10.03.2021

Back to Basics on Russia Policy

As the Biden administration seeks to craft its Russia policy in stride with America’s European allies, it must recognize that the U.S. and Europe have different stakes in their respective relationships with Russia.

The West’s relationship with Russia is broken. Its policy toward Russia is broken, too. Today the United States, European Union, and Russia are locked into a mutual antagonism that, more than seven years since the pivotal moment of the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, has become the new status quo—an increasingly comfortable one for both sides. As President Joe Biden’s administration takes flight, the transatlantic community is faced once again with the challenge of forging a sustainable—and effective—common policy toward Russia.

However, notwithstanding the fact that they generally agree that Russia poses a serious threat, there are still significant differences between the United States and the EU on this issue. In Washington, by far the prevailing view is that the adversarial relationship with Russia is here for the long run and that it should be met head-on. By contrast, there are competing perceptions of how best to contend with a more assertive Russia among members of the EU, given their diverse historical legacies and geography and because European leaders already have their hands full dealing with other vexing problems.

This article argues that a realistic, “back to basics” approach to the Russia challenge is the best available option, but it will require certain compromises between the two sides of the transatlantic community. U.S. policymakers will have to accept that the EU’s relationship with Russia is bound to be substantially different from that of the United States and that there will always be a variety of views within the EU about its eastern neighbor. For their part, European policymakers will have to accept that the relationship with Russia is not going to get better in the foreseeable future, that it is a product of , and that the standoff with Russia is here to stay. The task before the transatlantic alliance, therefore, is to manage this relationship skillfully with resolve, responsibility, creativity, and an open mind.

This article argues that a realistic, “back to basics” approach to the Russia challenge is the best available option, but it will require certain compromises between the two sides of the transatlantic community. U.S. policymakers will have to accept that the EU’s relationship with Russia is bound to be substantially different from that of the United States and that there will always be a variety of views within the EU about its eastern neighbor. For their part, European policymakers will have to accept that the relationship with Russia is not going to get better in the foreseeable future, that it is a product of structural factors, and that the standoff with Russia is here to stay. The task before the transatlantic alliance, therefore, is to manage this relationship skillfully with resolve, responsibility, creativity, and an open mind.

Read more: 
https://carnegieendowment.org/2021/03/09/back-to-basics-on-russia-policy-pub-84016

Open PDF: 
https://carnegieendowment.org/files/202103-WeissRumerBasics.pdf

 

 

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