Moscow and Washington: towards a Cooperative Prospect

30 January 2010 | 19:04 Code : 6854 Middle East.
Seyyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour’s speech in Central Eurasia Panel Meeting
Moscow and Washington: towards a Cooperative Prospect
Within discussion about global security, the missile defense shield and its impact on Moscow-Washington relations is highly important. I would like to look at these relations in Obama’s term and answer these questions: what developments have taken place? Why have they taken place? And what is the prospect of Moscow-Washington relations?

The basic answer to the first question is that tensions have gradually subsided after their pinnacle in 2008 during the South Ossetia war. With Obama’s rise to presidency, not only Moscow-Washington ties, but United States’ diplomatic ties with all other states have entered a calmer mood.

The number of bilateral treaties signed and the largeness of the delegation following Obama in his last summer visit to Moscow are quite significant. Leaders of Russia and the United States met frequently after in London, G20 conference in Pittsburgh, Singapore, New York and Copenhagen. These meetings have bolstered the ties between Moscow and Washington.

Disarmament has also been important in US-Russia ties, witnessing considerable progress within the last year. The April 2009 meeting between Medvedev and Obama was the start of a joint effort to cut the number of nuclear arms. In his Prague speech, the U.S. president stated that nuclear security is not possible without Russia’s participation.

Cooperation culminated in the release of UNSC Resolution 1887, which targets a world without free nuclear weapons. The resolution could not have been ratified without Russian and the United States’ approval.

So what led to these developments? The first reason is Barack Obama’s new global security team. Obama is following a different approach towards interaction with Russia and global security. The people now in power in U.S. foreign policy and national security institutions are famous for their pro-disarmament tendencies. Obama’s appointment of a special representative on the issue demonstrates his determination for the disarmament process. The common belief among security thinkers in the United States is that in the future, the world will not witness global competitions like those going on in 18th to 20th century. Even a rising power like China will be of no threat. The biggest threat in this world is the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and to deal with this problem, Russians’ cooperation is a must.

The next point is about US-Russia relations. American experts criticize Washington’s behavior towards Moscow after the Soviet collapse due to its humiliating trend. This behavior was intensified during Bush’s presidency, evident in cases such as ignoring Russia’s role global and regional affairs, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush’s rhetoric was reprehensible. Even in Clinton’s term, despite the superficial respect, United States did not believe in Russia’s strategic role. Obama’s paradigm shift reveals its significance at this point. Russians also have their story. Their resilient self-confidence and relative stability helped them weather the post-dissolution period. Putin’s era was especially one of recovery for the Russians. Despite their opposition to a unipolar world, Moscow shares global security concerns with Washington. This explains the increasing cooperation between White House and Kremlin.

What are the consequences of improved ties between the two countries? Things appear to be fine, at least on the surface. However, besides the commonalities in strategic interests, there also differences. Take the case of Russia for example. Do Russians really favor an all-out victory for the Americans? From the strategic point of view the answer is no. But do they want Americans defeated by Taliban? Again no. You see how complex the developments are. On Iran’s nuclear case, we witnessed Kremlin’s cooperation with Western powers. However, from the strategic p.o.v, Russians do not want the rubberstamp whatever the United States follows through the UN Security Council.

All in all, despite contradiction in strategic interests, Russians and Americans will negotiate their differences. Missile defense shield and nuclear disarmament seem appropriate points of departure. Both countries will continue efforts to maintain nuclear hegemony; however, the outcome of their cooperation will be the development of multilateral disarmament treaties.

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