Background of US-Russia relations.
Contradictory geopolitical interest is the crux US-Russia Relations. USA’s interest is to prevent the integration of Eurasia and the rise of Eurasian power. Russia does not have the aim of establishing hegemony the way USA aims but Russia has compulsion to establish its hegemony or expand its powers. Russia’s geography determines its foreign policy, its political system, its economy. Russia is known as ‘weak’ great power. It is destiny of Russia to expand and contract. In his book THE REVENGE OF GEOGRAPHY, Robert D Kaplan has explained how geography determines the fate of Russia.
Fundamentals of Russia’s foreign policy.
Russia does not have natural defense. Russian population and industrial centers are located just on the borders. Russian capital is not secured like other capitals. Hence Russia has to have the layer of buffer states. Russia has been attacked through the routes of central Asia, Caucasus, western European countries, through the east European countries on its periphery. Hence it is necessary for Russia to expand and establish the control on adjacent territories. Hence ideology had no role in formation of USSR. It is destiny of Russia. Hence USA knows that Russia is bound to expand. Russia is bound to expand its territories to reach the outlets in Baltics, Balkans, In Black Sea, Mediterranean, in Central Asia and in Middle East. Hence there is a possibility of Russia emerging as transcontinental power.
Consequence for being transcontinental for Russia.
Russia expands to protect its security but expansion ultimately becomes the reason for the natural disintegration. Peripheral states can be controlled only by force. Hence Russia has to be authoritarian and Russia has to posses the strong intelligence. There has been resentment against Russia among peripheries. This resentment has been used by USA to contain Russia.
Why resentment? 1_Historically Russia followed scorched earth policy. 2_In order to keep them within its sphere of influence, Russia has to support authoritarian leaders or dictators. Dictators cannot be expected to get support from the people.
Limitations for Russia
1_Russia does have huge natural resources but faces the problem of transportation. Russia is almost land locked at present. Its trade with outside world can be controlled.
2_Despite rich in resources, Russian economy remains in crisis.
3_Authoritarianism – Authoritarianism leads to either socialistic model of economy or crony capitalism.
4_There is a huge corruption in Russia.
5_Poor law and order – that if fails to attract foreign investment.
6_Russia lacks the necessary capital and markets to develop itself. USA forced Russia to remain commodity based economy, the supplier of raw materials.
What is USA’s policy towards Russia?
Beggar thy enemy.
1_USA keeps on imposing sanctions for one or the other reasons.
2_Control the trade routes.
3_Since the main export of Russia is oil, keep oil prices depressed/low. Hence it is very important for Russia that it should have stakes in middle east. Russia would like to improve relations with Saudi Arabia.
4_Engaging Russia in costly arms race when economy is in crisis. e.g. Proposal to withdraw from INF treaty, coming out of ABM treaty. For survival it is absolutely essential for Russia to maintain the nuclear balance.
5_By building alternative pipelines. e.g. Alternative to Tbilisi pipeline – Ceyhan pipeline, Nabucco pipeline.
What does the term cold war denotes?
The term cold war was coined by Bernard Baruch, popularized by Walter Lipman through the series of articles. Term has been used to describe the state of relations between USA and USSR after 2nd WW. It denotes high state of rivalry and is believed that if certain conditions had been absent, it would have resulted into 3rd WW.
What made cold war cold?
According to Kenneth Waltz, nuclear weapons ensured that cold war does not turn into the hot war. However cold war was not entirely cold. It had its warm & cool phases. Cold war and its implications have gone beyond the two countries. It has impacted almost every corner in the globe. The worst affected regions have been the countries in 3rd world. 3rd world became the ground for proxy wars between the two superpowers.
Nature of cold war.
Cold war was like any other war but it had strong ideological dimension. It has been described as the war between the two ways of life. Even the end of cold war is described as the victory of the liberal way of life over the communist way of life.
However from realist perspective, ideologies carry no significance, they are the masks to hide the real intentions. The underlying factor in the cold war was geopolitics. The geopolitical aspirations of USA and geopolitical compulsions of Russia. Since geopolitics is the static factor, even today the relations between the two countries are shaped by geopolitics. Hence there is no scope for the qualitative transformation in the relations.
Social constructivists do not agree with the geopolitical explanation and call cold war as the story of misunderstanding, miscalculations and missed opportunities. Unlike geopolitical perspective which believes that cold war was inevitable, social constructivists deny the deterministic approach. They still believe in the possibility of transformation.
Who was responsible for cold war?
Traditionalist approach – Russia was responsible.
Revisionists – USA was responsible.
Post revisionists – Both were responsible.
Timeline of Cold War
Events before 2nd WW
It is difficult to suggest as to when cold war started but it appears that since the time USA thought of establishing its hegemony on the globe, cold war became inevitable. In the last decade of 19th century emerged the strategic thinking in USA to establish its hegemony. It was held that USA cannot afford to be isolationist. If USA will not dominate, some other country will dominate. In this situation it will not be possible for USA to maintain its prosperity.
