The Continual Cold War Redux

By Noah Butler

On December 26, 1991, the USSR officially dissolved when the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union voted the country out of existence. Since that historic day, which saw the end of one of the world’s most powerful nations and one of the two global superpowers, the United States has continued to pursue an antagonistic foreign policy towards Russia. Many U.S. legislators (if not practically all, considering a July 98-2 Senate vote to slap more sanctions on Russia) have actively rallied against and painted Russia as the biggest threat to global peace, only behind ISIS and North Korea.

Why should the United States not work with Russia or try to remedy relations that have long been neglected? Cooperation with Russia would be in the short and long term benefit of the U.S. by helping combat terrorism originating from the Middle East, creating more diplomatic unity on things such as pressuring North Korea, and stunting the ascendency of China.

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency saw an uncertain future for U.S. foreign policy, especially on the issue of Russia. Candidate Trump promised that he would attempt to remedy relations with the Russian Federation and seek partnership with President Putin. This came much to the dismay of neoconservatives and neoliberals on both the left and right who have continuously beat the drums of war whenever Russia is mentioned. One of President Trump’s main reasons for working with Russia is the fight against terrorism. This is common sense to anyone with a pragmatic view of the world. Defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq is a top priority so why would we make it more difficult on ourselves just because some perceive Russia as a bad actor and our eternal enemy? President Bashar al-Assad has been painted as a vicious tyrant by Western media but he brings a strong and stable hand to a region wrought by volatility–acting as a stalwart defense against the expansion of terrorism. The previous U.S. policy of helping Syrian rebels was thankfully ended because it would have led to a similar situation like Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s regime fell if Assad was ousted. Coordinating has already proved fruitful with a July 2017 regional ceasefire brokered by the U.S. and Russia–reached by Trump and Putin during their G-20 meeting on July 7–that has largely held even when multiple Western analysts predicted it would fail. Working with Russia on things such as coordinated military strikes on ISIS targets would hasten the collapse of their rapidly shrinking territorial possessions.

The United States would create a formidable diplomatic front with Russia if relations were improved. Russia and China are North Korea’s main and most important economic partners. Both nations believe that if North Korea were to fall, the South would assume control of the peninsula thus putting the U.S. right on their respective borders. This would not be in either of their interests because of their current relations with the United States. If the U.S. were on more friendly terms with Russia, they would be more inclined–if not compelled–to completely cut off North Korea in wake of their recent belligerent stance along with nuclear and missile tests. This would effectively put their economy on life support and would place enormous pressure on China for being their last substantial trading partner. This leads into my next point that an alliance with Russia would be almost a nightmare scenario for China. Being surrounded by U.S. allies: India to the South, Japan and South Korea to the East, and Russia to the North, would greatly hinder the expansionist policy of the current Chinese administration. The U.S. would be able to refocus its efforts away from the Middle East and pivot to the Asia-Pacific region as President Obama attempted to do in his last few years in office with things such as the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). President Obama had the right intentions to refocus U.S. efforts in the Pacific because of China’s expansionist moves in the South China Sea and their attempts to form partnerships in the region; however, hostilities with both China and Russia greatly hinders the extent of U.S. influence in the region. Even though Russia is no longer the superpower it was, it is still one of the most powerful global actors and has been ascendant under Putin.

To those who believe that we should not work with Russia, I say that Russia has only been acting in their best interest and has not done anything to directly harm the interests of the U.S. Arguing that Russia should not be trusted because they meddled in our elections is pure political posturing since Russia did not change or alter anyone’s vote; also, it is quite hypocritical considering the U.S. has meddled in other countries’ elections for years. Russia’s annexation of Crimea was surprising in the international arena, but is of no means reason to isolate a nation claiming what was historically theirs. Officially acknowledging Crimea as a part of Russia, advocating for the return of Russia to the G8, and rolling back economic sanctions would put the U.S. and Russia on a path to a mutual relationship of cooperation and possibly friendship.