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3.Empirical Data

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


Russia and the United States share long and multifaceted relations.65 Official diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on November 5 (or October 24, according to the Julian calendar that was used at the time in Russia), 1809.66 The U.S. mission to Russia was aimed at fostering friendly relations with the country in order to promote U.S.-Russian trade.67 It is worth noting, that at the end of the 19th century U.S.-Russia relations could be described as friendly, which was a logical outcome of Russia’s decision to support the Union during the Civil War by sending a squadron to San Francisco and New York to provide assistance to the Union in case Great Britain and France employ aggressive measures.68 Thus, during the Civil War, the Russian Empire was the only great power that provided assistance to the Union.69 Moreover, shortly afterward Russia “sold Alaska to the United States in preference to Great Britain, which controlled adjacent Canada”.70

Nevertheless, the 20th century marked a complicated and volatile phase in U.S.-Russia relations. Two Russian revolutions of 1917 not just changed the course of events in Russia itself, but later also affected the whole international order. The February Revolution eliminated Monarchy in Russia, while the October revolution initiated and led by Vladimir Lenin eventually brought victory to the Bolsheviks.71 From 1917 until 1922 the country was known as the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), however, on December 29, 1922, “the treaty on the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was signed by the RSFSR, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan”.72

This marked the creation of the USSR, a new type of state where the political system was organized as a one-Party rule with a ban on factions, which in fact established a totalitarian regime where the Communist Party controlled all levels of the state.73 The country’s economic system has been transformed into “the almost complete dominance of state ownership and enterprise; state monopoly of foreign trade and an inconvertible currency; obligatory central planning, both in physical and financial terms”.74 Thus, it is clear that the political and economic system of the USSR was practically opposite to that of the United States. Thus, until 1933 the United States refused to recognize the USSR and the Soviet Government.75 Nevertheless, in October 1933, the United States and the USSR finally established diplomatic relations,76 which can be explained by the desire to promote trade between the two countries that was so necessary to help to restore the U.S. economy after the Wall Street collapse.77

Despite the disagreements, during World War II, the USSR and the United States fought against a common foe. Moreover, the USSR benefited from the program known as Lend-Lease78 through which the United States assisted its allies by providing substantial military aid and other supplies.79 However, once Germany and Japan were defeated, each country that participated in the Grand Alliance started to pursue its own national interests and agenda.80 “A split between the West and the Soviet Union rapidly developed into an international clash of wills, outlooks, and ideologies”.81 It is worth noting, that the leaders of the allied countries held a different view on the postwar world order.82 For example, Franklin D. Roosevelt believed that liberated Eastern European countries were free to pursue their own political course, while Stalin sought to establish pro-Communist governments in those countries.83

The end of WW II and the breakup of the Alliance marked a new stage in relations between Western democracies and the USSR, in particular, the Cold War emerged between the former allies. The Cold War can be defined as an ideological and political struggle between the two so-called superpowers, in particular, the United States and the Soviet Union, that represented opposed political and economic systems.84 The Cold War continued from 1945 until 1991, when the two superpowers not only distrusted one another but attempted to shape the world so that it served their own interests that were rooted in opposite ideas about how society should be organized.85 One of the most important features of the Cold War was the arms race, when both countries started to build up their military strength in order to balance and constrain each other.

The superpowers continued to struggle for influence not just in Europe, but in the whole world. Though the military competition between the two countries has never turned into an open military confrontation, the Cold War struggle involved military conflicts in parts of the world such as Central and South America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.86 Moreover, there were occasions when the United States and the USSR could have engaged in direct military conflict, for example, during the Cuban Missile crisis when the fate of the whole world was put under risk. The geopolitical, military, and economic rivalry between the two superpowers, which involved subtle espionage, violent wars in places such as Vietnam, nuclear submarines sliding through the oceans, and a strife to develop the most advanced satellites,87 continued until 1991, when the Soviet Union suddenly ceased to exist.



