CREDIT: Dennis Doyle, Carnegie Council
CREDIT: Dennis Doyle, Carnegie Council

What Should be the Next Phase in U.S.-Russia Relations?

Sep 9, 2011

Reflecting on U.S.-Russia relations, Thomas Graham and Nikolas Gvosdev agree that there is an urgent need to find a common strategic purpose that suits the interests of both the U.S. and Russia.

This speech was given at a conference entitled "Carnegie Council's Program on U.S. Global Engagement: a Two-Year Retrospective."

The conference took place at the Pocantico Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund from June 1-3, 2011. Organized by the Carnegie Council in cooperation with the U.S. Army War College, the conference served to review and report on two years of program activity, and to generate new ideas and resources among an international group of innovative thinkers on U.S.-Russian relations, nuclear arms control and nonproliferation, European and NATO security challenges for the future, including Afghanistan, and competition and cooperation in the Arctic region.

The U.S. Global Engagement program gratefully acknowledges the support for its work from the following: Alfred and Jane Ross Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Donald M. Kendall, Rockefeller Family & Associates, and Booz & Company.


DAVID SPEEDIE: Please let me interrupt conversation for the last time. For the very pleasant duty, the last semi-informal wrap-up to our conference, we have asked two very good friends of the Council to both reflect on the last day and a half or so and also to think a little bit ahead. I use the term "crystal ball-gaze," if that's not a dangerous term.

Tom Graham is the senior director for Kissinger Associates in New York. He came to that position in 2007. He was special assistant to the president and senior director for Russia on the National Security Council from March 2004 to February 2007, and director for Russian affairs on the NSC staff from June 2002 to February 2004. From August 2001 to May 2002, he served as associate director of the Policy Planning Staff of the Department of State. He was formerly a senior associate in the Russia-Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and at that time was a frequent and valued authoritative commentator on Russian affairs and U.S.-Russian relations.

His articles have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and in various European and Russian publications.

From 1984 to 1998, he was a Foreign Service officer. His assignments included two stints of duty at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, where he served as head of the Political Internal Unit and acting political counselor. Between tours in Moscow, he worked in Russian and Soviet affairs in the Policy Planning Staff of the Department of State and as a policy assistant in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

He has written the book Russia's Decline and Uncertain Recovery and is coauthor of U.S.-Russia Relations at the Turn of the Century, published in 2000.

Nick Gvosdev, a frequent contributor, and valued one, to Council proceedings, is a professor of national security studies at the U.S. Naval War College. He was editor of The National Interest magazine and a senior fellow of strategic studies at the Nixon Center in Washington, D.C. He is currently a senior editor at The National Interest.

Nick is a frequent commentator on U.S. foreign policy and international relations, Russian and Eurasian affairs, developments in the Middle East, and the role of religion in politics.

He received his doctorate at St. Anthony's College, Oxford, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship. He is the author/editor of a number of books, has published more than 50 articles on democratization and human rights, foreign policy, energy policy, Russia and the Eurasian states. He too has been widely published in the L.A. Times, The Washington Times, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, et cetera, et cetera.

Once again I could take up all of our time introducing these gentlemen. Instead, I'll just introduce them, Tom first. Thank you very much.


THOMAS GRAHAM: Thank you very much, David, for that generous introduction. Thank you also for putting on what has turned out to be a terrific conference, and a lot of different viewpoints and good points over the past day and a half.

I want to stress one thing in my biography, and that is that I worked in the last administration at the National Security Council on Russian affairs. We all know what happened to Russian affairs in the Bush Administration. We spent this morning discussing whether the glass was half-full or half-empty. In the last years of the Bush Administration we were looking for the glass.

Therefore, it's always surprising to me that I get asked to talk about U.S.-Russia policy, and particularly crystal-balling: What should this administration be doing going forward? You would think that after a track record like the Bush Administration, you would take whatever I said, do 180, and you would come up with the appropriate policy for this administration.

But in any event, since I have been asked to do it, I'll do it.

Angela [Stent] yesterday at lunch gave us a very good overview of the reset, where we have come over the past couple of years. I think we have had a good discussion this morning on what the conditions were that led to this improvement in U.S.-Russia relations since the beginning of the Obama Administration. The big question that I think we all have now is, where do we go from here?

It's clear that you can't keep following this policy, reset. The administration understands that. We have hit the button once. We have done a lot of what the administration wanted to do. What do we do now to fill this out? What's the next phase in U.S.-Russia relations?

I want to start with one of the problems that Angela raised at the end of her talk yesterday, and that is the problem of stakeholders. This relationship up to this point has relied to an extraordinary extent on a very good working relationship between the two presidents, one that clearly has been supported at the lower levels of the bureaucracy. But this relationship between Presidents Obama and Medvedev. I think has been important in moving the relationship forward.

The problem, I think, that we have at this point is that it's quite clear that President Obama is not going to be able to devote as much time to the Russian relationship as he did over the past two years. In fact, if you think back, it's extraordinary that the president met as many times and talked as many times with Medvedev and was so involved in this policy for two years, given everything else that's on the political agenda. This only becomes much more of a problem going forward.

We all know the domestic problems that the United States is facing at this point—clearly something that is going to occupy the time of the president going forward. We have an Arab Spring that we have to deal with, China, and a host of other international issues. In addition, we are getting into the beginning of a presidential election campaign. All of this is going to occupy the president's time, and, in relative terms at least, the amount of time that he is going to be able to devote to the U.S.-Russia relationship is going to go down.

