US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Traditionally, Americans did not consider Russia an enemy of the United States, wrote the former US ambassador to the USSR. Everything changed after the 1917 revolution, but the popular misconception in America is that the conflict only began during the Cold War era. Arms races are stable processes and continue to live their own lives for a long time, the author is sure.
During his long diplomatic career, George F. Kennan repeatedly worked in Moscow: in 1933-1934 he was a member of the first official US mission in the USSR, in 1944 he served as an adviser-envoy at the American Embassy in the Soviet Union, and in 1952 Mr. was appointed ambassador there. In 1947, he devised a “containment” strategy that became the basis of the postwar United States policy towards the USSR. In 1961-63. he served as the US Ambassador to Yugoslavia. Kennan was professor emeritus at the Institute for Basic Research at Princeton University.
The first months of the new year and the beginning of the new administration’s activities are a good moment to get away from momentary affairs for a moment and consider these issues from a historical perspective.
It is worth remembering that traditionally the Americans did not consider Russia an enemy of the United States. Of course, the majority of Americans did not accept such a form of government as the tsarist autocracy. But we were ready to take it for granted and maintain normal mutually beneficial relations with the tsarist government since Russia did not pose a threat to the national security of the United States.
Everything changed after the Russian Revolution of 1917. In our country, it seems, there is a widespread opinion that the Cold War – as a concept denoting a state of acute conflict and tension between two states – began only in 1945, after the end of World War II. war. This impression is wrong.
At the lowest level, US-Russian relations were in the first 16 years after the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917. The Americans were deeply shocked by the scale of violence during the revolution, the fanaticism and cruelty of the new rulers of the country, their refusal to recognize state debts and other obligations associated with the recent ended with the war, and especially the overt propaganda of the idea of a world revolution, as well as the attempts of the Bolsheviks to bring the communists to power in other countries.
All these 16 years, as many of us remember, America had no official contacts with the Soviet regime. Even after the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1933, they remained cool and not cloudless. After all, Stalinist tyranny is not a form of government with which any country could comfortably coexist. Stalin’s cynical pact with Hitler at the start of World War II also did nothing to improve the attitude of most Americans towards the Soviet regime.
In 1941-1945, when the Soviet Union and the United States were at war with Germany, the mutual antagonism of their political systems was tempered in the interests of military cooperation. However, this friendship was ostentatious, and did not differ in-depth in the perception of both sides; as soon as the fighting ended, serious new tensions began to arise between them.
As a result of the war, the entire background of US-Russian bilateral relations has fundamentally changed. The interest in the world revolution, which had weakened even in the interwar period, almost completely disappeared from the rhetoric and practical politics of Moscow. However, it was replaced by new sources of the difficulty.
As a result of World War II, most of the eastern half of the European continent was under the military-political control of the Soviet Union. This represented a significant shift in the overall balance of power in Europe, which in itself could not but worry the Western Allies. However, the severity of the changes was compounded by the impact of additional circumstances. One of them was the fact that the Soviet leadership did not carry out the demobilization of its armed forces in Europe, comparable in scale to the sharp reduction in the number of troops of the Western powers immediately after the end of hostilities. Another factor was the brutal suppression by the Soviet police and party authorities of any manifestation of independence and democratization in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe occupied by Soviet troops.
In addition, it soon became clear that Soviet leaders were trying to take advantage of the then state of several Western European nations – ‘stunned’, exhausted and confused after the just-ended war – to impose communist ‘minority regimes’ on them, such as those that Moscow was already actively creating in that parts of Europe that came under her rule.
Finally, all this was complemented by the overwhelming impact of a new factor that had no precedent in the history of mankind, overturning all existing doctrines, and permeating any fears and ambitions associated with military power: the appearance of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the United States and the USSR.
It was from this “witch’s potion” that the Cold War was born as a symbolic expression of the new, extremely antagonistic nature of Soviet-American relations. At first, it was, paradoxically, the practical embodiment of Trotsky’s famous formula “no peace, no war.” Nobody broke diplomatic relations, and “guns” including nuclear weapons were silent for the time being.
