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Table of contents

Introduction 6

1. Methodology 8

2. Theoretical Approach 9

2.1. Realism 9

2.2. Liberalism 13

3.Empirical Data 18

3.1. Historical Background of U.S.–Russia Relations 18

3.2. U.S.-Russia Relations after the Cold War 21

3.3. The “Reset” of U.S.-Russia Relations 45

3.4. Political regime in Russia after the Cold War 58

3.4. 1. The end of the Cold War 58

3.4.2. The Level of Democracy and Freedom in Russia 59

4. The Analysis of U.S.-Russia Relations after the 71

Cold War and the Failure of the “Reset” Policy 71

Bibliography 80

Appendix 91


The history of United States – Russia relations is long and multifaceted, already accounting for more than 200 years.1 During this time period the two countries faced phases of intense cooperation and friendship and phases of strained relations or even confrontation. Referring to more recent history, humanity still remembers the Cold War period that went far beyond the framework of U.S.-Russia bilateral relations, affecting every part of the globe. During the Cold War the two countries were competing for global domination to build a desirable world order, which in turn not only caused phenomenon known as arms race, but also created a threat of nuclear war. The collapse of the Soviet Union and along with it the end of the Cold War provided hope for the beginning of a new era in U.S.-Russia relations. Russia, which was undergoing political and economic transformations, was recognized by the West as a potential ally. Some analysts and decision-makers even believed that they were lucky to witness the “end of history”.2

Indeed, the 1990s marked a significant progress in U.S.-Russia relations, however the end of the decade highlighted a growing tension between the two countries, thus, indicating a failure to build genuine partnership relations that could benefit both sides. Therefore, since the end of the Cold War U.S.-Russia relations did not proceed smoothly and were swinging from friendly dialogue and profound collaboration to mutual accusations and even sanctions. The thesis author covers the whole period of U.S.-Russia relations since the end of the Cold War, however, more detailed attention is paid to bilateral relations during the Obama administration, as it laid the groundwork for a unique phenomenon known as “reset”. The “reset” policy was aimed at fostering partnership relations between the two countries, which could be backed up by Washington’s concessions made to Russia that explicitly demonstrated U.S. willingness to respect Russia’s interests. Yet, in course of time U.S.-Russia relations have experienced a downturn again, which eventually resulted in the failure not just to build genuine partnership relations but to maintain them at the level necessary for adequate cooperation. Thereby, the thesis author raised the following research question: Why did the U.S.-Russia “reset” policy launched in 2009 fail?

The topic is especially of current interest taking into account the events that unfolded in Ukraine and Russia’s part in it. Besides, the United States and Russia are the two leading countries that exert a great influence on world affairs, which is why this topic will always stay important for academic research. To look for possible answers to the raised research question the author resorted to the two most prominent theories of international relations, in particular, realism and liberalism. After a literature review, the author came up with two hypotheses. The first hypothesis, which is derived from the realist tradition that is centered around power and security issues, states that U.S. foreign policy pursued after the Cold War impelled Russia to employ counterbalancing behavior to counter U.S. global hegemony, which was the reason why the United States and Russia did not manage to develop relations of partnership after the reset policy was launched in 2009. The second hypothesis is based on the assumption that the state’s political regime does entail implications for international relations and finds its roots in the liberal school of thought. Hence, the second hypothesis states that Russia’s move toward a more authoritarian regime deteriorated U.S.-Russia relations, which resulted in the failed “reset” policy. The second hypothesis is no less important, since it is necessary to pay attention to other factors that might influence U.S.-Russia relations.

1. Methodology

Before tackling the raised research question, one must consider the issue of ontology and epistemology. Ontology defines the way people perceive the world and how they comprehend the essence of surrounding things.3 In that sense, people can choose to believe in actual structures that determine actors’ behavior4 or to believe that social phenomena largely depend on actors’ perception.5 These competing approaches are designated as objectivism and constructivism respectively.6 To investigate U.S.-Russia relations and to answer the research question the author has decided to apply the objectivist approach, assuming that the truth can be uncovered within an already existing structure.7 Epistemology in its turn determines the way one studies the world,8 and the thesis author is going to collect and analyze empirical evidence that can lead to an answer to the posed question.

As objectivist, the author has chosen two theories of international relations, in particular, realism and liberalism. By studying realism and liberalism the author derived two hypotheses that are tested against collected data. The first hypothesis claims that U.S. foreign policy pursued after the Cold War compelled Russia to employ balancing strategies, which in turn disrupted the chance to improve bilateral relations after the “reset” was launched in 2009, while the second hypothesis is focused on Russia’s political regime, arguing that country’s move toward a more authoritarian regime deteriorated U.S.-Russia relations and undermined the “reset”.

To verify the hypotheses the author will collect both quantitative and qualitative data. Thus, in order to assess U.S.-Russia relations after the Cold War attention will be paid to the number of annual presidential meetings, official statements, bilateral agreements and initiatives, adopted sanctions etc. To evaluate Russia’s political regime, the author will apply a quantitative rating provided by Freedom House. To collect the required data the author will use primary and secondary sources. Primary sources include interviews, official documents such as bilateral treaties and official websites such as the website of U.S. Department of State. Secondary sources include research papers, books and mass media such as online newspapers, online magazines and television.

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