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


As a result of the dissolution of the USSR 15 independent states emerged on the world map and the Russian Federation was one of them. “The first task of the new regime was to declare Russia as the successor state of the Soviet Union that gave the Russian Federation the Soviet place in all international organizations, acceptance of Soviet treaties and obligations, and responsibility for the nuclear arsenal on Russian territory”.88 The emergence of the new Russian state provided hope that Russia would follow the Western democratic model, introduce a market economy, completely abandon Soviet ideology and would be committed to international agreements and obligations.89 Thus, the USSR breakup and the end of the Cold War indicated the collapse of the bipolar, ideologically divided international system90 and marked a new phase in U.S.-Russia relations when the former enemies had to rethink their mutual relations and to elaborate new principles of cooperation.91

Even though the Cold War enemy ceased to exist, Russia was still important to U.S. interests, especially taking into account the fact that Russia still retained nuclear weapons that one way or another posed a threat to the United States.92 “After the demise of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the Bush administration immediately reached out to Russian president Boris Yeltsin, promising aid, encouraging liberal economic and political reforms, and negotiating new security arrangements”.93 Andrei Kozyrev, Russia’s Foreign Minister, in turn sought for cooperation with the West.94 Moreover, during the time period from 1992 until 1996 relations with the United States took the prevailing place in Russia’s foreign policy.95

One of the ways to evaluate interstate relations is to pay attention to official state visits and high-level meetings. Thereby, the author will count and analyze the number of Presidential meetings, which is another communication channel capable of promoting dialogue on issues of mutual concern and strengthening bilateral relations. Thus, on January 31, 1992, Boris Yeltsin visited the United States for the first time as Russia’s President.96 During the meeting with George H. W. Bush, the two leaders discussed issues related to the collapse of the USSR, agreed on further reduction of strategic nuclear weapons, and also discussed cooperation in the field of arms trade and cooperation on non-proliferation of WMD.97 The next state visit of the Russian President took place in Washington in June, 1992.98 During Yeltsin’s bilateral meeting with George H. W. Bush the two Presidents signed a “Charter for U.S.-Russian Partnership and Friendship” and agreed to lift restriction on the number of members of diplomatic mission.99 Russia also provided “Peace Corps” volunteers with the right to work on its territory and decided to open for the international community its airspace in Eastern Siberia.100 Moreover, in 1992, after Yeltsin’s appeal for more Western aid the United States launched the so-called “Operation provide Hope” program under which Russia received emergency humanitarian assistance.101 The United States also provided Russia with its support for the provision of assistance from international institutions.102

However, it was also important to foster cooperation and to reach consensus in the military domain, since it could help to decrease mutual suspicion and thus to promote economic ties between the two countries. On January 3, 1993, George H. W. Bush visited Moscow and following the meeting with the Russian President Yeltsin the two parties signed the START II treaty.103 The START II treaty followed its predecessor START I, which was initially proposed by Ronald Reagan and signed by the United States and the USSR in July, 1991, and which, at its time, was the first most significant nuclear weapons reduction.104 In the same manner, “START II established a limit on strategic weapons for each Party”,105 for example, according to the agreement the two countries were obliged to decrease the amount of established strategic nuclear warheads to 3,000–3,500 and to liquidate all the heavy Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.106 Thus, the limit on strategic weapons established in the START II treaty went far beyond that which was proposed in the START I treaty.107

This treaty can be perceived as a manifestation of progress in U.S.-Russia relations and it clearly shows that even in such a sensitive sphere as strategic offensive arms the United States and Russia are able to achieve consensus. At the same time, U.S.-Russia dialogue on nuclear weapons in the beginning of the 1990s was not limited only to the START II treaty. The Bush administration was highly concerned about the nuclear weapons that remained on the territory of three former Soviet republics, in particular, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus,108 which in turn revealed another issue that required cooperation between the U.S. and Russia. The United States and Russia in relatively short terms had managed to reach agreement with Belarus and Kazakhstan on nuclear arsenal elimination from their territories.109 In return all three of the newly independent countries were promised to receive economic assistance from Russia, NATO and the United States.110 However, Ukraine rejected to give up its third largest nuclear arsenal, since those weapons not just contained commercial value, but also provided significant security benefits.111

The U.S. and Russia’s involvement in the talks led to the ratification of the so-called Lisbon protocol, which made all five of the countries bound to the START I treaty and under which Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine gave up their nuclear arsenal and joined the NPT.112 In return Ukraine has received reimbursement for the economic value of transferred weapons, assistance to eliminate its nuclear arsenal, and security guarantees from Russia, the United States, as well as the United Kingdom, which “became known as the Budapest Memorandum”.113 Thereby, U.S.-Russia cooperation on this matter allowed to reach agreement with Ukraine, thus, eliminating one of the largest nuclear stockpiles. However, it should be noted that U.S. and Russia’s interests matched in this particular case that can be described as a win-win situation, which is why the two parties managed to reach successful cooperation.

It is clearly seen that after the breakup of the USSR the United States and Russia were able to promote cooperation in the security domain. It is worth mentioning that in the beginning of the 1990s the two countries also discussed other arms control agreements, for example, “nuclear and chemical nonproliferation, conversion of defense industries, and U.S. assistance to Russia in transporting and destroying nuclear and chemical weapons”.114 During the Bush administration the United States and Russia also signed agreements on other issues, for instance, “Cooperation in space exploration and the use of space technology”,115 “Expansion of contacts between the scientific and technological communities”116 or “Abolition of diplomatic travel restrictions”117.

The two countries also reached a number of accords on trade and investments, for instance, “an agreement to extend reciprocal most-favored-nation tariff treatment to the products of each country; a bilateral investment treaty guaranteeing non-discriminatory treatment for U.S. investors in Russia; a treaty for the avoidance of double taxation”118 and other. These and other similar agreements have undoubtedly enhanced economic ties between the two countries. In addition, in 1992, Russia was promised to receive 4.5 billion dollars in economic help to support ongoing economic reforms in the country.119 However, it must be noted that U.S. aid was conditional, in particular, economic aid was either issued to support economic reforms, or restricted to humanitarian aid, or provided to foster dismantling of weapons.

Bill Clinton, who was elected new U.S. President in 1993, not only sought to promote cooperation between the two countries, but also set the objective to transform Russia into a democratic country with a functioning market economy.120 The first meeting of Yeltsin and Clinton took place in Vancouver, in April, 1993, which resulted in the signing of the Vancouver Declaration121 that confirmed U.S.-Russia cooperation and commitment “to promote democracy, security, and peace”.122 During negotiations in Vancouver Clinton also promised to provide 1.6 billion dollars in aid to Russia, half of which would be provided as aid and the half as credits.123 U.S. government provided money would cover areas such as “humanitarian aid, private sector development, promotion of democracy, energy development, environmental protection, resettlement of former Soviet officers, promotion of trade and investment, and assistance in nuclear arms reduction”.124 Another outcome of the Vancouver meeting was the establishment of “a U.S.-Russian Commission on technical cooperation in energy and space”,125 which later was called Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission.126

In April, 1994, the two Presidents held a meeting during Clinton’s official visit to Russia.127 As a result of negotiations the two parties reaffirmed their commitment for cooperation and took further actions toward eliminating persisting elements of the Cold War.128 During the meeting President Yeltsin declared Russia’s readiness to take part in the “Partnership for Peace” program, but Clinton emphasized his expectation that Russia would remove its troops from the Baltic states.129 Moreover, the two leaders made a joint statement in which they expressed their commitment to democracy and human rights, as well as agreed on the inviolability of sovereignty of the former USSR republics and “the rights of the Russian-speaking population in the Baltic states”.130

The two Presidents also discussed mutual cooperation to prevent the proliferation of WMD with an emphasis on the Middle East and the two Koreas, agreed not to “target their nuclear missiles at each other”,131 as well as Russia consented to convert highly enriched uranium, contained in the remaining Soviet nuclear warheads, into uranium that could be utilized in nuclear power stations.132 The United States in its turn provided a contract worth 12 billion dollars for the purchase of Russian uranium.133 The issue of nuclear proliferation was especially important to U.S. interests, since the reduction of nuclear weapons in Russia meant that tons of nuclear materials extracted from eliminated weapons still remained in Russian territory, and under conditions of economic disarray, when nuclear scientists, facility personnel and the military all experienced reduced salary or even no salary, the risk of nuclear theft, terrorism or accident increased dramatically.134 This is why the agreement on the disposal of highly enriched uranium was not just in Russia’s interests, but also gained major importance to U.S. interests.

It is worth mentioning other prominent events that took place in 1994, in particular, the creation of “the first U.S.-Russian Space Shuttle Mission”,135 the creation of a “five-nation Contact Group” that was aimed at fostering conflict resolution between Bosnian Serbs and the Federation, the signing of an agreement between NASA and the Russian Space Agency that made Russia a partner in International Space Station projects and Yeltsin’s visit to Washington in September, 1994,136 which resulted in a joint statement on the issue of strategic stability and nuclear security and a joint statement on the principles and promotion of trade, economic and investment cooperation.137 The two presidents signed three commercial agreements amounting to one billion dollars and pledged to achieve Ukraine’s accession to the NPT.138

Thus, it is clearly seen that such high-level meetings became regular, for example, in May, 1995, Clinton again visited Moscow to commemorate the victory in WW II.139 During this visit Clinton expressed his support for democratic development in Russia, called to settle the Chechen conflict, and pledged to develop “a special relationship between NATO and Russia”.140 During the meeting Yeltsin agreed to join the “Partnership for Peace” program and also pledged not to sell nuclear technology or additional weapons to Iran.141 The two leaders also discussed the necessity to achieve early ratification of the START II treaty.142 The dialogue between U.S. and Russian leaders was also actively promoted in the framework of various summits, for instance, G7 and later G8 Summits, the Sharm al-Sheikh summit or the Summit on Nuclear Safety and Security.143

It can be argued that high-level bilateral meetings that became so frequent in the 1990s could help to promote mutual cooperation and consensus on a number of issues. It is worth mentioning, that during the Clinton administration U.S President Clinton and Russian President Yeltsin met at least 18 times,144 “nearly as often as their predecessors had met throughout the entire Cold War”.145 All in all, during the time period from 1992 to 1996 Russia and the United States signed around 100 interstate and intergovernmental agreements, which accounts for more than a half of all similar U.S.-Soviet agreements signed between 1931 and 1991.146 It is clearly seen that interstate agreements signed by the two countries were not limited solely to military issues, but also included cooperation on economic, scientific and technological issues.147

It should be also noted that Clinton was supportive toward Yeltsin and his policies, regardless of a number of events indicating Russia’s internal problems that should have attracted much larger U.S. attention or even criticism, for example, Russia’s constitutional crisis of 1993 and Yeltsin’s order to shell the opposition-controlled parliament or the military conflict on the territory of Chechnya that started in 1994.148 Despite these disturbing occurrences Clinton continued to support Yeltsin and his camp in the parliamentary elections of 1995 and the presidential elections of 1996, which can be explained by his intent not to undermine Yeltsin’s reputation and domestic support.149 In this regard, realists would claim that, when state’s national interests are involved, issues such as democracy and human rights matter less, which is why U.S. officials did not criticize heavily these disturbing developments in Russia.

In 1997, the two Presidents met in Helsinki where they discussed further cuts in nuclear weapons and decided to start negotiations on the START III treaty once the previous START II treaty was ratified by both sides.150 Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to foster Russia-NATO cooperation, however they disagreed in regard to NATO enlargement to Eastern European countries.151 Nevertheless, a month later Russia and NATO signed the so-called “NATO-Russia Founding Act”, which stated that the two parties do not regard each other as enemies and “established a NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council”152 in order to promote collaboration on issues of mutual concern.153 The NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council was created with the aim to provide Russia with a voice in NATO, thus, mitigating Russia’s objections in regard to NATO expansion.154

In the subsequent years President Clinton repeatedly raised the issue of ratification of the START II treaty, since the United States ratified the treaty in 1996.155 However, in protest to NATO expansion156 the Russian State Duma denied the ratification of the treaty until April 2000.157 Besides, in the National Security Concept of the Russian Federation of 1997 NATO expansion to the East and the possibility of occurrence of foreign military bases near Russian borders was regarded as one of the main threats to Russia in the international sphere.158 Thus, the National Security Concept explicitly highlighted the security dilemma perceived by Russia after NATO’s eastward enlargement.

It is also worth mentioning that in February 1990, James Baker, the Secretary of State, visited Moscow to discuss the issue of German reunification and during the meeting Baker assured Gorbachev that NATO enlargement to the East would not happen if Moscow supported Germany’s peaceful reunification.159 Thus, Jack Matlock, the U.S. Ambassador to the USSR, reflected on the issue: “We gave categorical assurances to Gorbachev back when the Soviet Union existed that if a united Germany was able to stay in NATO, NATO would not move eastward”.160 Though, these words were not put in any written agreement161 and later were refuted by the West, Russia has referred to these promises numerous times in regard to NATO expansion. It is especially important that NATO expanded not just to former Warsaw Pact countries such as Hungary, Check Republic or Poland, but that it went even further and admitted three former Soviet republics, in particular, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Another event that negatively affected U.S.-Russia relations was NATO’s decision to start bombing Yugoslavia.162 At the time when NATO launched bomb attacks on Belgrade Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov was on a plane heading to the United States to discuss the issue of additional financial aid, however, the Prime Minister ordered to turn the plane around and head back to Moscow, which was a symbolic act that indicated a new chill in relations between the two countries.163 Moreover, Russia decided to withdraw from the “NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council”.164 Therefore, NATO enlargement and the Belgrade bombing considerably damaged U.S.-Russia relations and provoked “deeply negative attitude to the United States among the Russian elite and broader public”.165 Besides, the Kosovo crisis led to the prospect of a military clash between NATO and Russia, when on June 12, 1999, Russian military forces without any warnings seized the Pristina airport.166

As a result, a survey of 1999 on Russia’s attitude toward the United States showed that 53 percent held negative attitude toward the country, while only 33 percent held positive views.167 It is also worth noting that although in 1999 the U.S. and Russian state leaders met on margins of G8 and OSCE Summits, there was only one foreign bilateral visit, a working visit to the United States of Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin in July 1999.168 These data, to some extent, also indicate the deterioration of U.S.-Russia relations, since during the time period from 1992 to 1998 the United States and Russia arranged at least two foreign high-level bilateral visits a year.169

The beginning of the new Millennium was marked by a significant political development, in particular, on New Year’s eve 1999, President Yeltsin announced his resignation and appointed Vladimir Putin as Russia’s Acting President, but on March 26, 2000, Putin won presidential elections and became a legitimate President of the Russian Federation.170 It is worth mentioning that Putin proclaimed that his main objective in the international sphere is the restoration of Russia as a great power, moreover, Putin described the breakdown of the USSR as “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the century”.171

In June 2000, Clinton visited Moscow and during a meeting with the newly elected President of Russia the two parties discussed issues such as further arms reduction, economic growth and reforms in Russia, climate change, corruption and the situation in Chechnya, among other things.172 Nevertheless, arms control issue was the main theme of their dialogue, since the United States sought to reach amendments to the ABM treaty in order to start testing its new national missile defense system.173 Russia was skeptical on the issue, in particular, Moscow was worried about U.S. hidden agenda and Russia’s inability to maintain the corresponding number of nuclear weapons.174 Thus, in June, 2000, Putin declared during his media interview that the United States and Russia could combine their efforts to establish a joint missile shield that would counteract threats against the United States, Russia and their allies in Europe.175 This can partially explain why the State Duma has finally ratified the START II treaty, since Putin did not want to provide the United States with an additional opportunity to withdraw from the ABM Treaty.176

At the same time, after the June Summit Russian politicians were waiting to see Clinton’s successor.177 It is worth noting that U.S.-Russia relations did not become the primary issue during the election campaign, even though the Republicans criticized Clinton for his naive pro-Yeltsin policy.178 The new Bush administration did not attempt to have a good start in relations with Russia.179 For example, in December, 2000, Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security advisor, stated: “It would be foolish in the extreme to share defenses with Moscow if it either leaks or deliberately transfers weapons technologies to the very states against which America is defending”.180 Moreover, in February 2001, in an interview with a French newspaper “Le Figaro” Rice declared: “I believe Russia is a threat to the West in general and to our European allies in particular”.181