However, in those days it was a stone’s throw to the fatal threshold, behind which the ‘hot’ war began. Many, including Stalin himself, considered it likely, if not inevitable, that he would soon be crossed. In both countries, the military establishment has been taught to assume that war, or some form of military confrontation, is the only outcome that can ultimately end this conflict. In many ways – and indeed in everything except the exchange of volleys – in the minds of millions of people, military and civilians, the war has already become a reality.
Although numerous crises have occurred later, the culmination of the Cold War is probably the outbreak of hostilities in Korea. It is known how events developed further. Fortunately for all of us, the war between the Soviet Union and the United States never broke out. The crisis has been overcome.
And over the next forty years (until the mid-eighties), all these components of the Cold War, often retaining their importance in the perceptions of citizens of both countries, have lost some of their acuteness, if not reality. The peoples of Western Europe soon regained political balance, prosperity, and self-confidence. After the successful implementation of the Marshall Plan, the dangers of communist infiltration into the region were no longer discussed.
Moreover, both sides gradually learned to ‘coexist’ with nuclear weapons, if only in the fact that they were recognized as a suicidal weapon that should never be used – any such attempt would turn into a catastrophe, depriving the very concepts of ‘victory’ and ‘defeat’ ‘. As for the balance of conventional armed forces in Europe, the creation of the NATO bloc restored an approximate military balance in the central part of the Continent. Moreover, it became increasingly clear that both sides had neither the incentives nor the desire to unleash even a “conventional” war in the region, let alone a nuclear one.
In light of these changes, one might assume that the highly militarized concept of East-West relations, embodied in the term “cold war”, should also become a thing of the past. However, military preparations and arms races are stable processes. They generate their logic of habits and suspicions. And the latter continue to live their own lives even after the reasons that caused them to come to naught.
Thus, in this sense, the Cold War continued to exist in the minds of many people in the sixties and seventies, when its foundations have largely sunk into oblivion. It was only in the mid-1980s, when Russia had a leader who was wise enough to realize that the logic of the Cold War had largely lost touch with reality, and brave enough to declare it publicly and act accordingly, did the world understand: one the era of overcoming the gigantic destructive consequences of World War II is over, and new times have begun. This new era, of course, will bring with it new problems, as is always the case with gigantic changes in international relations, but at the same time it will open up new opportunities for us.
It is at this historic turn that we find ourselves today. The sources of contradictions between the two states, rooted in the pre-war period, have lost their serious importance. The same reasons for the conflict that are associated with the results of the Second World War have already been largely mitigated, and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, by all indications, seeks to eliminate them. Where are we going next?
The situation in Russia today is simply unprecedented in many ways. We are witnessing the disappearance of the last vestiges of that unique – and nightmarish – system of government that is called Stalinism. The current period in terms of the level of freedom is largely unparalleled in the history of the country, except for a few years of rapid changes that preceded the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
However, the concept of ‘freedom’ must be handled with care. It does not mean that Russia is becoming the same as we are. It does not happen, cannot happen, and should not be expected to happen. In the long term, the political system and the methods that any state uses reflect the ideas and expectations of the people. The Russian people and several other peoples inhabiting the USSR have never known democracy in our understanding of the word. They almost lack the centuries-old experience that shapes the discipline of self-government from which our political culture was born. If we install our political system in Russia tomorrow, most people will not know what to do with it, and what they will do with it may be very different from our expectations.
Thus, it is obvious that no matter what happens, and no matter what the outcome of Gorbachev’s efforts to restructure Soviet society, Russia remains and will remain a country very different from ours. Do not think that these differences can be overcome in a short time.
Besides, the political interests of Russia – a great modern power with a unique geographic location, and the heir to large-scale obligations arising from this position – will inevitably differ from ours. Fortunately, they generally do not directly conflict with US interests. The disagreements that persist today do not exclude normal relations between our countries, especially when a person like Gorbachev defines them from the Russian side. However, such a disparity means that in the long term we should not expect the establishment of political relations with the ruling regimes in Russia as close as with countries that are more sharing our views and institutions.
