. We don’t really need Russia’s cooperation on pressing world issues like climate change.

Russia has had consistent and clear interests over the period of the last 200 years or more: annexing or at least neutralizing its neighbors.

Matt Yglesias has a slightly different take

The US-Russia relationship is multifaceted, and there’s plenty of stuff we disagree about. And within the category of “stuff we disagree about” there’s a particular sub-category of stuff that it’s exceedingly unlikely we’re going to agree about. Most notable among these is Russia’s relationship with the post-Soviet countries….

There’s a certain amount of sentiment in the United States that not only should the U.S. continue to disagree with Russia’s perspective on this, but that we ought to somehow elevate such disagreement to the very top of the U.S.-Russian bilateral relationship. The president should go over there, denounce the Russians, get denounced back, and then come back to Washington empty handed but full of self-righteousness. This is part and parcel of the phenomenon whereby people don’t grasp the difference between a pundit and a president. It makes a lot more sense to focus a visit on something like the nuclear issue, where U.S. and Russian interests are roughly in alignment and some high-level discussions stand a decent chance of bearing fruit.

I’m gonna side with Yglesias on this one, mostly because I don’t think I buy Schuler’s logic connecting Russia’s strategic situation and the absence of any basis for a good relationship between Washington and Moscow.  I agree with Schuler that the reservoir of anti-Americanism in Russia runs long and deep.  That said: 

  • There are issues where Russia’s interest and America’s interests coincide (Arms control, Afghanistan);
  • There are some pressing world issues where Russian cooperation would be very useful (Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea);
  • I’m pretty sure that Russia would be a useful market for American producers

Am I missing anything? 

With Obama in Russia today, there are soome different blog takes on what to expect from bilateral relationship. 

Dave Schuler thinks Russian and American interests are increasingly incompatible

[T]here isn’t much basis for a good relationship between Russia and the United States. Russia’s population is dwindling, its economy languishing, it survives largely by selling its natural resources. Russia would be a difficult market for American goods and its natural customer for its oil and gas is Europe. We don’t really need Russia’s cooperation on pressing world issues like climate change.

Russia has had consistent and clear interests over the period of the last 200 years or more: annexing or at least neutralizing its neighbors.

Matt Yglesias has a slightly different take

The US-Russia relationship is multifaceted, and there’s plenty of stuff we disagree about. And within the category of “stuff we disagree about” there’s a particular sub-category of stuff that it’s exceedingly unlikely we’re going to agree about. Most notable among these is Russia’s relationship with the post-Soviet countries….

There’s a certain amount of sentiment in the United States that not only should the U.S. continue to disagree with Russia’s perspective on this, but that we ought to somehow elevate such disagreement to the very top of the U.S.-Russian bilateral relationship. The president should go over there, denounce the Russians, get denounced back, and then come back to Washington empty handed but full of self-righteousness. This is part and parcel of the phenomenon whereby people don’t grasp the difference between a pundit and a president. It makes a lot more sense to focus a visit on something like the nuclear issue, where U.S. and Russian interests are roughly in alignment and some high-level discussions stand a decent chance of bearing fruit.

I’m gonna side with Yglesias on this one, mostly because I don’t think I buy Schuler’s logic connecting Russia’s strategic situation and the absence of any basis for a good relationship between Washington and Moscow.  I agree with Schuler that the reservoir of anti-Americanism in Russia runs long and deep.  That said: 

  • There are issues where Russia’s interest and America’s interests coincide (Arms control, Afghanistan);
  • There are some pressing world issues where Russian cooperation would be very useful (Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea);
  • I’m pretty sure that Russia would be a useful market for American producers

Am I missing anything? 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner