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Prospects for U.S.-Russian Security Cooperation

Edited by Dr. Stephen J. Blank. | March 2009

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Many might argue that this is a singularly inauspicious time to assess the prospects for U.S.- Russian security cooperation. Arguably, the prospects for bilateral cooperation lay buried under the wheels of Russia's invasion of Georgia in August 2008. Therefore, an analysis of the prospects for and conditions favoring such cooperation is an urgent and important task that cries out for clarification precisely because current U.S.-Russian relations are so difficult. Russia, despite claims made for and against its importance, remains, by any objective standard, a key player in world affairs.

Therefore the chapters in this volume represent both a tribute to a vision of political order based upon such cooperation and a call to action to revitalize that cooperation. The vision is one that emerged out of the end of the Cold War and was based, as Jacob Kipp's chapter indicates, on the aspiration that a new era of Russo-American cooperation was dawning.

We are currently in a period of rising tension that covers arms control, proliferation issues, and the rivalry for regional influence in Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, and even to some degree, East Asia. The intensification of debate over the failure of Russia to democratize and its regression instead back to a system all too redolent of the Tsarist autocracy with some Soviet admixtures has compounded these issues and lent an ideological cast to the concurrent geopolitical rivalry. Yet, the experience of the Mikhail Gorbachev period 1985- 91 (encompassing both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush) strongly suggests that Russo-American cooperation breeds further cooperation between these two and possibly other states and has a profound impact on outstanding international issues, perhaps particularly arms control and proliferation. And, at the same time it has become abundantly clear to all but the most prejudiced or intractable observers that a diplomacy that places competing values above shared interests as the goal of foreign policy is neither realistic nor successful in achieving either interests or values. When first principles become the daily stuff of diplomacy, states' most vital interests are immediately engaged and in a most hostile way. Thus diplomacy is "wrongfooted" from the start. The deterioration of the overall international security environment that we see today is testimony to that fact.

One of the key elements that continues and of which this monograph is a product is the idea of a regular strategic dialogue between Russian, American, and, if possible, European specialists on topical security issues of the day with a view towards outlining the grounds on which cooperation and understanding may be built. Such conferences among experts not only provide an atmosphere for developing both intimacy and candor, but also serve as a resource from which political leaders may ultimately elicit or extract useful ideas or suggested policy approaches to advance such cooperation. This is why these chapters represent a tribute to a vision of just such collaboration. A major reason why these dialogues have been able to continue was the efforts of the late George Kolt, the National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for Russia during the Clinton and both Bush administrations, to whom this book is dedicated.

In the truest sense of the word, these conferences built international understanding and remain a valuable instrument for continuing to do so, and for giving our respective governments greater insight into what can and should be done and what might be achieved through dialogue and Russo-American cooperation. Though these conferences lapsed due to George's protracted final illness and the usual difficulties of obtaining sufficient funding, in March 2008 we were able to resurrect this program at the U.S. Army War College. The papers presented here are thus a tribute to the enduring vitality of the vision of dialogue that hopefully leads to better mutual understanding lasting relationships, and lasting practical cooperation between Russia and the West in general and with America in particular. It is our hope that we will once again be able to institutionalize these conferences and present their products to our audiences in service of this vision of civil, humane dialogue and practical efforts to enhance international security that George Kolt embodied in his life and service to his country.