The West (the US, the EU) vs Russia: A new Cold War?

According NY Times the Obama’s administration is looking beyond the immediate conflict to forge a new long-term approach to Russia that applies an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment. Read few comments. 


1. Would you say that it must be a more common approach from the US and Europe towards Russia, but maybe more driven by the EU as economically Russia is more important partner for the EU?

2. Where would you say the main differences between the US and the EU lie?


Gerard Toal (Gearóid Ó Tuathail), Professor & Director, Government and International Affairs, Virginia Tech

1. I do think that the US will seek to forge a unified approach towards Russia within Euro-Atlantic institutions, and on a bilateral level with its European friends. Inevitably and justifiably, the US will defer to the particular interests of individual states, especially Germany, who have greater entanglements and interdependencies with Russia than other states. But I expect the US to help forge a consensus on a slow geo-economic and geo-political distancing from Russia.

2. You will recall that Obama described Russia as a regional power. To me, this signaled his perception of that this is not a new Cold War, with two superpower states in competition across the globe. Instead, for Obama, the US is the only truly state with global interests and capabilities, whereas Russia is merely ‘regional.’ The US will look to continue its ‘rebalancing’ towards Asia, and adopt ‘strategic patience’ with the Putin regime until it passes from power. Whether this happens peacefully, and smoothly, however, is another question, one that might draw the US back into Eurasian geopolitics in a big way. Because Putin’s actions have been egregious, I do not anticipate any major rift between the US and the EU over Russia going forward.

Stephen BittnerProfessor of History, Sonoma State University

Distance and the nature of its relations with Russia mean the United States is more limited than Europe in its ability to respond to Russian actions in Ukraine. Europe has the ability to respond in ways that generate greater pain for Putin: by curtailing demand in the short and long run for Russian natural gas, by closing London’s financial markets to Russian capital, by taking a more restrictive stance, at least for the time being, on granting visas to the Schengen area. Despite the words of Obama’s Republican critics, there’s little the United States can do to retaliate in ways that hurt Putin in the short run. So we’re left with a hodgepodge of “targeted” sanctions against individuals and businesses close to Putin, which appear to be more a statement of disapproval, designed for American audiences, than a disincentive to further Russian aggression.

That said, I think there’s space for much greater cooperation between the EU and the US regarding Russia that will bear fruit in the long run. For instance, the domestic opposition to Putin is centered in the young, urban professional class. The EU and the US should do all that it can to reach out to these persons, via educational opportunities at western universities, professional engagement and recruitment, and so on. Putin is very sensitive about the “brain drain” that is occurring in Russia, as young, educated Russians seek opportunities elsewhere. The EU and the US should present themselves as a viable alternative for persons upset with the growing authoritarianism and cronyism of Russian politics.




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