How Did US-Russian Relations Get So Bad and How Might They Be Improved?
Colloquium | February 7 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 2538 Channing (Inst. for the Study of Societal Issues), Wildavsky Conference Room
George Breslauer, Professor of the Graduate School, The Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science, UC Berkeley
The current hostility in US-Russian relations goes back to the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR and the formal end of the Cold War. US International behavior in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa progressively alienated Russian leaders, leading, under Putin, to sharp reactions. In response to those reactions, US leaders of both parties came to demonize Russia and Putin and to up the ante. The spiral of escalation continues to this day, though gingerly, as neither side wants a direct military confrontation with the other. In the meantime, US efforts to play its traditional leadership role in international politics has revealed both a self-serving tendency and a level of incompetence that has fueled contempt in Moscow. The shift in power relations globally suggests that a new international order is being born, whether Washington likes it or not. Even in this context, US-Russian relations can improve through confidence-building and confrontation-avoidance measures. But more far-reaching rapprochement will likely require greater "modesty and devolution" in US foreign policy.