What's going to hold this relationship in the absence of President Obama's active engagement? The problem is that we don't really have a lot of stakeholders in this relationship, a lot of constituencies. When I think back to the early years of the Bush Administration, there were two constituencies in the United States that were interested in Russia. That was the nonproliferation crowd and the human-rights crowd. Both of those thought that Russia was a problem to fix and not a partner in fixing global problems.

I think in the first couple of years of the Obama Administration, perhaps the nonproliferation community has a slightly more nuanced view of Russia and the role that it can play in global affairs in dealing with what is a top priority for the U.S. government. But I doubt that the human-rights crowd has changed dramatically its views of Russia, and I would imagine you are going to see increasing pressure, particularly as Russia enters an electoral cycle, to raise those concerns, both officially and through informal channels.

What do we have beyond that? The World Trade Organization. I think we are in a better position now than we have been in the past several years to finally complete these negotiations and bring Russia into the World Trade Organization sometime in the first half of next year.

But this isn't going to lead to a dramatic increase in U.S.-Russian trade and investment. As Angela pointed out, U.S.-Russian trade is about 1 percent of overall U.S. trade at this point. It's not going to go much above that because Russia is in the WTO [World Trade Organization]. There simply isn't the necessary degree of complementarity in our economies to do that. American investors have many other places to invest, other than Russia. If you talk to a lot of American businessmen, places like, not only China and India, but Turkey, Indonesia, Brazil all seem to be more favorable investment climates than Russia. It has nothing to do with whether Russia is in the World Trade Organization or not.

So it's hard to see where we are going to get those constituencies. You could substitute for some of these constituencies if there were a great deal of enthusiasm in the public about U.S.-Russian relations. I don't know. Andy, have you detected a lot of interest?

PARTICIPANT: I'm overwhelmed.

THOMAS GRAHAM: Overwhelmed, absolutely. I think part of the problem is that despite the achievements, despite the fact that all of us who work in this field would say that these are real and important, they don't capture the imagination of the American public.

The New START is a modest and necessary contribution to strategic stability, important in rebuilding some of the trust between our two governments. But most Americans don't really care about this issue anymore. It's not the Soviet Union. We don't think about a nuclear attack by Russia the way we would have in the Soviet period. When was the last time we did a shelter exercise? When I was seven years old. That's a long time ago. We haven't done it in the past 20 years.

You look at Iran. Yes, it's important that the Russian government supported stiffer sanctions against Iran at the UN Security Council. The problem is that I don't know of anybody in the American political establishment—or in Russia, for that matter—that believes these sanctions are really going to deal with the issue of Iran building a nuclear weapon. So we still have more to do on that.

I think the most visible example of cooperation, the Northern Distribution Network, works in a strange way. I think it's a positive, absolutely. We couldn't maintain the type of military operation we have in Afghanistan, we wouldn't have the type of leverage and leeway we do with Pakistan, if it weren't for this. But I think the problem in terms of American politics is that this is a Russian effort that keeps us in Afghanistan when much of the American public would like to get out.

It's very difficult for the administration to present these types of accomplishments to a public and expect to get an enthusiastic response. So what else can we do?

Way back in the Bush Administration, we actually thought joint cooperation in missile defense was one of those things that we could do. What could be a more powerful symbol that things had changed in the world, that there had been a fundamental change in U.S.-Russian relations, than the fact that we were building a joint system that was capable of protecting American territory, Russian territory, American assets, and Russian assets from a common threat? Yet the discussion that we had yesterday suggested that we are not going to make progress in missile defense anytime in the near future—2013 at the earliest, and most people, I think, are thinking farther out than that.

So missile defense is not going to be that joint project that is going to capture the American public's imagination.

What else is left? I'm open to suggestions. Nothing readily comes to mind as something that is going to be a dramatic example of what these two countries can do together.

Now, I have spoken mostly about the situation in the United States. I would imagine that analogous things could be said about Russia in terms of stakeholders and the extent to which this reset has captured the imagination of the public, as opposed to some element of the elite.

So where do we go here, particularly for those of us who want this relationship to work, who still think that there are important things to be done?

What I think our next challenge is for both the expert community and the government officials who work on this relationship is to try to come up with a common strategic purpose for both the United States and Russia. A common strategic purpose is something that could bring countries together, provide the basis for a strong relationship going forward, even if there are significant differences in political systems, regimes, and values.

Think back to the U.S.-China relationship in the 1970s, when Kissinger opened up China. It was a common strategic purpose that drove that relationship forward for at least 20 years, and that was dealing with and containing the Soviet Union.

But it doesn't only work with countries that have differing values. If you think about the U.S. and European relationship, the common strategic purpose of the Cold War clearly brought us closer together than we are in the post-Cold War period, in part because of differing senses of what Russia's role is and the threat that that poses or does not pose to certain European countries and the United States. You think about the United States and Britain 100 years ago, when a common strategic purpose of maintaining a certain structure of world order brought two countries together that had a long history of, actually, tense relationships throughout much of the 19th century, actually from the time of American independence.

Can we come up with a common strategic purpose for Russia and the United States? I think the starting point is one that we're all aware of, and that is that we are now in a period of tremendous flux and uncertainty in the international system.

It's not only that the Cold War system has ended, but what we Americans like to think of as the post-Cold War world has also ended. We are witnessing the birth of a new international order. When this will finally emerge full-blown and we'll establish a new equilibrium is an open question. But it is going to take some time and some effort to get in that direction, and there is going to be a great deal of uncertainty and a lot of unexpected turns as we move forward.

