How Does Russia View America?
Post Cold War became a more moderated approach to the Soviet-United States relations during and following the Reagan years. Ronald Regan with his aggressive tone towards his Soviet counter-part Mikhail Gorbachev set the stage for a global democratic movement even in states who viewed the Unite States foreign policies as unfair and cruel. Ronald Reagan crushed communism with the help of Russia invasion of Afghanistan and Russia’s strained economy. Russia was unable to recover to its former military, political, and economic might that dominated Europe and the Post Second War era since Stalin was its leader. Another event that signaled the end of the Cold War was the fall of the Berlin Wall and United States involvement in the Middle East. However, the Soviet and United States relations over the years have improved a little especially after the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and prior to 9/11. Russia’s government and citizens needed a changed from the old authoritarian rule to a more free democratic government, which would allow it to become more competitive in the global market. The Cold War may have paved the way for a new system called “Globalization.” Another example of Russia and United States relations occurred during the turn of the twenty-first century was, when the Moscow Treaty was implemented, which allowed new bilateral commitments and agreements from areas ranging from politics and economics, to international security. Nearly thirty-five years after the start of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the fortieth President of the United States in January, 1981. Historians’ viewed Reagan as the Executioner of Communism bringing the Soviet Union to its knees. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain once said that Reagan “won the Cold War without firing a shot.” (Brinkley, 2007) Reagan ability to demand respect from the opposing political party and world leader, exemplified the historical position that placed Reagan with the likes of great leaders such as Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, John Kennedy and Woodrow Wilson. One of Reagan admires was Mikhail Gorbachev, who feared the tough talks that Reagan enforced on the Soviet regime. The key elements that altered the Soviet and the United States relations, may have started a year or more before Reagan became President, when Russia decided to invade Afghanistan, because of this blunder and the opposition from other nations, including the United States, Russia’s prestige and power began to tarnish and with a weakened military, a defective economy, Russia’s food crisis worsened while trying to uphold its might under communist rule. One of Reagan’s strategic moves was the installment of the Star Wars Programs, which would allowed America to accelerate in the nuclear arms race and this proved to be too costly for the disintegration Soviet economy. After leaving the Presidency in 1989, Reagan would leave a legacy of greatness and became a historic figure until his death. In March of 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev stepped on the world stage as the leader of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union with the title of being public enemy number one by the capitalist West especially the United States. With the need to withdraw from the damaging and costly war in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union faced tremendous internal problems. (Gorbachev, 1995) Gorbachev felt the urgency to establish a more mutual and respectful relationship with the United States due to the strain of its economy, war, and the food shortage. So, he presented a program that world restructure the Soviet economy and reform its out dated philosophy. Gorbachev wanted to end the competitive phase of the arms race era and promoted the competitive stages of international free trading. The defect of the Gorbachev years would be the Russia-Afghanistan war, which cost the Soviets it prestige and a huge lost in expense on military equipment, lost of troops and a depleting support from other nations both morally and financially. Analyzing the nuclear arms treaties between the Soviets and United States, Gorbachev appeared satisfied especially with the Salt II Treaty proposal. Gorbachev will be forever linked to Ronald Reagan like Khrushchev was to John F. Kennedy. Also, his legacy will be remembered as the Collapse of the Communist Party. By 1991 Gorbachev was replaced by Boris Yeltsin, who would earn the approval of the West and the United States public. The coup de grace for détente was the decision to intervene in Afghanistan, December 1979 (Freeze, 1997). Russia invaded the capital of Afghanistan, which was engulfed in a civil war. Then the Afghan Premier Minister Hazifullah Amin was killed by Russian troops and Babrak Kamal replaced him. The Russian troops were outsmarted, outmanned and over powered by the Mujahidin forces, and Soviet Premier Brezhnev invasion was considered a historical blunder. In fact, the Mujahidin was aided financially by neighboring Islamic nations and they gained the support from the United States and their CIA operatives. By 1982, the Mujahidin controlled 75% of Afghanistan despite fighting the World’s second most powerful military (“Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan”). The Mujahidin, nicknamed (ancient warriors), was motivated by their morally beliefs and with the Unites States assistance annihilated Russian troops and by 1989 Russia was demoralized economically and physically, leaving nearly 14,000 Soviet troops dead causing the military to weaken and a major collapse in its prestige. Now twenty years later the United States has taken the position that Russia took nearly thirty years ago and it may potentially lose its position as a super power due to the failed promises to the Afghans government to help rebuild its nation while Russia would find itself in a vulnerable situation to the United States. They began reeling from an unstable economy and the lack of support from other nations especially its allies who were in opposition to the Afghanistan invasion. In November 1989, the Berlin Wall came down after twenty-seven years of the United States and Soviet tension in the East and West of Berlin, Germany. Since the construction of the wall in 1961, every United States President from Kennedy to Reagan visited the Berlin Wall in its oppositions to the communist state. From the post Cold War era the Soviet Union