Russia & The West

by Nathan Hamm on 9/13/2004

Russia’s relationship with the United States and Europe appears to be wildly in flux post-Beslan. While I agree that some of Russia’s critique of the West’s behavior contains some truths, it is wildly overstated either to cynically or genuinely play on public fears that Russia is a passive victim of the machinations of certain wealthy, English-speaking nations. [As a side note, and with all apologies to my Russian readers, I’ve noticed a tendency to feign or exaggerate poverty and weakness among enough Russian friends who truly were not to wonder whether or not this might be considered a Russian characteristic. I love you guys, but I don’t believe you when you play all powerless.]

While the aforementioned statements bother me, it pleases me as an American the opposite

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov declared that Americans have “a much better understanding” of the seriousness of the threat faced by Russia “since the United States, like us, has been subjected to powerful terrorist attacks.” Ivanov said that he had spoken twice in the past week with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, adding that finding “a basis for mutual understanding with the United States was much simpler than with many European states.”

That probably wouldn’t make Europeans much happier, but I agree. I said something similar to my father a couple weeks ago (basically that “Europe won’t get it until they are attacked twice or France is attacked once–the French don’t screw around”). Russia and the United States have the potential to be incredible allies though there are a number of obstacles to such a relationship, not the least of which is the matter of respect,

Some Moscow analysts argue that the main problem poisoning relations between Russia and the West is rooted in what they call an “incomplete recognition” of Russia as an equal world actor. The United States and Europe, these experts assert, tend to see Russia as the legitimate successor to the USSR exclusively in terms of Soviet debts and the nuclear arsenal.

I disagree with the analysis that follows that paragraph, but do agree that Russia is not treated with the respect it deserves by Western governments and NGOs.


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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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