With all of the above, there is no doubt that Gorbachev, for his part, clearly shows an intention to remove as much as possible the obstacles that have complicated Soviet-American relations in the past, and several bold steps he has taken in this direction testifies to the sincerity of these intentions. To the extent that he succeeds in bringing these efforts to their logical conclusion (which depends in part on our reciprocal steps), for the United States, his actions represent the most favorable opportunity in the last 70 years to establish normal, constructive, and encouraging relations with the Soviet Union. …
Gorbachev is in an extremely difficult position. The burden he has placed on himself seems almost overwhelming for the average person. His attempts to reform the country’s economy so far have revealed mainly the fact that the damage is done to Soviet society – in economic, social, and spiritual terms – over 50 years of Stalinist terror, and then Brezhnev’s corruption and stagnation turned out to be much more serious than any we could guess. Repairing this damage and building a healthy society will take much longer than previously thought.
Nobody can say whether Gorbachev will have this time. Its difficulties are compounded by the fact that the unintended and unexpected result of the reforms was a surge in nationalist sentiment in several non-Russian ethnic groups living in the USSR. Thus, the political problem of the relationship of the non-Russian periphery with the Russian center acquired unexpected urgency – a problem that many of us considered a matter of the distant future. This – especially in the case of the three Baltic republics – has created a situation of extreme political instability. The point is this: any events in these regions of the USSR are closely related to what is happening in the so-called ‘satellite countries’ of Eastern and Central Europe, and if things in this whole region get further out of control, situations may arise,
How long Gorbachev will be able – or how long his colleagues will allow him – to carry this burden is an open question. In many important aspects, his position is strong: he has an excellent reputation as a statesman, and besides, any successor will inherit not only the powers but also the problems of the current Soviet leader, which all his opponents are probably well aware of. On the other hand, he is subjected to the most severe pressure.
Likewise, it is impossible to predict what will happen if Gorbachev is removed. True, almost all observers agree on one thing: a return to the situation that existed before he came to power is out of the question. The intelligentsia was allowed to unfold, and it is impossible to imagine that the current generation of intellectuals would allow themselves to be silenced again, as before. And that’s not all: Gorbachev’s economic reforms, even though they have not yielded results to date, have been officially approved by the highest bodies of the party and government. They can lift this sanction without embarrassing themselves only if someone proposes a better alternative – and nothing of the kind is happening yet.
Thus, it can be assumed that anyone who succeeds Gorbachev will have to largely follow his course – albeit at a slower pace and without the boldness inherent in the current leader.
This especially applies to the foreign policy sphere, which is of particular interest to us. In Russia itself, of all Gorbachev’s activities, it is the foreign policy that causes the least criticism. Conservatives – in both military and civilian circles – would probably like to undo, if possible, some of his more ‘conciliatory’ moves on arms control; but they will no doubt soon find themselves facing the same financial difficulties that Gorbachev is trying to overcome, so that in this area, too, their room for maneuver is likely to be severely limited.
Thus, it can be assumed that the policy that Gorbachev symbolizes will largely remain after him, even if he is removed shortly. In the meantime, fortunately for us, he continues to hold his ground, albeit balancing on a chasm – largely due to his extraordinary foresight, imagination, and courage, as well as the relative mediocrity and intellectual dullness of most of his opponents.
Accordingly, for the leadership of the new administration, the situation on the Russian arena at the moment is extremely unpredictable – Russia, perhaps, has not known such uncertainty since the fateful 1917. And to the question “What is most likely to happen in this country in the coming years” there is only one answer – something that no one expects.
This unpredictability undoubtedly requires constant vigilance, caution, and foresight from the creators of American policy towards the USSR. This, however, cannot serve as a basis for rejecting the opportunities offered by Gorbachev’s policies in terms of easing military tensions and improving the general atmosphere in relations between East and West. If now, “while the iron is hot,” we reach realistic and lasting agreements with Moscow, if these agreements, as should be expected, are perceived there as meeting Soviet interests, if they, as they should be, contain built-in compliance mechanisms, if they, which is quite likely, will be confirmed by official agreements – then the rearrangements in the Soviet leadership by themselves will not lead to their annulment.
In light of all this, what should be the goals of the US policy towards the foreign partner, into which Gorbachev is trying to turn Russia? What can we do, on our part, to help normalize our relations and build the future of these relations following the positive potential inherent in them?
It seems obvious – at least to the author of this line – that our primary concern should be to eliminate, as far as it is in our power, those features of American politics and practical diplomacy, whose basis and logic are still outdated ideas of the Cold War times. devoid of any serious justification today.
