Us – Russia Relations
US – Russia Relations
Russia has been at the forefront of the international arena since the early 20th century, consistently involved in political, military, and economic affairs around the globe. Beginning in World War II, the Soviet Union emerged as a powerful force that deserved global recognition. The ensuing Cold War from 1947-1991 solidified the USSR’s position as not only the dominant hegemon in the region, but also as an international superpower capable of contending with the United States of America. The economic and foreign policies practiced by the Soviet Union were historically based on a Marxist-Leninist foundation, a foundation which shaped the future policies and practices of the USSR and whose lingering effects can still be seen in modern Russia. Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the newly formed government of the Russian Federation made staggered progress towards democratization during the early 1990s. Throughout this tumultuous time, Russia experienced a period of economic expansion from reformed Russian markets in the early 1990s, compounded by rapidly increasing oil prices. However, when Vladimir Vladimirivich Putin assumed control of the Russian Federation in 1999, many of the democratic tendencies established in the early 1990s began to regress. This decade is essential to understanding the relationship between the US and USSR because during this lost decade, Russia began forcefully obtaining control of the nation through manipulative policies that inhibited political, social, and economic freedoms. Putin’s state refused to impede corruption, and in many ways proliferated the corruption themselves, causing the proliferation of economic deterioration in the Russian Federation. Many challenges to the current political and economic landscape in Russia can be tied to President Vladimir Putin and the kleptocratic regime he has created to rule the country. The current relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation is more easily evidenced when using a Neoclassical Realist theoretical approach to explain the policy actions of Russia in the past two decades. In order to fully understand the complex relationship between the Russian Federation in modern times, it is essential to recognize the nuanced history of the Cold War and its lasting impact. Therefore, my paper initially covers the relationship between the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War, then discusses the current relationship with the Russian Federation. I argue that the current relationship between the United States of America and the Russian Federation is the direct result of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the policies he has enacted while in control of his state, leading to a reversion towards Cold War policies of the Soviet Union and a degradation in relations with the West.
History: World War II
Russia’s turbulent relationship with the United States began during World War II. In 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a treaty that guaranteed mutual non-aggression between the two nations. This concerned the Ally powers, and two powerful Communist states in the same region agreeing to mutual neutrality towards each other which had the potential to blossom into an alliance against the Western powers. However, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was short-lived. On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, a full-scale assault on Soviet positions in Poland. This caused Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to terminate the Pact, and seek an alliance with Western powers against Germany. Shortly after Germany’s invasion of Soviet Russia began, the USSR entered into an alliance agreement with the United Kingdom, formally called the Anglo-Soviet Agreement. In August 1941, only a month after signing the Anglo-Soviet Agreement, the United States and the USSR signed an economic trade agreement through America’s Lend-Lease program. Through this program, the United States provided the Soviet Union with food, oil, warships and warplanes, and other weaponry and materials. When the Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the US and USSR formally became military allies in the fight against the Axis Powers. Although America and the Soviets were cooperating operationally during the War, President Truman stated that it did not matter to the United States whether a German or Russian soldier died, declaring “"If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don't want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances.” The relations between the two superpowers remained generally amiable throughout World War II. However, as the War began to end in 1945, so did the relationship between the Americans and Soviets.
Beginning in 1945, American-Soviet relations began to sharply decline. The American, British, and Russian heads of state met twice during 1945 to discuss the future of war-torn Europe. The first meeting was held in February 1945 in Soviet-controlled Crimea, and became known as the Yalta Conference. The stated purpose of the Yalta Conference was to re-establish the decimated countries in Europe and promote continued peace between post-war countries. One of the main discussion points during the Yalta Conference revolved around how to divide the government and territory of European countries like Poland between the three powers, an issue that was never properly resolved. The second meeting occurred in July and August 1945, and was held in Potsdam, Germany, and later became known as the Potsdam Conference. The Potsdam Conference was one of the most influential meetings between the United States, United Kingdom, and Soviet Union. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met to establish order in post-war Europe, smooth out peace treaties, and, most importantly, determine how to establish and divide control of the government of Germany. The result was the division of Germany’s capital into East and West Berlin, a border which was recognized until the eventual fall of the Soviet Union in 1990. The final outcome of the conference was the Potsdam Declaration, a document that detailed the terms of surrender for Japan. It was during the discussion about the Potsdam Declaration that Roosevelt told Stalin about America’s new atomic bombs, which they would detonate only a week later to force the full Japanese surrender. The Yalta and Potsdam Conferences are now widely regarded as the commencement of the decline in US-USSR relations and the foundation for many Cold War issues and policies.
The Cold War foundation laid in 1945 at the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences were propounded