Whatever happened to the end of the Cold War?
According to Stent (Government and Foreign Service/Georgetown Univ.; Russia and Germany Reborn: Unification, the Soviet Collapse, and the New Europe, 1998, etc.), since the collapse of the Soviet Union barely 20 years ago, there have been four “resets” in relations. George H.W. Bush was wary but optimistic, Bill Clinton welcoming, George W. Bush ambivalent and Barack Obama—well, just a touch frosty, at least in some measure due to Vladimir Putin’s return to power. Why, Stent wonders, “has it been so difficult to develop a productive and more predictable post–Cold War U.S.–Russian partnership”? Her lucid book is an extended answer to that pointed question. Part of the problem is Russia’s unwillingness to become a second-tier power, and, as Stent notes, the nation’s GDP has in fact grown sevenfold since 2000, largely due to oil and gas exports. Couple that with the fact that Russia has few material needs for which it requires America’s participation to meet, and it becomes more difficult to exert any sort of economic control. Meanwhile, many Russians have regarded the period following the Soviet collapse not as a harbinger of peace and prosperity but as a shameful tumble into irrelevancy and disorder, something to be avoided in the future. George W. Bush’s fateful assertion that he could look inside Putin’s soul aside, what is clear from Stent’s book is that it is in the self-interest of the U.S. to develop friendlier ties with Russia, even as tensions continue to pull the nations apart—most recently, the kerfuffle over Edward Snowden, who has found safe harbor of a kind in Moscow thanks to “the lack of an extradition treaty,” something a security-conscious administration might want to remedy.
Academic but readable and sometimes surprising, as when Stent reminds readers that Putin offered important information just before 9/11 that went ignored.