Book of the Week: The limits of partnership
March 8th, 2014
08:00 PM ET

Book of the Week: The limits of partnership

By John Cookson

Fareed’s ‘Book of the Week’ is Angela Stent's The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century. Stent is the director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian & East European Studies at Georgetown University. GPS's John Cookson spoke with her about the ongoing crisis in Crimea and the numerous attempts to reset relations between the United States and Russia.

You say in the book that there has been far more continuity in Russia policy since the end of the Cold War than many would publicly admit. Why is that? 

We obviously like in our system to think that there’s a big difference between Republicans and Democrats, but the issue with Russia is that the presidential inbox has remained largely the same for the last twenty-two years. In the book, I go into six sets of issues with which we’ve constantly had to deal with the Russians, starting off with the nuclear legacy, with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, disagreements with Russia over the post-Soviet space (which is obviously very much on display today in Ukraine), the question of Euro-Atlantic security architecture (NATO and EU enlargement and the Russian response to that), then domestic Russian politics and more recently with all the upheaval in the Arab world.

These have been constant problems. Sometimes the approaches have varied a little bit, obviously. In the George W. Bush administration the arms control issues were downplayed, and in the Obama administration they were more important. But in general, many of these issues, including Iran which has been a constant for the past 22 years, haven’t really changed. Most of the people that I interviewed for the book – officials who were in the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations – admit the same thing, that there really isn’t that much difference.

Is Russia's incursion into Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia in 2008 a fair analogy for the crisis in Crimea today? 

Some things are similar. The basic principle that these are all areas where Russia has interests and assets, and where the people who live in those areas feel an affiliation to Russia and have problems with the state in which they live, and the majority ethnic group in the state they live, and therefore Russia comes as the kind of protector of these people – I think that’s an important analogy.  I think the difference is in Crimea that, in fact, Crimea is 60 percent ethnic Russian whereas South Ossetia and Abkhazia aren’t necessarily majority Russian. So in the Crimean case, the Russians would argue that this is majority Russian.

And the history is different. Crimea was part of Russia for hundreds of years and has only been part of Ukraine for sixty years. Whereas the other areas we are talking about were part of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic and then the Georgian state for a longer time. So in some ways, the claim that Crimea should have a special relationship with Russia is stronger than the claims of those two breakaway regions in Georgia. But, on the other hand, Russia signed an international treaty recognizing the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine twenty years ago.

With so many limits to partnership, in what areas can the U.S. and Russia cooperate? 

We remain the world’s two nuclear superpowers, and as such we have an interest in regulating not only our own nuclear weapons but insuring that there isn’t any more nuclear proliferation in the world – sort of managing the nuclear dimension of global politics, which remains tremendously important.

We do have overlapping interests in the greater Middle East, even though it’s sometimes difficult to agree.  Neither of us wants to see Iran acquire a nuclear weapons capability. Ultimately we would prefer to have governments in power, including in countries like Syria, that are more secular, that are not beholden to radical elements.  We share a common interest in combating global terrorism and we have both suffered from attacks by similar terrorist groups.  There are other areas where we are working together, new frontiers with the Russians, for instance in the Arctic.

So there are other areas where we will and we do have to work together. The ones that I think are most important are the ones that involve multilateral issues, like Iran, like Syria, like the broader issues in the Middle East.

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Topics: Book of the Week • GPS Show

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. friendsofindia

    Hi Fareed,

    Kudos. Great job on promoting India's great interests at an international heavyweight like the CNN. India will be forever grateful for your contributions.

    It is a wonderful thing that America is going to invade Ukraine, you are doing a fine job of making sure of that happens. Additionally, America should start talking turkey with Russia, the only large country that can ever rival India. As the world's greatest democracy and its only super duper power, India should join the US in this invasion, for this is the only chance that the invasion can ever succeed.

    On the one hand, the US has plenty of experience of invading other countries, with the skills honed in the invasion of Panama, Greennada, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, that India lacks. On the other, India has resources and ways and means to manage large dalit populations. We can send 100 million of our dalit armies, that completely overwhelm all the population in Ukraine. We can make all the Ukraine girls to be married to our dalit soldiers, that will instantly solve our problem of too few girls, and at the same time all the next generation of them will be our content India dalits instead of Russians who are constantly a pain on America's butt. As for the rest of the Ukrain men, they will either all be vaporized in their unholy and futile so called resistance, or that they can all migrate to Russia to co-habit with their fellow Slaves.

    This will completely change the geostrategic situation, it will make India the strongest nation in the world, and enhancing our world's greatest and largest and duperest super power status. And in fact, that should turn it around immediately to make the USA our vassal state because of our immediate control of Ukrain oil and gas and our chokehold on the Russian land mass.

    Submit to your fate under our Hindu Colossus, beg our 5 rupee meal middle classes, bow to our super powers.

    Pray for India. Jai Hind!

    March 9, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Reply
  2. RUSSIA important partner

    We need Russia more that Asia (no china, no korea ... no benefits from them). Russia has great natural resources, are US friendly nation, pro-Western, great potential market for USA Corporations! ... USA was blinding around in Asia for years, the result: lost lives, lost Hong Kong to Chinese, bankrupted businesses, created US unemployment, lost influence. No, no, no, ... no Asia – no more! Put the Washington DC pro-Asian guys into Alcatraz or Guantanamo detention facility!

    March 10, 2014 at 8:37 am | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    The Black Sea resort of Sukhumi in Abkhazia was a favoured holiday spot for the Soviet elite. The mountainous South Ossetia was separated by North Ossetia in Russia by the Georgian border. This explains why Russia was protective of these two regions, in his backyard. They broke away from Georgia and their independence was not recognised internationally.
    Crimea's declaration of independence will not be recognised neither, and Russia doesn't care.

    March 11, 2014 at 9:24 am | Reply
  4. HeyHey

    All that non-proliferation billions poured into Russia did one thing and one thing only. It modernized Russian forces. I think a lot of people think they know what they are talking about... The dinner party crowd is sure blowing this one.

    March 12, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Reply

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