1917 – Bolshevik revolution in Russia.
Lenin’s foreign policy
Communism in Russia is not secure until and unless it is surrounded by communist state. Hence Lenin formed Communist International for expansion of Communism.
Stalin’s foreign policy.
Stalin was more concerned about consolidating his own position rather than having plans for expansion of communism. Hence he went for ‘socialism in one country’ approach. However Stalin failed to assure West, West continued interventions in USSR. Hence Stalin formed another body Cominform. The purpose was to support communist gorillas in European countries to install pro-soviet regimes.
Stalin in order to secure Russia entered into 1) Non Aggression Pact, known as Molotov/Ribbentrop pact in Germany in 1939. 2) He entered into Neutrality pact with Japan in 1941.
Stalin’s actions were seen as an attempt by authoritarian powers to come together to end the liberal world. However Russia had to enter into 2nd WW because of Hitler’s invasion on Russia. The biggest expedition of Hitler during 2nd WW known as ‘operation Barbarossa’
Developments during 2nd WW.
Russia was forced to join the war from the side of allied powers, however the only basis to come together was the common enemy. Certain developments during 2nd WW led to the development of suspicions against USA’s design towards Russia.
1) Delay on the part of allied powers to open the 2nd front. It convinced Stalin that west want Russia and Germany to destroy each other.
2) Wartime conferences. In these conferences, the disputes were with respect to a) The future form of govts in eastern Europe. Stalin wanted puppet regimes led by communists. USA wanted puppet regimes led by democrats. b) There was a big difference with respect to future of Germany. Since Russia had suffered the most, Russia wanted to impose heavy penalties on Germany. Western countries, started looking at Germany as a bulwark again, against Russia. Hence their excuse was not to repeat Versailles.
3) Manhattan Project (Nuclear Project), USA kept the nuclear project secret from Russia but informed its allies like Britain and Canada.
Stalin was shocked when USA ended 2nd WW by using nuclear weapon in Japan.There was an agreement that Russian forces will enter from north and western forces will enter from south. However before the entry of Russian forces, USA ended the war, claimed the entire credit also.
Why USA used atomic bomb?
1| To display that it is a superpower.
2| To frighten Russia not to bargain with the form of govts. in eastern Europe.
3| USA didn’t want Russian forces to be present on the territory of Japan after the experience of the attitude of Stalin in Europe. USA knew that Russia will not withdraw the forces.
4| Location of Japan is extremely important to contain Russia’s expansion in the east.
5| Similarly to contain the expansion of China towards the sea.
Hence it was enough to convince Russia that USA has no interest in improving the relations. USA will continue to follow the old policy of containment of Russia. By this time, USSR was able to establish puppet communist regimes in eastern Europe. Stalin’s policy is also known as ‘Salami tactics’.
Developments after 2nd WW.
Baruch plan 1946.
USA proposed the plan for nuclear disarmament at UN. The plan proposed that no country will try to acquire nuclear weapons, will surrender all materials to United Nations. Once all countries will surrender, USA will also surrender.
Gromyko Plan. Russia proposed that 1st US should surrender. It was unacceptable to USA.
1946 – The long telegram sent by Mr. X.
Who was Mr. X? George Kennan, the realist scholar. He was US ambassador to Moscow. He gave the formal policy of containment.
It was a secret telegram to guide USA about their approach towards Russia. It was mentioned that Russia looks at itself in a permanent state of war with USA. Russia is committed to root out capitalism. Hence USA should pursue patient, vigilant and firm containment policy.
March 1946. Truman doctrine.
1_Application of containment. 2_End of Monroe doctrine. 3_The beginning of the active involvement of USA in world affairs. 4_The occasion was the possibility of Greece and Turkey falling to communism. The two important points to block Russia’s entry in Mediterranean. 5_Truman announced the aid of $40mn to these countries. 6_He assured USA’s help to the people fighting for freedom and self determination anywhere.
It was enough indication to incite insurgency in USSR’s peripheral regions and east European countries.
June 1947. Marshall Plan.
The economic component of containment. It was to provide aid for reconstruction and development of Europe including Eastern Europe. However the real advantage was that it will make dollar a global currency, economies of all countries of Europe will become dependent on USA. It would be easy for USA to acquire military bases to secure their economic interests.
CMEA (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance /Comecon)
It was Soviet response against Marshall plan to stop east European countries to look for help from USA. USSR would provide the aid for rebuilding these countries. It was based on the philosophy of communism. Each country will contribute for the development of the other. Whichever country will have surplus resource, it will lend it to the other. It was like the application of centralized planning at bigger level involving east European countries.