Such a harsh position can be explained by the fact that in 2000, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov notified the United States that Russia would not adhere to the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement and would resume its arms sales to Iran.182 According to the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement that was reached in 1995 Russia agreed to complete already existing arms sales contracts with Iran and to cease all weapons transfers by the end of 1999.183 In return the United States would not impose sanctions against Russia as envisaged by U.S. law authorizing sanctions for arms sales to countries that are classified by the United States as sponsors of terrorism, and Iran was included in that list.184 The Russians claimed that because of the 1995 agreement Russia’s loss of profit from the arms trade accounted for five billion dollars.185 Another unpleasant incident that happened in relations between the two countries in February 2001 was the disclosure of Robert Hanssen, an American FBI agent, who was spying for the Soviet and later for the Russian intelligence agency.186 The United States responded to the incident by expelling 50 Russian diplomats, which became the largest diplomatic expulsion since 1986.187 Russia reacted by expelling the same number of U.S. diplomats.188

The first meeting of George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin took place in Slovenia in June 2001.189 During the meeting the two Presidents discussed “bilateral cooperation on economic, commercial, regional, and security issues”.190 In spite of the previously mentioned incidents, the atmosphere during the meeting was friendly and the leaders committed themselves to develop bilateral partnership and mutual respect, though the Russian President emphasized that U.S. unilateral actions would become an obstacle to this process.191 During the second meeting on margins of the G8 summit in July 2001, the two leaders discussed U.S. plans to build a missile defense system, as well as decided to foster dialogue on strategic arms reduction.192 Additionally, the two Presidents announced a new initiative, namely, a Russian-American Business Dialogue193 that would deal with the problems of global economic integration, e.g. investment climate, cooperation in multilateral institutions and others.194

The dramatic events that happened on September 11 undoubtedly shook the world, however it simultaneously provided an opportunity to improve relations between the United States and Russia.195 “Putin was the first leader to telephone Bush with condolences and an unequivocal condemnation of the terrorist act”.196 Russia, which itself experienced numerous terrorist attacks, expressed genuine support for America and its people. The 9/11 terrorist attacks provided a practical ground for cooperation between the two countries, in particular, to unite their efforts in fighting terrorism. Thus, during Putin’s trip to the United States in November 2001 the two Presidents discussed their commitment to reconstruct Afghanistan and to fight terrorism, which also included bilateral efforts to combat “organized crime and drug trafficking”.197 Moreover, during the presidential summit the two leaders made a joint statement not only declaring their determination to cooperate on global security issues, but also emphasizing a new phase in U.S.-Russia relations: “The United States and Russia have overcome the legacy of the Cold War. Neither country regards the other as an enemy or threat”.198

Therefore, following the 9/11 events Russia provided the United States with intelligence assistance to combat the Taliban199 and allowed the United States to deploy its military bases in Central Asia in order to foster U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, which was a crucial signal taking into consideration geopolitical importance of the region.200 Another indicator of improved U.S.-Russia relations was the decision to establish a NATO-Russia Council to cooperate on projects of common interest such as nonproliferation and counter-terrorism, civil emergencies or cooperation in the military sphere.201 Another proof of improving U.S.-Russia relations is a number of Presidential meetings in 2002, in particular, U.S. and Russian Presidents met at least five times in 2002,202 which became a record number (see Appendix 1 and 2).

It is especially significant that although in December 2001, the United States announced its withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, Putin’s reaction was rather cold: “I fully believe that the decision taken by the president of the United States does not pose a threat to the national security of the Russian Federation”.203 The next day Russia declared its withdrawal from the START II Treaty.204 That step should be perceived as rather symbolic, since the treaty never entered into force,205 especially considering the fact that in May 2002 the United States and Russia signed a new arms reduction treaty, in particular, the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (SORT), which limited the number of strategic nuclear warheads to 1,700-2,200 per each country.206 Among other things, in 2002, the United States and Russia signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and held the first Commercial Energy Summit to discuss global energy issues and impediments to trade and investment in this sector.207

However, in course of time Russia became concerned with the development of U.S. foreign policy208 and its impact on U.S.-Russia relations. First of all, in the end of 2002 it became clear that the second round of NATO expansion was unavoidable, however especially unpleasant for Russia was the admission of the three Baltic States. Russia attempted to undermine chances of the three Baltic countries to become NATO members.209 For instance, Russia refused to settle territorial disputes with Latvia and Estonia and did not sign a border treaty with any of them.210 Nevertheless, Russia’s position on NATO expansion was rather mild, thus, for example, in 2002 Putin declared that “NATO membership is a sovereign right of any country”.211