To some extent, this is already being done. Cultural exchanges and people-to-people contacts are developing rapidly without encountering major obstacles on either side. The same can be said for scientific exchanges. In all of these areas, the initiative usually – and rightly so – comes from individuals. The task of the state, first of all, is not to interfere, but, on the contrary, to provide support to such contacts where it is required. The fact that things are going so well in these areas is an inspiring testimony that people need them and that they are a very useful element of normal relations between two great nations.
There is also progress in commerce, but obstacles remain – obstacles that have no foundation today that can be easily removed.
There is some debate about whether Gorbachev should be helped. However, its very statement is incorrect. The difference between economic cooperation and aid should be considered. Gorbachev is not asking us for any loans, soft loans, or other extraordinary forms of assistance, and he is unlikely to ask for it. However, even if he did, it would be inappropriate to provide such assistance.
The Russians are asking for something else, and this request deserves satisfaction – to provide them with normal trading opportunities, including, of course, the provision of ordinary commercial loans by both parties in specific transactions. In this area, two unnecessary barriers remain, established back in the 1970s. – the Jackson-Vanik and Stevenson amendments to the 1974 Foreign Trade Law, which essentially denied the USSR a normal customs regime and limited the possibilities for obtaining commercial loans. There are no excuses for these restrictions, which at that time did not bring any tangible benefit to anyone, now there are no excuses at all – the sooner Congress lifts them, the better.
In general, with the observance of the minimum precautions related to national security, Soviet-American trade should develop unhindered. Its potential is by no means unlimited: today the Soviet side has little to offer us in terms of exports, and its foreign exchange resources for imports are sharply limited. However, the opportunities available here cannot be considered insignificant, and they should not be constrained by unnecessary government restrictions.
The most serious factor affecting Soviet-American relations is undoubtedly the problem of arms control, including the ongoing rivalry in the development of strategic nuclear weapons and the opposition of conventional armed forces in Central Europe. This unlawful military confrontation, absolutely incommensurate with the political divisions that allegedly justify it, constitutes an inexhaustible source of mutual distrust and suspicion, distracts public attention from the more serious aspects of our bilateral relations, and consumes huge resources that could be used for more fruitful purposes. … What can be done here? Of course, not everything depends on us. This tango requires two partners. However,
Of course, one undoubted success in this area has been achieved in recent years: I mean the Treaty on Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, according to which such missiles that are in service on both sides in Central Europe are eliminated. This success was made possible by the readiness of Reagan and Gorbachev to set aside the cumbersome negotiation mechanisms at the military-technical level and make a bold move based on a reasonable credit of trust to the other side. However, this was only a small step towards a general arms reduction. As for the rest, our actions in this direction raise many questions. So, by now – as soon as we wanted to – we could certainly agree on a complete ban on nuclear tests; this more than anything else could serve as a guarantee of large-scale, albeit gradual, reduction of nuclear weapons. However, there is still no such agreement.
As soon as we wanted to, we would almost certainly have already agreed on a 50% reduction in long-range nuclear missiles, which both Reagan and Gorbachev spoke of as desirable. Such an agreement would probably change the whole atmosphere on the issue of arms control. However, it has not yet been concluded. Instead, we have opted for the implementation of the Strategic Defense Initiative and the modernization and subsequent build-up of our strategic nuclear arsenal.
The costs associated with the presence of an American military presence in West Germany are currently reported to consume up to 40% of our gigantic military budget. None of the practically implemented measures is capable of ensuring the reduction of the US federal budget as directly and significantly as a significant relief of the burden of these expenses. For years we have been timidly discussing the idea of negotiations on the reduction of military groupings in the region, but we have not begun to implement it. Now, this process has moved into the framework of a much broader forum (we are talking about the negotiations in Vienna across the entire region from the Atlantic to the Urals, in which many more countries participate), and the likelihood of achieving any result in the foreseeable future has weakened rather than increased.
Gorbachev, meanwhile, announced important changes in Soviet military doctrine affecting the composition and tasks of the Soviet group in this region: in particular, we are talking about the withdrawal from forwarding positions of those types of weapons that can be used for a surprise attack. This revision of the doctrine is accompanied by some specific proposals from the USSR or the Warsaw Pact countries for various confidence-building measures and large-scale self-limiting unilateral steps by Moscow.