CMEA was later on joined by Mongolia, Cuba and even Vietnam. However CMEA remained non-starter. It ended in 1991.
Thus economic bipolarity got established in Europe.
1962 – Cuban Missile Crisis
Détente Phase – phase of relative peace. [1967 – 1979]
There was no qualitative improvement because rivalry is based on geopolitical facts. However there was relaxation of tensions because both the superpowers got exhausted. They needed time for rejuvenation.
Detente was a term used by scholars for US Russia relations, for similar level type of change in the relations between US and China, the term rapprochement is used. There was a type of improvement between East and West Germany for which the term Ostpolitik was used.
1_1964 Partial Test Ban Treaty. (PTBT). It bans nuclear testing in atmosphere in water. (not underground).
2_Outer space treaty 1967.
4_ABM treaty 1972 (Anti Ballistic Missile). In 2002 USA had withdrawn. (One of the reason for beginning of new cold war).5_1972_SALT 1 Strategic Arms limitation treaty
6_1975_Helsinki Accords. It Led to the establishment of the conference on security and cooperation in Europe. It is renamed as organization for security and cooperation in Europe. It is based on the idea of cooperative security as an alternative to collective defense.
Present relevance of the institution (Helsinki Accords)
This is the only security platform where Russia is involved with the western countries. Russia wants that this should be a main platform for security cooperation in post cold war situation. Russia puts question mark on continuation of NATO.
However USA does not support the idea. USA favors collective defense. NATO was formed against Russia. Russia is not comfortable with continuation and expansion of NATO eastward. West did not accept the inclusion of Russia in NATO after cold war.
To satisfy Russia, west has created NATO Russia partnership council. But it is again a defunct body.
For the first time, both the sides in Europe accept that no one will interfere to altar the territorial status quo. When Russia annexed Crimea, it has been alleged that Russia violated Helsinki accord. In Helsinki, for the first time Eastern Block accepted the human rights.
During Detente, there was cooperation even in space. There was golden handshake between the astronauts in the space. There was some bilateral trade and USA provided wheat aid to Russia.
Although detente was a phase of relative peace, it was not a complete halt in nuclear arms race. The two countries started developing ICBMs, SLBM (Submarine Launch Ballistic Missile) and MIRVs (Multiple Independent Targetable Re-entry vehicles). The two countries continued proxy wars in South Asia, Middle East etc.
3rd Phase of cold war (1979-1989)
Ronald Regen came to power in USA. He called to end Detente. He initiated strategic defense initiative (SDI) known as Star Wars Project. USA started using Islamic insurgence in Afghanistan to topple the communist regime in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was significant to maintain Soviet control over Central Asia, known as ‘soft belly of USSR’. Hence USSR had to send forces in Afghanistan. It marks the beginning of new cold war. It was more dangerous, less ideological, termed as unstable block system by Morton Kaplan.
By this time, Russian economy came in deep crisis. USA ensured that the prices of oil go down. On one hand USSR was involved in the war in Afghanistan, on other hand USA forced it in nuclear arms race. Economic crisis multiplied. USSR could not win war in Afghanistan. Ultimately Afghanistan became USSR’s Vietnam. USSR was forced to withdraw the forces. Even 10 years war could not defeat Afghan Mujahidin.
Why USSR was defeated? It could be only gorilla war which required air power. Air power of USSR was neutralized as USA provided stinger missiles (Surface to Air missiles). Ultimately in 1989 USSR withdrew, by this time it was clear that USSR will not be able to maintain its status as a superpower. It was evident in 1989 during Gulf War, there was no opposition from USSR which symbolized the beginning of unipolar world. There was change in the policy of India also. For the first time India allowed refueling of US planes directed towards Iraq. Iraq was a member of NAM and close friend of India.
The end of cold war / Collapse of USSR
Cold war denoted the bipolar world, USA and USSR were the two poles. Cold war denoted heightened state of tensions. The superpower had to rely on nuclear deterrence, cold war was a universal system in the sense it impacted all regions in the globe, based on universalist ideology (the two world views) and impacted almost every corner in the world.
Though there is a disagreement about the beginning and end and there is a fertile debate, over whether present state of relations can be called as cold war or not. Yet there was a formal declaration of the end of cold war in 1989 at Malta Summit when Soviet President Gorbachev and US President HW Bush declared the official end of cold war. Malta summit was followed with following developments.
1_START I Treaty in 1990.
2_Dissolution of Warsaw Pact 1991.
3_Cooperative Security Threat Agreement based on Nunn Lugar Act. Passed by US Senate 1991.
* The agreement aimed at removing the nuclear weapons and materials from the successor states of former USSR. Recently Russia has pulled out of the agreement.
4_Dec 1991. The formal declaration of the end of USSR and establishment of the commonwealth of the independent states comprising of 11 Republics.