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#19 - JRL 2007-186 - JRL Home
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007
From: Andrei Tsygankov <andrei@sfsu.edu>
Subject: Response to Gordon Hahn's piece/JRL #185

The West never had Russia to lose

My good friend Gordon Hahn is entirely correct to relate Western actions, such as NATO expansion and Missile-Defence plans, to Russia's assertive behavior.

However, it is misleading to argue that Russia has been lost to the West since it has never been the West's to loose. Historically, it has established itself as a power in its own right with its own legitimate interests to defend. Now after the disastrous years of a state collapse, Russia is merely returning to a great power it has been for the last three centuries. Most of its current actions, including its claims to the Arctics, rearmament and and development of ties with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, can be interpreted as a continued assertion of that status, rather than an evidence of being lost to the West. Today's Russia is Western enough in trying to break to Western markets, maintaining constant contacts with Western security institutions, and initiating projects of a mutual interest, such as a joint use of Gabala radar station.

We in the West should stop expecting Russia to passively follow Western economic and security agenda. This expectation has never been realistic, much less after the purely selfish treatment the West has given Russia after the Cold War. We should also refrain from over-dramatizing contemporary events in Russia. The genuinely anti-western coalition is not about to come to power here. This hard-line coalition has defended the third presidential term and a sharp Eurasian re-orientation of the country's foreign policy. Yet the hard-liners have lost on both counts and are not in a position to control Russia's strategic direction. Despite their urging, the Kremlin has abstained from actions that would genuinely upset the existing international balance, such as developing an exclusive alliance with anti-Western states, recognizing separatist territories in the former Soviet region, or sponsoring a military intervention there.

The sooner we in the West understand these realities, the sooner Russia-Western relations will start improving.

Andrei P. Tsygankov
Associate Professor, International Relations / Political Science
San Francisco State University