This new environment is actually a novel one for the United States. For the first time since the United States emerged as a great power, about a century ago, we are facing a world that is genuinely multipolar; it's global, and it's globalized. If you think about the first decades of American experience as a great power, certainly the world may have been multipolar, but the United States basically pursued a policy of isolationism. It got involved in the First World War for a brief period and then, because of domestic politics, basically removed itself from at least the international stage as far as security issues were concerned, in a major way.

From the time of the Second World War through the end of the Cold War, the United States always had a single existential enemy on which it could focus its foreign policy—Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War—and we had a single overarching principle around which we could organize our foreign policy, whether it be unconditional surrender or containment, during the Cold War.

The Bush Administration tried to create a new existential threat during its presidency—terrorism, Islamofascism—which simply didn't persuade enough people because it wasn't an existential threat to the United States. So now we are left with a world where, in broad terms, the United States sees no other power that is entirely its friend or entirely its foe. We have mixed relationships with everybody.

The challenge that the United States is going to have going forward is building relationships with a number of different countries in an effort to establish the type of equilibrium, the structures of stability and peace, the structures of economic prosperity that we need going forward to maintain the type of world order that is favorable to the United States. This is going to require building a lot of substructures of security, substructures of economic prosperity. Think of the important ones for the United States:

  • Northeast Asia certainly.

  • We are going to look for a way forward to do this around Afghanistan.

  • The Arab Spring raises the whole question of the broader Middle East and the security structure there.

  • We still have an outstanding issue of how we are going to organize security in Europe.

This is one of the key issues that the United States is going to have to face going forward, and it goes beyond the questions of strategic stability, which we discussed yesterday, which remain important. But I think this is at least as important to the United States and its role and our own domestic prosperity over the next generation.

Let's look at Russia. Russia, in some ways, also faces a novel situation in the current global environment. I would put it this way: For the first time since Russia emerged as a great power 200 years ago, Russia is surrounded by regions and states that are more dynamic than it is, economically, demographically, and politically.

We know about China. We know about the unrest in the Middle East. But the unrest in the Middle East is more than that. It's the dynamism of that that is spreading beyond the borders of the Middle East into neighboring regions in the form of radical Islam. Europe clearly has run into problems over the past couple of years. But there is still on the drawing boards and there is still in the minds of the European elites, at least, this grand project of uniting Europe, which doesn't really include Russia as a central member; perhaps as an associate member.

The challenge that Russia is going to have over the next generation, I would argue, is rebuilding itself as that dynamic core of Eurasia that it has been for the past 200 years, a country that can begin to project power again out from the Russian heartland into neighboring regions, not necessarily in the form of domination of these, but in influence that extends Russia's power beyond its current borders.

Now, it's clear that a central aspect of this is going to be modernization. Russia needs to get its internal house in order. That is the debate that's going on in Russia today.

But in addition, I would argue that one of the challenges that Russia will be facing is building along its entire periphery the structures of security and prosperity that it needs to protect itself and to guarantee its own economic well-being over the next generation and beyond. This means building a stable structure of peace in Northeast Asia, the same thing in Central Asia, the Caucasus, Europe. The Arctic is probably already done. All we have to do is maintain that. But the interesting thing is that when you look at this list, it overlaps entirely with the list of where the United States needs to do that as well.

So the question, I think, going forward, and one that we need to explore, is whether this could be the common strategic purpose for the United States and Russia, building these regional structures of security and prosperity going forward. This will require that we address the issue, I think, that we have avoided so far in the reset, but is in fact one of the central issues of U.S.-Russian relations, the former Soviet space, and how we are going to interact in that area in ways that can advance our common interests.

In part, I would argue, this is going to require that we reconceptualize this space. This is particularly going to be difficult for Russia, but I think we need to, to get rid of the idea of a former Soviet space.

What we need to think about this is as new regional configurations. Northeast Asia doesn't technically involve any former Soviet space, but clearly the regional system is going to be built around Russia, China, Korea, Japan, the United States, Canada to a certain extent.

I think it's very important, in part because of Afghanistan, that Central Asia is at least linked to Afghanistan and Pakistan, southern Asia more generally. That is the region in which we have to think about how we build a structure of both stability and peace. The Caucasus naturally flows, to some extent, into European issues, circling the Black Sea, but it includes Turkey, Iran, Iraq, part of the Middle East. That is also a new geopolitical configuration where a structure will be needed. We already know about Europe.

So I think the question, when you look at this, is, how should each country think about the others' presence in that part of the world?

Looking at this from the American standpoint, and I think picking up on the question that Angela raised yesterday, the United States needs to rethink how we feel about Russia's presence along its entire periphery. I think the appropriate conclusion is that the United States actually needs a robust Russian presence in that part of the world, that it doesn't serve U.S. interests going forward to see itself as in a zero-sum competition with Russia, actively trying, overtly and covertly, to undermine Russia's presence in that part of the world.

Certainly this is something that was contrary to the way most of the leading figures in the Bush Administration thought about Russia and that part of the world, and I still think that this is a very prominent way of thinking about that in much of the American political establishment. We need to begin to change that view, to begin to talk about Russia's role along its periphery in different ways.

But by the same token, Russia needs to recognize that it needs the United States, in a serious way, all along its periphery if it's going to be able to build these structures of stability and peace; that the American presence in Central Asia, in the Caucasus, in places like Ukraine is not going to disappear; and that this can actually be a positive element for Russia in defending its national interests and guaranteeing its own security and prosperity going forward.

