By Carlos Taibo (for Safe Democracy)

Carlos Taibo explains how diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States have become strained over the last two years. In Taibo‘s opinion, the United States has been pressuring Russia to dissuade the country from alliances with rogue nations, and to impede Russia from returning to its status as a Cold War world power. US pressure has made it difficult for Putin to put foreign policies into practice that achieve positive results for his country.

Carlos Taibo is a professor of political science at the Autonoma University of Madrid where he is reputed as one of the foremost experts on Russia and Eastern Europe. He also teaches international relations and communication at the Complutense University of Madrid. He has published dozens of books on international politics.

THE PAST TWO YEARS HAVE SEEN A DRASTIC CHANGE in American foreign policy towards Russia. From passivity immediately following 9/11, to a much more hardliner and critical stance, US relations with Russia have become increasingly strained leading to the current situation of an American disregard for Russian interests.

The first of many affronts to relations with Russia took place when the United States decided to break the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. The treaty, signed in 1972, was meant to impede strategic advantages that could further escalate the Cold War by prohibiting both Russia and the United States from developing defense shields against ballistic missiles. The treaty held firm until, under the leadership of President Bush, the United States decided to withdraw and begin developing a missile shield, reopening the arms race.

The US initiative to enlarge NATO to include three Baltic States also served to further alienate Russia. The presence of US military contingents in Georgia as well as several Republics in Central Asia, Washington’s backing of the orange revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, and its qualifying of many of Russia’s principal allies as what members of the Axis of Evil have also made Russia question US motives.

And to add insult to injury, there has still been no commercial trade agreement offered to Russia by the United States.

The Jackson-Vanik amendment, set into action in 1975 to punish the USSR for its hindrance of Jewish emigration, continues to hold back the Russian economy. American investments are virtually nonexistent in the struggling Russian market, which is prohibited, under the amendment, from importing computers or other devices, and blocked from competing in the American market. Some ally, who purposefully holds you back from developing.

Relations got even worse in 2005-2006 as American officials began to openly attack the Russian government. US criticism of Russia has been relentless, condemning all issues from the impurity of Russia’s democracy, to the excessive use of force of the FSB, to attacks on private property, to violations of human rights in the conflict with Chechnya, to Putin’s authoritarian leanings.

And following the criticism came threats; threats to pull out of strategic weapons treaties, to expel Russia from the G-8, and to stop acknowledging the country as a market economy.

The US has several goals in mind in its ever tougher treatment of Russia: to pressure Russia towards respecting the democratic rights and liberties of its citizens, to protect the Russian democracy, to dissuade Russia from forming relationships with rogue states, and to inhibit Russia from becoming as powerful of a world player as it was before the Cold War.

In turn, the changing American policy towards Russia reflects the changes within America itself. The government of the United States has become increasingly conservative over the years, and has thus moved away from appeasement tactics. The US no longer feels that it must reward Russia in order to keep the country peaceful and quiet. The new American government is putting Cold War fears behind it.

With the current situation it has been very difficult for Putin to carry forward a foreign policy that both recognizes Russia’s own debilities and builds upon them. And Putin’s inability to forge a stronger nation has made him vulnerable to criticism from the various political gossip shops of his country.

As the US relationship with Russia changes, so do both of the countries. And if diplomacy continues to decline, who knows whether Russia will allow itself to be swayed by American threats, or whether it will break completely with American influence. If so, a whole new set of problems will arise.

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