and the United States shared a bitter relation in Berlin, especially over the United States blockage in Soviet territory. Germans desiring a free and democratic government and opposed to the authoritarian dictatorship of the Soviet’s rule, wanted to be a part of the free trade and competitive global market. The fall of the Berlin Wall would also, signal the fall of a great empire and the end of the Cold War Era. Mikhail Gorbachev had started the dominoes tumbling. But his purpose in launching glasnost and perestroika had been to prop up his own pieces; to modernize and revive the Communist system, not kill it. (Schmemann, 2006) Berlin had been the emerald in the eyes of capitalism and Communism for years but with the Soviet power collapsing, the United States seized control of Germany and granted the East Berlin citizens with the option of free elections setting up a democratic government. The first test of the post Cold War era and the new relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States, involved the U.S. anxiety to attack Sadaam Hussein and the Iraqi regime if he decided to invade Kuwait and whether or not the Soviet Union would support a U.S. attack in Iraq. President Bush 41 had decided to send 200,000 troops to Saudi Arabia; meanwhile Moscow sent a letter to the White House stating its opposition to any United Nation resolutions and it asked for clarity on whether or not Iraq refused to comply with Resolution 600. (Beschloss & Talbott, 1993) Another crisis that made it hard for the Soviet Union and the United States relations to improve was the situation in the Baltic and this crisis led to the bashing by U.S. official against Gorbachev, which Robert Gates quoted “good czar gone bad” and “Now that Gorbachev has screwed it up, it’ll be all the harder for some subsequent leader, more determined and skillful than Gorbachev, to get his countrymen ever to support reform again.” (Beschloss & Talbott, 1993) So, when Boris Yeltsin became President of the new Soviet Union his views were more appealing to the United States and for the first time in their historic relationship it may have been the smoothest transition. Terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, left the United States stunned and the world shocked even to this very moment. The single most tragic event in U.S. since the assassination of President Kennedy, showed President Vladimir Putin and Russia willingness to assist President Bush and the America people at any cost. He followed these rhetorical pledges with concrete policies, including military and humanitarian support to the North Alliance in Afghanistan and Russian acquiescence to American troops in Central Asia. (McFaul, 2001) This situation was similar to the United States decision to invade Iraq in 1991 at the end of the Cold War era and Russia’s withheld their support to aid the U.S. Therefore, NATO remained suspicious as to whether Russia would fully be a democratic state, and on the other side of the coin, Russia wondered if the U.S. has established a real interest in their domestic affairs. The U.S. must assist a battered Soviet economy in order to establish a real partnership by installing democracy in a transformation of the new Soviet system. Success will only follow if this process speeds up in the favor of Russia. The Moscow Treaty came about when President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin agreed to reduce nuclear warheads levels of “1700-2200 by 2012”. Bilateral talks on the reductions of strategic missiles included a more cooperative relationship in politics, economic and military areas. This Treaty encourages both nations to limit its nuclear warheads by December 2012 and the ratification of the Treaty was presented before the United States Senate and the Russian two Chambers of the Federal Assembly. By 2002, Congress removed fifty of its ten warhead Peace Keeper ICBMs. However, President Putin stalled on the SORT agreements in 2003 citing his disapproval of the U.S. decision to invade Iraq; thus once again proving that when a crisis escalates involving either party, it effects the potential growth in their relationship. The Moscow Treaty was another opportunity for Russia and America to exercise its Cold War demons and create a new political paradigm that will guide other nations. In conclusion, there is an old saying, “two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time.” Well in my view of the Russian-U.S. relationship, two opposing ideas and the two of the most influential nations in our time period could not dominate the world at the same time and they could share the balance of power. In order for one to dominate the globe the other must completely become non-existing. Now if one is non-existing then a new ideal or system may rise to challenge either remaining power. Although Russia and the United States has made strides on improving their relations, it appears that each time both nations takes a step closer to trusting the realization of east/west relationships, a crisis occur that stalls its progress and takes Russia and America a step back into the Cold War. Russia desperately needed financial support and stronger alliances after being annihilated by Mujahidin forces for nearly ten years and losing its military might and international prestige. Russia leans on the U.S. for their support and in return the U.S. want bury communism, by establishing democratic governments, in communist states, which eventually weakens communist influence and established the U.S. as the victor of the Cold War and the front runner of the Post Cold War Era.
Beschloss, M. R., & Talbott, S. (1993). The inside story of the end of the Cold War: At the highest levels. Canada: Little, Brown and Company. Brinkley, D. (2007). Ronald Reagan: The Reagan diaries. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. Freeze, G. (1997). Russia: A History. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press. Gorbachev, M (1996). Mikhail Gorbachev. Memoirs. New York, NY: Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. McFaul, M. (2001). 9/11 before & after/ U.S. must steer Russia to democracy. Retrieved from http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2001/12/30/IN102525.DTL&hw=mcfaul... Schmemann, S. (2006). The Berlin Wall and the fall of Soviet Communism: When the wall came down. Boston, MASS: Kingfisher. Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. Retrieved November 4th 2009 from http://www.guidetorussia.com/russia-afghanistan.asp