I think the question is whether this is the type of argument that one can make and begin to find a positive audience for in both the United States and Russia.

My fear is that this will be very hard to do. It's going to take a lot of time. But I think absent the discovery of a common strategic purpose, the best that this relationship can do is sort of muddle along at the level that we have reached, which in historical terms may not be bad. But I think the history of U.S.-Russian relations, U.S.-Soviet relations has demonstrated that if this relationship does not move forward, it drifts downward. Therefore, it's incumbent upon all of us who care about this to begin to try to find that common strategic purpose.

NICK GVOSDEV: What I thought I would do in wrapping it up is tie this back to the larger theme of the Council, which is U.S. global engagement.

We have used Russia as a case study over the last two days, but bringing it back to that larger theme of how this addresses the role that the United States should be playing in the world, the expectations of the role that the United States would play in the world after the election of 2008, and where we move from here.

And following on what Tom has already said, how do we find new strategic purposes in our relationship with Russia? But we could take that same question and ask it with almost every other major power and region in the world, which is searching for the common strategic purpose that provides a new foundation for an enduring and lasting relationship.

Listening to the panels over the last two days, I think there are several common themes that we could pull out. We were discussing proliferation. We were discussing stability in Europe. We were discussing the CFE Treaty. We were discussing today the Arctic and European security. There are several patterns that we can see at play here.

The first—and I think it's important to bring out—is not to discount the role of situational factors in how policy works out. The Obama team came in talking about a reset with Russia, but we could overweigh the strength of rhetoric of administration officials and discount the situational factors that I think many of us discussed in our panels and in the discussions that followed that help to create the environment in which policies succeed or fail.

As we heard—not a complete summary—some of those factors included:

  • The economic crisis, which shook Russia's own confidence in the strength of its economy and the wisdom of its foreign policy of increasing confrontation in 2007-2008.
  • The situational factor of changes, most notably in Ukraine, electoral changes leading in 2010 which removed Ukraine as a point of geopolitical competition between Russia and the West.

I think it's important from the U.S. domestic side that when President Obama was Senator Obama and was running for office, Russia was an important point in his campaign but was not, in fact, the primary foreign policy objective that he was running on. He ran on a variety of change platforms.

The U.S.-Russia relationship became important in part because other things didn't work out in 2009 and 2010. George Mitchell did not produce a peace deal for the Middle East during his time as special envoy. The president came in and said, "I'm going to close Guantanamo Bay. Combat troops will be out of Iraq by 2009." There was a whole host of promises and commitments made that didn't find their way through, which made the U.S.-Russia relationship become more important politically for the president, because that was one of the few areas of success.

The attempt to try to restart and reset the relationship with China, which did not go well—that's the reset that we are not discussing. But that was the attempt in 2009: the G2 approach—the United States and China can work directly together to solve most of the world's pressing global problems. We will have a strategic dialogue with Beijing that will transform the global order. That didn't happen, or it didn't happen in the way that was expected. It didn't pay off the dividends that were expected.

In the same way, one can argue that in the Bush Administration, Georgia perhaps was not a strategic priority. But it became one because, as the wave of democratization faltered, as the color revolutions, the flower revolutions began to wilt all around the world, and Georgia was, in essence, the last one standing, it became more important for the Bush Administration to keep that tie with Georgia—not because Georgia itself was necessarily as important to the United States, but because that was one of the few successful color revolutions that by 2007 and 2008 was still there, given what was happening in Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine and Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories. There was a situational factor at play.

I think the U.S.-Russia relationship acquired more importance, to some extent, in Washington, in the eyes of the administration, because by 2010 that was one of the few areas where you could point to concrete changes that had taken place.

These situational factors can change in the coming years. In our discussions yesterday and today we have pointed to a number of them—red lines that could be crossed, electoral changes that could happen in Ukraine, in Georgia, in European countries, what happens in the 2012 elections in the United States and in Russia and elsewhere.

That does beg the question of how enduring what we have seen over the last several years is. How fixed in concrete is the reset? Or could the reset's accomplishments just as easily be reversed? In 2013, could we come together and meet again and say everything that happened over the last two years was ephemeral; it was washed away?

I think Angela's point yesterday in emphasizing again, as Tom has already said, the question about stakeholders—we could just as easily see a situation two years from now where we see all of this progress disappearing, wiped off of the ledger sheet. Then we would be facing this question about stakeholders and what exactly holds this relationship together moving forward.

That leads to my second observation of our discussions over the last few days, which is the extent to which everyone is still hedging in this relationship between the United States and Russia. Both sides have offered things to each other. They have had quid pro quo arrangements. There have been compromises here and compromises there. But neither side has reached the plunge point where they have irrevocably committed to a particular course of action.

Jeff [McCausland] isn't here today, but his slide yesterday from the CFE [Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe] presentation, the "4,000 and the 91" slide— shows that the United States has 91 tanks in Europe. It could have up to 4,000 according to CFE.

But we have a hedge there, because we tell the Russians, "You shouldn't worry about our conventional presence in Europe because we only have 91 tanks there. Our military forces are engaged in the greater Middle East. We have problems in East Asia. We may be doing much more in the Western Hemisphere as we start to look at our neglected southern border. So, really, you shouldn't worry about it because there are only 91 tanks there."

The Russian side looks at it and says, "But you could have up to 4,000 tanks. The fact that you only have 91 there right now—great. You could have up to 4,000, so we can't really make any commitments to you. Why don't you just"—and, Sergey [phonetic], I think you mentioned this more in the informal conversations afterwards—"we'll just have new ceilings. If there are only 91 American tanks there, just make that the new ceiling."

