At the forefront of current foreign policy discussions is the relationship between the United States and Russia. The Levitt Center brought in Dmitry Suslov, deputy director of research at the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, to discuss that relationship. He delivered a lecture titled “U.S.-Russia Relations Under Trump and Beyond” on the past, present, and future state of U.S.-Russian relations on Oct. 2.
Suslov wasted no time in describing the dire state of relations, calling this era “Cold War 2.0”. The current view of Russia by the American populace is reminiscent of Cold War-era ideology, with Russia being cast as evil and an existential challenge to American values.
The problem according to Suslov is that both countries failed to establish stable relations in the post-Cold War era, due to fundamental disagreements over the design of the new international order. Over the past 25 years, crises like the Crimean annexation have made relations worse. Given the status of both countries as world powers, having a continually deteriorating relationship is not just inconvenient but dangerous. It weakens both countries’ positions vis-à-vis other powers like China, and threatens established arms control measures.
Recognizing this, both countries have tried to improve the relationship but attempts have failed. Russia views American foreign policy goals as intolerable and the U.S. still sees Russia as an expansionist threat that must be contained.
Suslov believes that Russia saw Donald Trump as a potential to improve relations. His campaign challenged the traditional American foreign policy in such a way that might have strengthened U.S.-Russian relations. However, his recent speech to the U.N. General Assembly affirmed U.S. commitment to regime change in countries like North Korea and Iran.
This change in Trump’s rhetoric, combined with the lasting strength of foreign policy establishment, caused a failure to improve relations. If anything, his election made things worse because the American public is now focused on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Suslov challenged his audience with a simple question: would we care as much about the Russian meddling if Hillary Clinton had won? Because of anger over the alleged interference, Suslov fears the potential of retaliation from the U.S. in the post-Trump era. Unwilling to leave the audience with a pessimistic view of the future, Suslov clarified that he believes, in the long term, the relations will improve as the U.S. adapts to a multipolar international order.