Programme Paper

Project: Russia and Eurasia Programme

Andrew Wood
  • A new US administration has encouraged Russia experts to advocate a fresh approach to the US-Russia relationship. However, the emerging consensus, focussing on the need to 'reset relations' with Russia, overlooks several key issues: the role of the EU and EU countries; the evolution of former Soviet countries; and the realities of Russia itself.
  • Washington's impatience with the diversity of opinion on Russia within the European Union has led it to adopt an unduly bilateral approach. This is understandable but misguided; the depth of the EU's relationship with Russia means that its members, both collectively and severally, have a central role to play in the evolution of US-Russia relations.
  • A renewed emphasis on the US-Russia bilateral relationship may also provoke concern amongst Russia's neighbours that the interests of the 'lands in-between' may be overlooked. US policy must remain aware of Russia's position vis-à -vis its 'near abroad', in particular Ukraine and Georgia, but avoid anything which might appear to accommodate the anxieties and interests of Russia above those of neighbouring states.
  • Those devising strategies on Russia must avoid projecting unrealistic policy aims which ignore the realities of contemporary Russia. Western policy makers should be cognisant of Russia's interests and motives, but not indulge them when they conflict with their own interests or values. Pressing the reset button should not imply that the ideas and emotions which underpin Moscow's attitudes and aspirations are true and justified.

Further Resources

Comment on 'Dealing with Russia: The Reset Button'
Dr Lilia Shevtsova, Donald Jensen and Andrew Monaghan, Comment Piece, June 2009

Russia: Strategic Loneliness
Vadim Kononenko, The World Today, July 2009

Reflections on Russia and the West
Andrew Wood, Programme Paper, November 2008

US-Russian Relations After the Events of August 2008
James Nixey, Briefing Note, September 2008