We can't do that, however, because of the message that would send particularly to allies in Central and Eastern Europe. If we said we are going to only keep 91 U.S. tanks in Europe, it undercuts our ability to hedge on both sides, which is to say that we will honor our Article 5 commitments to all NATO members in the event that there is a threat to their security.

So we tell the Russian side that 91 tanks is really what we have present in Europe, but we are not going to give up our right to add another 3,000-plus tanks back into Europe if, for some reason, a contingency arose where we felt we needed to that.

Russia hedges all the time back with the United States. They pass sanction resolutions in the United Nations to inhibit Iran's development of a nuclear program. They don't sell the S-300 air defense system, which was a very important concession. But on the other hand, they still maintain the ties and connections to Tehran, particularly in the energy field, because they don't want to foreclose. What happens if something changes? What happens if the relationship with the United States sours and you want to redevelop a tie back to Iran? You don't want to close doors. You don't want to close things off.

So both sides are always offering things to the other, but there is this sense that both sides are trying to hedge. They are not sure of each other. The lack of trust is still there, the trust that ultimately, from the U.S. side, Russia is going to be more aligned with U.S. priorities and interests; from the Russian side, the sense that if they go along more, if they are more cooperative with the United States—as it was once said to me by someone from the Russian side who commented and remembered, only four short years ago Senator Biden was saying that the three top threats to the United States are Iran, North Korea, and Russia. He said that at the Democratic presidential debate in 2007.

Thus as a Russian colleague once said to me, "So our incentive for helping you deal with the threats of Iran and North Korea is that we move up to the top of the list?"

Because of that sense of hedging—well, if we help the United States clear up the problems in Iran, in North Korea, in other parts of the world, is the reward that we have a closer alliance, relationship, and a good relationship, or simply that we have cleared off other problems for the United States and now we get to move to the top of the list? Thanks for clearing out these other areas. Now we can focus our full attention on you, because we have been distracted for the last ten years.

It's that sense, that lack of trust, which I think is still there. It takes time for that to be compensated. I think some of the initiatives we have seen over the last few years of uneventful meetings—this is something that struck me after the last time that Secretary Gates went to Moscow, and I was told, "Well, nothing really happened there."

I said, "That's good," because we need to have just regular contacts and meetings. It doesn't have to be that there is always a crisis that brings Russian and U.S. officials together. We should be meeting on a regular basis. We should be briefing each other on a regular basis. It shouldn't be that there is a crisis that forces us together and then the crisis is over and we go our separate ways. It takes time to do that. You need to have the stakeholders in place. You need to have the common strategic vision of where you would like things to go. And that is a challenge that I think we have.

Which brings me to my last observation of our discussions over the last two days and then back to this larger Carnegie Council question of U.S. global engagement more generally. What's the purpose? Where are we going with this?

It was very clear that for the last three years, from 2008 onward, the Obama Administration came in with a sense that its job was to repair relationships, to fix damage, to plug holes, to make sure that problems were taken off of the table. It was focused on damage control and restoration. It was about attempting to restore American global leadership in the community of nations.

The question is, now that these things are being achieved, where do you go from here? What is the strategic vision moving forward? We see a constant tension. Again, our CFE panel yesterday I think highlighted this.

You have two choices. One is, you take the old institutions which are failing or having problems and you try to renovate them or reconfigure them. CFE isn't working, so we try to do amended CFE and try to work that through. The other is, you simply say the old institutions have passed. Their time has gone. Let's abandon them and start with something new and fresh.

You run risks with that, because you could be giving up something that isn't really working well, but it has some track record and it has traction and has stakeholders and has institutions in place. The risk of abandoning all of that is that you are not guaranteed that you can replace it with anything in the future.

This tension, I think, creates a certain degree of policy paralysis from the U.S. side, but with other countries as well. We're not sure; do we want to renovate the old system and keep it—fix the UN Security Council, fix CFE, fix NATO? Or do we want to go with completely new institutions, where the risk is that we may not get any buy-in at all and we could end up with nothing? We see this in the U.S.-Russia relationship.

Part of the leap of faith that neither side is willing to take, I think, in the U.S.-Russia relationship is, from the U.S. side, we're not willing to risk existing transatlantic relations on a gamble of improved relations with Russia. We have had difficulties in our AfPak/India engagement, which is the prospect of a new relationship with India down the road, but not wanting to foreclose long-term relationships with Pakistan, even if we all acknowledge that those relationships are faltering and are not producing the benefits that we would like.

From the Russian side, Sergey's point earlier today is that Russia feels that we have this dynamic market in Europe and this dynamic market in East Asia, and we [Russia] don't belong to either of them. So there is that sense of "where do we fit in?" But then there is also a risk for Russia, which is that it could make its choice. It will choose Europe, it will choose East Asia, and will commit to that, and then will find out that we are a junior player or that we can be marginalized within that; we become an annex to a larger power center.

Is it better for Russia to be a weak power center of its own, but having its own establishment, or should it cast in its lot with one or the other, or should it try to play off the other rising power blocs? Tom's point about the dynamism—Russia is surrounded today by dynamic regions that are either positively dynamic or negatively dynamic, but they are more dynamic than Russia.