Another irritating development for Moscow was the U.S. decision to invade Iraq, which not just violated international law, but also clearly demonstrated to Moscow that the United States did not need Russia or Russia’s consent for its unilateral agenda.212 Moreover, Moscow was dissatisfied that Russia lost eight billion dollars “that Iraq owed for past arms deliveries, and its old contracts to develop Iraqi oil fields”.213 Russia publicly criticized the United States for its unilateral actions. For example, on March 20, 2003, Putin made the following statement: “The military actions are carried out in spite of global public opinion, contrary to the principles and norms of international law and the UN Charter”.214 Thus, NATO enlargement and U.S. invasion of Iraq might further disturb Russian side and intensify the security dilemma, since those actions clearly indicated U.S. dominant position in the system.

U.S. operation in Iraq was not the only stumbling stone in U.S.-Russia relations. The next incident that affected U.S.-Russia relations was the 2004 Presidential elections in Ukraine, when after mass protests referred to as the “Orange revolution” previous election results were canceled and in the revote a pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko defeated his pro-Russian opponent Viktor Yanukovych.215 Though Putin never blamed the United States or other Western governments for helping to promote “Orange revolution”, he mentioned that NGOs operating in Ukraine were funded by the West.216 Thus, in November 2005, State Duma passed a law that allowed for broader control over overseas-funded NGOs, in particular, the law authorized conduction of check-ups to investigate NGOs’ activities and compliance with their stated objectives.217 Changes in Russia’s political regime undoubtedly caused concern in Washington, however Moscow’s decision to interrupt gas supply to Ukraine caused harsher U.S. criticism. For instance, in May 2006, Dick Cheney, the U.S. Vice President, declared: “No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolise transportation”.218

In summer 2006, there was one positive development in relations between the two countries, in particular, Russia and the United States were discussing the signing of the protocol that would finally allow Russia to become a member of the WTO.219 Nevertheless, the United States and Russia did not manage to make a deal, which again disrupted Russia’s chance to join the WTO.220 Thus, in 2006 German Gref, the Minister of Economics, warned the United States that Russia might cancel all the export preferences for U.S. agricultural products, including meat, if the United States does not sign the agreement on Russia’s accession to the WTO in three months,221 but in autumn 2007, Russia “banned the import of chicken and pork from 30 U.S. facilities”.222

By this time deterioration in U.S.-Russia relations became rather prominent, especially, taking into consideration U.S.-Russia rhetoric. Thus, for example, in a speech delivered on May 9, 2007, Putin ambiguously drew an analogy between U.S. policies and the Third Reich: “Moreover, in our time, these threats are not diminishing [...] they are only transforming, changing their appearance. In these new threats, as during the time of the Third Reich, are the same contempt for human life and the same claims of exceptionality and diktat in the world”.223 Another example is Putin’s speech during the Munich Security Conference in February 2007: “[…] the United States has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations”.224

Such a harsh rhetoric could also be induced by the Bush administration’s intention to establish a missile defense shield in two Eastern European countries, namely, Poland and Czech Republic.225 The Russian side was deeply concerned with the issue, since the United States had never before deployed its objects of strategic potential beyond its national territory and in such proximity to Russian borders.226 Even though the dialogue on military-political issues continued in 2007, the two countries did not manage to agree on new arrangements in the arms control field or on U.S. plans to deploy a global missile defense in Eastern Europe.227 Besides, in November 2008, the Russian side emphasized that the missile shield deployment in Europe would entail reciprocal measures.228 For example, in the Kaliningrad region Russia would establish not only a missile complex “Iskander”, but also equipment to produce electronic suppression of the new U.S. missile defense system objects.229

In March 2008, the whole world was paying special attention to Russia’s internal politics, since Russian citizens voted to determine Vladimir Putin’s successor. The election results showed that Dmitry Medvedev, the candidate who was supported by Putin, became Russia’s new President. Soon it became clear that the changes in the Kremlin would not bring significant shifts in Russia’s foreign policy. It was especially important that Putin was appointed Prime Minister, which in turn raised concerns of how much actual power Medvedev possessed. For example, right after the elections Medvedev declared: “We will be able to preserve the course of President Putin”.230

