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United States is betting on a future in which Russia will be less significant

If cut off from global economic mainstream, Russia will not be able to transform its economy and society. Russia will not be able to become a key link between Europe and East Asia. It will lose its status as a reliable supplier of traditional hydrocarbons for the transition to "green energy".

Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden
Russian President Vladimir Putin and the U.S. President Joe Biden

A popular blog, Russian Matters, run by the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Management, published an article by Nicholas Gvozdev, a renowned American expert on Russia, professor at Harvard University and professor of national security at the US Naval War College, on the occasion of the publication by the administration of the United States of a new edition of the US National Security Strategy (2022 National Security Strategy).

Moscow has long maintained that no international issue can be resolved without Russia’s full participation; the United States is now prepared to refute this assertion.

The country’s recently issued 2022 National Security Strategy has shattered any dreams that the United States and Russia may forge a relationship following the end of the Cold War. The Biden administration acknowledges that there will be no improvement in ties as long as Vladimir Putin remains in office (“it is now clear that he will not change”). The White House anticipates that Russians will choose a government that works within the US-led liberal international order in the future.

The American strategy has changed so drastically that the prospect of a joint strategy is not even taken into consideration. Previous writings of this nature highlighted conflicts and competitiveness while highlighting the existence of a common strategy (strategic stability, the fight against terrorism, energy, and so on). The words “cooperation” and “partnership” are not used in the 2022 edition. Instead, the carefully considered phrase “pragmatic ways of interacting” is what we encounter.

Thankfully, the plan did away with the notion that misunderstandings between Russia and the United States are the cause of their differences.

The text concedes that Washington cannot meet Moscow’s demands for a reassessment of the circumstances that have changed since 1991 in other regions, Europe, and Eurasia.

The US no longer maintains the illusion that it understands the interests of Putin and Russia better than he does, and it remains only to find the right language to convince the Russian leader of this. The Americans make it clear that they do not see workable compromises in relations with Russia and do not consider it necessary to look for new approaches to European security. The United States plans to pursue a policy of further expansion of Euro-Atlantic institutions as the only security guarantee that Russia can accept or continue to resist, but all its efforts will be met with opposition (and eventually, hopefully, will be nullified).

As noted earlier, if the United States entered into a great power rivalry with Russia, it would have two options: turn Russia from a near-peer rival into a friend or an unequal rival. The Biden and Harris team believes the first approach has failed after years of effort. The strategy now notes that a Russian special operation in Ukraine this year will inevitably weaken the Russian Federation’s position in military and economic terms, so the United States should refrain from open conflict, especially from clashes that could lead to a nuclear exchange.

In general, the strategy, if you do not take the section on Russia, calls on the United States to create a coalition of partners to jointly solve the next generation of problems related to climate and the fourth industrial revolution. The message is clear: Russia’s natural resources that fueled the growth of the industrial economies of the 20th century will lose their relevance as key supply chains, and new technologies bypass Russia or its hydrocarbons are no longer needed. If cut off from the global economic mainstream, Russia will not be able to transform its economy and society. At the same time, other states of the post-Soviet space, primarily Ukraine, will be integrated into the Euro-Atlantic economy and become an alternative transport corridor to the Indo-Pacific region, South and East Asia.

The 2022 strategy includes steps that – if implemented – will deal a blow to Putin’s plans to resurrect Russia as a great power of the 21st century. Russia will not be able to become a key geo-economic link between Europe and East Asia, and it will lose its status as a reliable supplier of traditional hydrocarbons, as well as hydrogen and minerals for the transition to “green energy”, Russia’s position in the Arctic, which Putin defines in the regional development strategy as the foundation for maintaining the country’s position in the international system. By leading the search for alternative transport corridors and suppliers, the United States will reduce Russia’s importance not only to Europe but also to South and East Asia.

At the same time, the Biden administration is pursuing “reglobalization,” an approach that involves revamping the international system and redefining the rules and norms for the 21st century by the United States and its partners.

Russia cannot be excluded from the UN Security Council, but the US can find new platforms where the Russian Federation is not represented and has no veto power; they can be used to get rid of the legacy of old institutions and establish international diplomacy.

Moscow has long argued that no global problem can be solved without the active participation of Russia. Now the United States is ready to challenge this postulate. Since Russia’s claims to a seat at the global negotiating table are to some extent based on its military capabilities, including its nuclear arsenal, the strategy invites the United States, together with partners, to develop new defence mechanisms that will level the remaining military potential of the Russian Federation and the threats associated with it.

It should be noted that all US national security strategies are rather aspirations. The titanic effort to build new corridors that bypass Russia would require huge expenditures that US taxpayers may not be willing to pay. And Russia’s traditional partners may continue commercial and political relations with Moscow even in the new conditions. Nevertheless, the Biden team delivered its verdict: Russia will be less significant in the future.

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