Russia's choice: Can we continue to bounce back and forth between one and the other? That's a strategic choice that I think the Russian establishment is still grappling with. We see these debates, those that say Russia's future lies with China, Russia's future lies with the rising powers of the South and East and the BRICs [Brazil, Russia, India, and China] as the way; those that say, no, Russia's future is the Euro-Atlantic world, and that's where we need to go; and then those that say, "We can have the best of all worlds without having to choose." That's sort of where the Russian point is.

Coming back to the American side—and this comes back to Tom's point as well about trying to break out of our old mental maps of the world, where we have this space called the former Soviet Union, and there's Europe and the Middle East and South Asia and East Asia—for 60 years, our policy was to keep Russia out of those regions, to keep the Soviet Union out. We wanted them not to be in Europe and we wanted them not to be in the Middle East and we wanted them not to be in South Asia, and we certainly didn't want them in East Asia, to the extent that that could be done.

To say, let's break apart that mental map today of the former Soviet Union and let's think of it as these regions of Europe, of the Middle East, of South Asia, of East Asia, of which Russia is a participant in each of them—that raises this question that we heard in the panel on European security, which is that the everlasting dilemma of involving Russia means that if you bring them in, they get a veto. If you fully bring them into the Euro-Atlantic architecture, then that is saying, "Not only are we bringing you into the architecture, but you get some say in how this architecture functions, including veto power."

That's why everyone focused on partnership arrangements, things where we could say, "You're at the table, but you don't quite have the veto power," which then doesn't invest them in the decisions that are taken. But that would be a major shift for the United States to then say, when it comes to the Middle East, we have the quartet where Russia is a member. But usually our preference over the last two decades has been for the Middle East process to really be run out of Washington, not run with other powers having not simply a say in the matter, but having veto over what happens.

A new security architecture for Northeast Asia, which was proposed—Steve [Blank] talked about it yesterday as well in his presentation—which would then link the Russian Far East firmly into the economic and security community of East Asia—those would require changes both on the part of the United States' willingness to bring Russia and Russia's willingness to accept that it could not retain a certain degree of independence.

If I can bring in a historical analogy, when the Russian sovereigns first began to use the term "autocrat," autokrafto [phonetic] samoderzhavie, claiming it as a title—we often think of autocracy as dictatorship at home—initially, to be an autocrat was that you didn't have to take direction from any other sovereign. It was the declaration of Russia's independence from Mongol khans and Byzantine emperors, saying, "We're our own power."

If Russia is going to be part of this strategic purpose that Tom has laid out, Russia will get a voice at the table, may get a veto power, but will also be bound by those decisions. It cannot continue to act as a spoiler when it feels that something goes against it. That would require the shift of: Does Russia want that role in the world? The Russian elite is divided, as we can see, on that.

So looking forward, I think Tom ended it very well with his question of finding a sense of strategic purpose. In the U.S.-Russia relationship it's going to be, from the U.S. side, what is that strategic purpose? What are we willing, in essence, to concede? What veto power are we willing to concede to Russia in order to get this project moving forward?

Then from the Russian side, it would be the question of the extent to which Russia is willing to accept that as part of this process, it will get some degree of influence at the table but will not always have the last word in moving forward.

I see more challenges than opportunities for that in the coming years. This is where I will end, on this point. We don't know what the situational factors will be. We can look at it today and come up with all the reasons why it's not going to work—and there are many, domestic political factors in both countries and the like—but we can also see the tectonic changes that are taking place in the global order.

If we look at 9/11 and the immediate aftermath, not as a one-off event, an outlier, but perhaps as a warning of these tectonic shifts—that it's not just simply a few random non-state actors striking in New York and Washington and striking in other parts of the world, but, really, that there are certain commonalities of interests that countries have in preserving a sustainable global order. That could be the kind of tectonic shock—we saw it in the months right after 9/11, with governments that previously were suspicious of each other moving ahead with intelligence cooperation, moving ahead with joint operations.

Amitai Etzioni perhaps was overly optimistic when he talked about 9/11 leading to global security authorities. But the trend in the early years of 9/11 was that governments needed to work together. This was a common strategic purpose. We, thank God, didn't have any other major catastrophic attacks, and so that took away some of this impetus for countries to work together.

But we may see in the coming years, with these challenges, the interests of countries driving them together to do this, and therefore having the strategic framework in place and articulated, having it ready to go, so that even if we say that the political calculations today are not ready for it, having the architecture thought out and planned out so that it is ready I think is an important task, for the reasons for continuing these types of dialogues for the future, so that when the opportunity presents itself, we have the blueprints ready to go.

I forgot my last thing. Since I am being recorded for posterity, I'll just put the "first shall be last" on this, which is that I'm speaking, obviously, with my own personal opinions, not representing those of the U.S. government in any of its incarnations or institutions.

I'll end with that.


DAVID SPEEDIE: We have time for informal discussion. No moderator, just a conversation.

QUESTION: Thank you for everything. As a non-Russia expert, it has been very interesting and educational for me.

As both of the most recent speakers were speaking, and throughout, I was thinking what might be some stakeholders and then what might be the strategic overlap. I thought of three country regions and then one thing. I think you did away with my countries—China, Pakistan, and then the other region, the Caucasus/terrorism, something maybe that the United States and Russia could cooperate on, and then climate change, energy independence.

I want the experts in the room to tell me why those might not be good overlapping ideas.

Stakeholders are another question. I'm curious about the Russian nouveau riche in the United States. Certainly they are all over Biarritz and Italy. But there is a big Russian and Russian-American contingent. Where are they on all of this? You have senators. You have members of Congress. Are they not being energized? Could they be energized, for good or bad?

It's more of a question for the room.