At the same time, one must specify the fact that before the “reset” policy was initiated the United States and Russia did cooperate on certain issues. Thus, a report of 2006 issued by a bipartisan task force on U.S.-Russia relations argues the following: “Although President Putin is presiding over the rollback of Russian democracy, the United States should work with him to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and to keep terrorists from attacking either his country or ours”.231 However, the report also says that cooperation between the two countries is rather exceptional than the norm: “U.S.-Russia relations are now marked by a growing number of disagreements. The partnership is not living up to its potential”.232

In regard to U.S.-Russia cooperation, it should be mentioned that in 2005 the two countries signed an agreement on cooperation to strengthen control over Man-portable Air Defense Systems that if acquired by terrorists could put global aviation under threat, but in 2006 the two Presidents launched a joint initiative to prevent nuclear terrorism.233 It is worth emphasizing that terrorism is a sphere in which U.S.-Russia cooperation is the most successful. Thus, even in 2008, the year that elicited growing tension in relations between the two countries, the United States and Russia continued their cooperation to prevent nuclear and other forms of terrorism.234 The two countries maintained dialogue and cooperation on a number of other issues in the framework of international summits.235 For example, the two parties cooperated on Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stabilization of the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on combating maritime piracy.236

Yet the dialogue on nonproliferation issues, namely, the nuclear problem of Iran and North Korea, was complicated due to “U.S. sanctions against Russian companies for their cooperation with Iran […] in the military-technical field”.237 Particularly, on October 24, 2008, the United States adopted sanctions against Russia’s “RosOboronEksport”, as allegedly it supplied technologies for production of WMD to Iran.238 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that U.S. actions were unlikely to change Russia’s position on a number of issues, including Iran’s nuclear problem.239 Lavrov also emphasized that the decision made by U.S. policy makers is unacceptable by stating the following: “All our trade and economic activities in Iran, all the military-technical cooperation with Iran is conducted in strict compliance with the existing rules of international law, in accordance with our international obligations and export control regime that exists in the Russian Federation”.240 At the same time, in the “RosOboronEskport” U.S. decision was regarded as a manifestation of unfair competition.241 It is also worth mentioning that in 2006 the United States introduced similar sanctions against three Russian companies that produce military equipment, including “RosOboronEksport”.242

Yet the events of August 2008 led U.S.-Russia relations to their lowest point. Russia’s actions in August 2008 clearly showed Russia’s ambitions and foreign policy aims. It can be argued that such a harsh reaction was caused not only, as Russia asserted, by the necessity to protect its citizens, but also by the desire to demonstrate its sphere of influence and to prevent countries such as Georgia from entering NATO. Prior to the events that occurred in August 2008, Russia was deeply concerned with U.S. policy in regard to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia, in particular, the Bush Administration encouraged its partners to provide both countries with a Membership Action Plan.243 It is also worth mentioning that after Kosovo’s independence was recognized by most Western countries, including the United States, Russia established legal ties with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which in turn meant recognition of all documents issued by the governments of the two provinces.244

The United States condemned Russia’s actions on the territory of Georgia, for example, Bush declared: “I've expressed my grave concern about the disproportionate response of Russia and that we strongly condemn the bombing outside of South Ossetia”.245 Moreover, Bush emphasized: “These actions jeopardize Russians' relations [...] with the United States and Europe”.246 It should be noted that following the events of August 2008 the United States did not impose actual sanctions against Russia. Nevertheless, U.S.-Russia relations have deteriorated significantly. For instance, the United States canceled joint military exercises with Russia247 and the Bush administration made the decision to withdraw the bilateral agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation from the U.S. Congress.248 Moreover, the MFA of Russia emphasized that after the 2008 conflict the United States attempted to initiate some collective pressure on Russia, increased anti-Russian rhetoric, suspended activities in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, limited interaction with Russia in the “Group of Eight” and in regard to the issue of Russia’s accession to the WTO, disregarded Russia’s foreign policy initiatives (specifically, Russia’s proposals concerning a European Security Treaty), among other things.249 Hence, when Barack Obama took office in 2009, U.S.-Russia relations were at a very low point.



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