On U.S.-Russia Relations
Jack Matlock served as U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991
Ambassador Jack Matlock served as the point man for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in Moscow from 1987 to 1991, a period which saw the end of the Cold War. The Carnegie Council in Washington D.C. recently sat down with Ambassador Matlock to talk with him about the current state of U.S.-Russia relations. Ambassador Matlock's thoughts may surprise those who would claim that carrying forward the legacy of President Reagan means continued confrontation with the Russians in their back yard. Instead, Matlock points to the need for additional cooperation to tackle the consequences of global problems, including nuclear proliferation and climate change.
Click on the extended post to watch Ambassador Matlock's and other videos related to U.S.-Russia relations.
Towards the end of his second term, President Reagan shocked many of his advisors by advocating that the U.S. share Strategic Defense Initiative technology with the USSR. Today some American politicians seeking to claim Reagan's mantle advocate installing a missile defense system in Europe very close to Russia's borders. Russian politicians from Vladimir Putin to Dimitri Rogozin have repeatedly condemned the American proposal and suggested Azerbaijan, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Bulgaria as alternate sites for U.S. missile defense rockets and radars.
Ambassador Matlock on misunderstanding the end of the Cold War
Ambassador Matlock: "Nobody set out saying that we're going to humiliate Russia [during the Nineties], it was just that it was easy to do things that they would interpret as humiliating..."
Scotland native David Speedie, a Senior Fellow of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government presented some interesting remarks at the Carnegie Council event "The Rise of the Rest: How the Ascent of Russia and China Affects Global Business and Security" held in Washington D.C. on July 14, 2008. An excerpt from the event transcript is reproduced here, but please read the whole thing over at Carnegie's website.
What is it about Russia that drives the Anglo-American world mad? The answer would seem to be: Quite a bit, and especially so for the American part of the equation.
There has certainly been partly a dramatic downward spiral since the day when President Bush famously looked into his Russian counterpart's eyes and saw his soul.
However, at the outset I suggested that things were not and need not be as bad as they seem. Let me list briefly five points that might take us in a more positive direction. They are presented with a sort of qualified optimism--a "yes, but" is attached to each.
* The first, I would say, is get beyond the myths on both sides of the relationship.
For the United States this would mean getting over the idea that the economic chaos and kleptocracy under Yeltsin was a rough-and-tumble inchoate form of democracy that Putin has destroyed. Certainly, most Russians don't see it that way. Putin certainly could have amended the constitution and run for a third term.
For Russia, on the other hand, it means shedding the illusion that the FSB [Federal Security Service] was the one Soviet-era institution that remained uncorrupted through the Yeltsin years, a patriotic force that was restored to orderly leadership under Putin. Remember that Medvedev himself has spoken out against what he called "legal nihilism," the prevalent disdain for rule of law in today's Russia.
* Two, realize and accept that Russia is a global economic player, although this has to be taken in perspective. There is obviously a highly visible Russian commercial presence in London, Europe's finance capital, and this will be replicated in New York. Under Yeltsin, Russian GDP peaked at $200 billion. Under Putin, it reached $1.3 trillion. However, even if Russia ascends to the top five global economies, it will still be a mere fraction in terms of global GDP of, for example, the United States, the European Union, and China.
* Three, Russia's economic growth under Putin has included, as said before, a rising entrepreneurial middle class and a robust consumer economy. Just look at the piece in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago that showed the Turkish resort on the Mediterranean where Russian tourists were basking in a replica of the Kremlin and Saint Basil's Cathedral. This is the new Russian consumer with money to go abroad and be where they feel comfortable.
* Negative Western reaction to this economic progress only fuels Russian resentment, the sense that the United States and the West do not want Russia to succeed. Whatever one may say of Putin--and, in the words of a wise friend, he is no Scandinavian democrat--he has instilled a Russian sense of self. Remember that Yeltsin tried twice, through two commissions, to instill an "idea of Russia," and of course failed. Putin has done this.
However, economic progress notwithstanding, the recent brouhaha over the proposed TNK-BP joint oil venture shows that Russia has to clean up her act in the business of doing business. In the Financial Times today [July 14, 2008], there is a report that work permits have been essentially denied to the foreign partners, which would indicate that, as perhaps some would say, this is just hardnosed business. Businessmen don't issue visas; governments issue visas.
I am going to skip over one and I am going to say at the end, Devin, this what we might call "cold peace" is not irredeemable. We should begin by recognizing that Russia is not alone in its neuralgia over certain U.S. policies. Recently, Russia and China issued a joint declaration of opposition to the European Missile Defense Shield. And, the other reason that it is not an irredeemable proposition, there have been in the 20 years since the Cold War ended severe strains, severe moments of high crisis--such as the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999--and we have regrouped following these times.
In closing, I think of two of Hans Morgenthau's "Nine Rules of Diplomacy" [from Politics Among Nations]:--well worth revisiting, by the way, if you haven't done so recently.
* Diplomacy must be rescued from the crusading spirit.
* Diplomacy must look at the political scene from the point of view of other nations.
It seems to me that in our dealings with Russia, perhaps uniquely among nations, and for whatever reasons of history--a Cold War hangover, domestic politics, or just plain myopia--that we really do tend to ignore Morgenthau's wise counsel.
David Speedie: "What is it about Russia that drives the Anglo-American world mad?"
David Speedie: "Diplomacy [with Russia] must be rescued from the crusading spirit"