PARTICIPANT: [Not at microphone] May I say something? Climate change: You may remember that Mr. Putin a number of years ago said it wouldn't be so bad if it were a few degrees warmer in Siberia. In fact if you look at all the studies, they show that some climate change is beneficial for Russia and some of it isn't.

But that's not something that most Russian officials are very interested in or get excited about.


PARTICIPANT: I know, but in terms of working together.

The other thing I would just say is, why isn't there a stronger Russian lobby in the United States? There are lots of people in the United States who come. I think one of the things is that the different waves of people who come over from Russia at different times aren't necessarily all agreed on something. It's not like the Armenian lobby or something like that. In fact, there really isn't one. That has to do with, I guess, the peculiarities of the reasons why people came here and the way they viewed the country they came from.

THOMAS GRAHAM: [Not at microphone] I agree with you. But one of the ironies of the current situation is that there are probably more positive contacts between individual Americans and individual Russians now than there ever has been in history. If you look at the travel that we do, the number of Americans working in Russia, the number of Russians working in the United States or living here in some way, university exchanges—if you look at not so much what's being done at an official level, but at the private level, there is a lot more going on than there was before. We have scientific contacts and so forth.

There ought to be a creative way of sort of energizing this positive person-to-person level so that it begins to have a bearing on the overall political level, providing some ballast. No one has come up with that idea yet. But it just seems to me that there is a resource there to be tapped into, if we could do some creative thinking.

NICK GVOSDEV: On that specific question, though, it is instructive to look at the decades of very strong person-to-person relations, family ties, immigration between India and the United States that did not generate into a positive government-to-government relationship until really in the last decade.

The question has to be, what energizes communities to take those personal relations and say that the state-to-state relationship impacts this? I think what you have are a lot of relationships that exist in spite of the official ties between the two countries. Businesspeople come back and forth. Families go back and forth. But they don't have a sense that it has an impact on the larger relationship. But if it does, there is that critical mass that can then develop.

The question on stakeholders—it's an excellent list, and that's something to look at, Pakistan, China. The terrorism and the Caucasus issue is interesting because, as with many other terrorism and insurgency issues around the world, it runs up against the problem of, is terrorism and insurgency, in the abstract, a threat against one state, therefore a threat against all? Or is it that this is someone else's problem and if I don't get involved in it, it doesn't affect me?

Again, right after 9/11, we had this move that sort of said, it doesn't matter how justified your cause was—your people could have been oppressed, you could have had any sort of negative implications—but by taking up violent action and directing it against the civil population as part of your protest, that was something that—it didn't matter, Northern Ireland, Colombia, Chechnya, Kashmir, Sri Lanka—that was going to be seen as an unacceptable move.

Then countries around the world all drifted away from that. We went back to the older, "Well, we regret these actions, but we don't want to get involved in your fight."

So some of it has to be this attempt—and this is why I think the death of bin Laden is potentially a blow for this, because bin Laden personified the links between all these groups. He had his people in Kashmir, in Chechnya, and in the tri-border region in South America. He had people in West Africa and in the Maghreb. He was kind of the unifying figure. Now if al Qaeda splinters and becomes a bunch of regional franchises, the risk you run on the terrorism stakeholder question is, if I don't get involved in this particular problem, then it doesn't affect me. That's what we might see with the North Caucasus.

Can I do a two-finger on that? In the Bush Administration, it was a war on international terrorists. The "international" was an important adjective which allowed us to put what was happening in Chechnya outside the box, unless you could demonstrate international links back to al-Qaeda, cross-border. The same thing in Northern Ireland. The same thing with the problems out in the western part of China. It was done consciously so that we wouldn't get involved in every conflict, particularly where we thought there was an indigenous group that had a legitimate reason for conducting an insurgency campaign against a government.

PARTICIPANT: Jumping off with the diaspora question, I have a couple of comments. Nick, you mentioned the Indian diaspora community. One thing that I think is different today from two or three decades ago is that they are very wealthy, very prosperous. I think that has kind of changed the sense of the capacity they have to have an impact on U.S. politics and U.S. foreign policy.

I think the Russian diaspora community in the United States today is quite interesting and different. I see a lot of them as students. I see them as interns. I see them wherever I go. In the older waves of immigration, they were much more anti-Russian, or anti-Soviet, because of the experiences they had had, and the reasons why they came. Today I think this group that is in their 20s and 30s is quite different. I think there is a real potential—I tell people in the Russian government, "You really should pay more attention to this group—

PARTICIPANT: You mean Anna Chapman?

PARTICIPANT: Well, okay.

There are a couple of points that we haven't quite nailed, I think, in the course of the day and a half, which has been excellent, with really terrific concluding remarks by both Tom and Nick. One thing that I think is diminished or at bay for the moment is the conceit, the American conceit, that has existed for most of the last 20 years that we can have a significant impact on Russian domestic politics.

Bob, when you mentioned that the Obama Administration saw Russia in an instrumental way, I think even in the beginning of the Obama Administration, they saw that part of the rationale for the reset—they wouldn't talk about it publicly—was that this was a way to bulk up Mr. Medvedev, who was viewed as the good guy versus Mr. Putin. I think that view has diminished, which I think is important. That's not to say that it can't come back, but I think it has been a very problematic aspect in our bilateral relationship.

On the other side—and this was touched upon—is the ease with which the Russian government was able to make the argument that "we are besieged and the West is the enemy and the West is seeking to weaken us." That is also at bay for now. That's an important achievement, even if it's intangible. If we are able to maintain those things at bay while we try to formulate and develop the broader strategic vision, I would take that as progress, I suppose.