From our side, these initiatives are generally met with a cool attitude, embarrassment, and often even dissatisfaction. Because of this, many citizens of other countries are wondering: are we seriously interested in the problem of arms control? Is this all we can do? The hesitation underlying such a restrained response appears to be primarily due to the perception, so often promoted and supported by US officials, that the Soviet Union has an overwhelming conventional superiority in the Central European theater that will persist even after the implementation of unilateral measures announced by Gorbachev. For many of us, however, this thesis raises serious doubts, and they are based on statistical data that is known to official Washington,
This confusion is the result of several miscalculations of a more fundamental nature. To assess the balance of power between the United States and the USSR in Central Europe, unrealistic and significantly distorted criteria for comparing the military capabilities of NATO and the Warsaw Pact are used. It is still widely believed that US tactical and operational-tactical nuclear weapons stationed in West Germany constitute a critical element of “containment” without which there would be a danger of Soviet aggression in the region. Finally – and this is closely related to the previous thesis about the aggressive plans of the USSR – our military departments insist that the degree of “threat” that any foreign power poses to us should be measured solely based on our assessment of its military potential.
It is in the interests of the new Washington administration to reevaluate these and other similar approaches, and ask oneself a question: given the dangers and costs associated with maintaining these incongruously giant arsenals by both sides, shouldn’t more realistic criteria for assessing the problem and more promising ways to solve it be developed? ?
If in this way it is possible to overcome some of the most obvious and serious obstacles preventing the improvement of relations with the Soviet Union, the main thing that needs to be done will be done. Bilateral relations between sovereign states are not an area where particularly positive results can be achieved; rather, they help resolve conflicts of interest and avoid negative consequences. If we can at least eliminate the most serious lingering sources of tension between the two governments, that in itself will be a tremendous achievement.
But that will not be all. Even between states that differ in their traditions and ideological principles as the USSR and the USA, there are certain opportunities for cooperation. These opportunities affect a number of areas, of which the largest and most important is undoubtedly the protection and improvement of the environment on a global scale.
The dangers that arise in this area for all mankind are confirmed not only by the conclusions of numerous scientists but in some cases by our feelings. What we can and must do to avert the impending catastrophe, in the main, must be carried out at the level of individual states; and in this regard, both we and the Russians will have to actively make up for a lost time before we can say we have done our best. However, environmental problems do not know state borders, and for efforts in this area at the national level to be maximized, they must be complemented by measures of an international scale. This fact is now gaining more and more widespread recognition both in Russia and in our country: environmental organizations are actively being created in various regions of the Soviet Union.
No two other countries can make the same contribution to solving the problem as the United States and the Soviet Union if they wish to join forces. The same is true for space exploration. If we can overcome the idea that space exploration should provide us primarily with military advantages, the possibilities for serious cooperation with the USSR in this area will become obvious.
Such cooperation will be justified by the immediate results that it can give. However, it is also necessary to take into account the likelihood that joining the efforts of the two countries in these areas can also facilitate the overcoming of the remaining obstacles for establishing strong and constructive relations between them as a whole. Indeed, the very process of cooperation for peaceful purposes, in solving problems important for all of humanity, will overshadow the neurotic impulses of military-political rivalry, and between our peoples, within the framework of joint creative efforts, a strong connection can be formed that cannot be achieved in other areas of interstate relations …
The phenomenon that we are witnessing today represents the final overcoming of the consequences of the Russian revolution of 1917. The current Soviet leaders, unlike their predecessors, will have to rely not only on the post-revolutionary period but also on the entire Russian history. What they are creating and what we are dealing with is another Russia, which cannot be fully identified either with the revolutionary era or the centuries-old period of the tsarist autocracy that preceded it.
Building this new Russia requires an innovative approach not only from the people who are doing this in Moscow but also from the American government, for which it is perhaps more important to establish contact with it than for the leadership of any other country in the world.
The Bush administration will have to solve this problem. It certainly cannot ignore the events of the recent past, but if the current administration is trapped in the emotional trauma of these events, it will not succeed.
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