CFR bemoans: Russia Leaves the West (about time!)


Richard Moore

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Russia Leaves the West
Dmitri Trenin
From Foreign Affairs, July/August 2006

Article preview: first 500 of 3,327 words total.

Summary: Just 15 years after the Cold War's end, hopes of integrating Russia 
into the West have been dashed, and the Kremlin has started creating its own 
Moscow-centered system. But instead of just attacking this new Russian foreign 
policy, Washington must guard against the return of dangerous great-power 

DMITRI TRENIN is Deputy Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.


As President Vladimir Putin prepares to host the summit of the G-8 (the group of
eight highly industrialized nations) in St. Petersburg in July, it is hardly a 
secret that relations between Russia and the West have begun to fray. After more
than a decade of talk about Russia's "integration" into the West and a 
"strategic partnership" between Moscow and Washington, U.S. and European 
officials are now publicly voicing their concern over Russia's domestic 
political situation and its relations with the former Soviet republics. In a May
4 speech in Lithuania, for example, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney accused the 
Kremlin of "unfairly restricting citizens' rights" and using its energy 
resources as "tools of intimidation and blackmail."

Even as these critics express their dismay, they continue to assume that if they
speak loudly and insistently, Russia will heed them and change its ways. 
Unfortunately, they are looking for change in the wrong place. It is true, as 
they charge, that Putin has recently clamped down on dissent throughout Russia 
and cracked down on separatists in Chechnya, but more important changes have 
come in Russia's foreign policy. Until recently, Russia saw itself as Pluto in 
the Western solar system, very far from the center but still fundamentally a 
part of it. Now it has left that orbit entirely: Russia's leaders have given up 
on becoming part of the West and have started creating their own Moscow-centered

The Kremlin's new approach to foreign policy assumes that as a big country, 
Russia is essentially friendless; no great power wants a strong Russia, which 
would be a formidable competitor, and many want a weak Russia that they could 
exploit and manipulate. Accordingly, Russia has a choice between accepting 
subservience and reasserting its status as a great power, thereby claiming its 
rightful place in the world alongside the United States and China rather than 
settling for the company of Brazil and India.

The United States and Europe can protest this change in Russia's foreign policy 
all they want, but it will not make any difference. They must recognize that the
terms of Western-Russian interaction, conceptualized at the time of the Soviet 
Union's collapse 15 years ago and more or less unchanged since, have shifted 
fundamentally. The old paradigm is lost, and it is time to start looking for a 
new one.


The West deserves some of the blame for the shift in Russian foreign policy. The
sudden collapse of Soviet power and the speed of German reunification took the 
United States and Europe by surprise. European governments, led by France, 
responded by transforming the European Community into a more tightly knit 
European Union (EU), while deferring the question of what to do about Eastern 
Europe and Russia. Washington, meanwhile, focused on managing the ever-weakening
Soviet Union and rejoicing in its victory in the Cold War, neglecting to define 
a strategy for post-Soviet Russia. President George H. W. Bush's "new world 
order," articulated when the Soviet Union still existed, asked only that the . .
. is copyright 2002--2006 by the Council on Foreign 
Relations. All rights reserved.

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