PARTICIPANT: Could I bring the conversation back briefly to climate change? I'm convinced that climate change is the next unifying factor in international relations, whether you read the peer-reviewed science or you look at the extreme weather events that are more and more common around the world. Maybe the optimistic side of climate change is that that existential threat could actually bring us together into collective action.

There is a real challenge here, though, with respect to Russia and a few of the other northern countries, because we are petrostates. Canada is a petrostate. Why do you think the Canadian government is so regressive on climate change policy? Russia is a petrostate. Norway is a petrostate.

Northern countries are seeing impacts—in fact, more substantial impacts—because of climate change, melting permafrost. It's not clear that climate change is going to benefit us. I think if you talk about the melting of winter roads, for instance, the economic costs are substantial. The impediment is the fact that we want to sell as much oil and gas before the rest of the world moves on to alternative fuel sources. That's why Russia will not be a partner in climate change. It's not because climate change is good for Russia. It probably isn't.

PARTICIPANT: There is a [inaudible]. It's on the energy efficiency side. The amount of natural gas which is wasted in Russia—if the Russians were able to sell that, it would be a substantial source of additional income, of the magnitude of trillions of dollars. So that is potentially mobilizing them more than climate change per se, but obviously energy efficiency is—

PARTICIPANT: Let me say a few words. On the climate change, Russians [inaudible] scientific communities. In the Academy of Sciences the [inaudible] school claims that the present climate changes are just regular ups and downs, and nothing special. They have their own evidence to collaborate that view. But I think, at least from the point of view of a normal human being, we pretty soon will understand that this is important.

I want to come back to Russian-American relations, why they are at such a stage, and ask you a very provocative question—and, frankly, not very pleasant for me. Just compare American-Russian relations and the relations of the United States with your two allies, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Compare the democracy standards, the human-rights records, the support of terrorism, where the 9/11 attacks came from. Who was providing shelter to bin Laden? Just imagine if bin Laden was found in a safe haven in Russia. Nevertheless, you treat Pakistan as a non-NATO member ally, providing it with economic assistance, weapons. For what?

Look how you treat Saudi Arabia.

As far as Russia is concerned, it's a completely different attitude, which probably really corresponds to the historical analogy with American-British relations, when, for more than 150 years, the United States looked at the UK as enemy number one. The last American war plan against the United Kingdom, Rainbow 4, was prepared in 1935.

Which makes me wonder: Do we have to wait for 150 years after the end of the Cold War for a time when American treatment of Russia and the standards by which you judge Russia are going to change?

I said that I hate this comparison because it's not nice to put Russia in the same group as countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. This is definitely a reflection of our failures and insufficient achievements. But, nevertheless, just compare those two models and what Russia is doing in helping the United States in Iran and in Afghanistan, and strengthening the nonproliferation regime, and what kind of help you get from the Pakistanis and the Saudis.

PARTICIPANT: Thank you. That crystallized some things that were going around in my head.

I was impressed by Thomas Graham's vision of geopolitical cooperation between the United States and Russia in zones of turbulence. But then I began to think, as a sort of anxious European—it's why I was brought here, which I appreciate very much—what would it take to get that degree of cooperation? What would have to change on the American side? As a European, how would I feel about that?

It might—and Sergey has put this very well—require the same degree of tolerance for deficiencies in Russia as the minor imperfections in Saudi and Pakistan get. It would mean America finding, if not an off switch, at least a mute switch in its dealings with Russia. Would that be a good thing, since the European Union has not even found its on switch? Who else would then be able to critique Russia?
Would the project of democracy promotion disappear if America got out of that kind of moral political game?

In terms of Europe's ability to be in the world—I was thinking that Europe is an entity which is not both friend and foe. I don't think Europe is in any sense a foe to the United States, but maybe because it's not got much of a backbone. If America, as the big stick or the backbone, were removed from Europe, as another one of the prices of making good with Russia, would we be able to grow our own backbone?

Just a final point on the U.K.-America rapprochement. This is an example at the end of the 19th century of successful appeasement, appeasement in a good way. The British decided that America was the coming rising power, and there was no point in trying to block that. We accepted that America would rise to global dominance.

Could Russia do that appeasement move in the same way?

PARTICIPANT: It's not simple, since only 20 years ago we were a superpower, and for half a century the Soviet Union was a mortal competitor with the United States striving for global domination. While in Russia today there is a growing recognition that we are not a superpower and will never again be a superpower, still there is a perception that Russia is mistreated and Russian interests are not taken into account [inaudible]. A lot depends on how you define the legitimate Russian interests.

When sometimes Russian leaders irresponsibly claim the sphere of influence, that immediately raises fears in Baltic states and Eastern Europe that what they want is direct domination, military, political, economic domination of what used to be parts of the traditional Russian empire.

But that doesn't mean that Russia has no legitimate interests. I can understand that the United States has no desire to accommodate a Russian sphere of influence and, of course, has no intention to help Russia to become a superpower again. But the United States never really accepted and defined legitimate interests of Russia, those interests which Tom was speaking about where Russia does have a legitimate and should have a legitimate influence. How you draw a borderline—that's a topic for another conference.

DAVID SPEEDIE: [Not at microphone] That's a good note [inaudible]. It's a great sign that important, pregnant questions are left hanging.

The last very pleasant duty is for me to invoke the words of the great Rodney Dangerfield: Thanks. You've been a great crowd.

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