Valdai Club experts are optimistic about Russian-US relations, noting that they are moving forward on major issues and there are no obstacles to progress.
“The expert community is doing one great thing – putting Russian-US relations onto a normal, positive track,” Russian Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said.
Jack Matlock, US Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in the USSR from 1987 to 1991 and Professor of Princeton University, said that despite some differences on a number of issues, “the most fundamental interests of both the United States and Russia are compatible.” He emphasized that many international problems could be resolved through multilateral cooperation, not just Russia and the United States, because the bipolar world no longer exists. “There was the perception, that we lived in a bipolar world, that we had two superpowers – the United States and the Soviet Union. That was in many ways an illusion. We live in a multipolar world and we always have lived in a multipolar world in terms of solving the problems that we face,” he explained.
James Collins, Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that the international system in which Russia and the United States operate today is in constant flux and therefore extremely unpredictable. “If Russia and the United States can find the way to cooperate and work together on the issues that are presenting themselves to all of us today, then we have the possibility to be quite effective in influencing the direction of international events,” he said.
Experts agree that the economy is a key issue in international relations. It’s very important for the United States and Russia to think about our economic relations and to understand what should be done in the future to make those economic relations productive and strong, Collins believes. He thinks that more opportunities for economic cooperation have emerged after Russia’s accession to the WTO and its efforts to develop an open market.
Alexander Bessmertnykh, former foreign minister of the USSR and former Soviet ambassador to the United States, said Russia’s economic relations with the United States are on a much lower level than with European or Asian countries, and that success in this sphere depends on the willingness of business people “to triple trade and increase mutual investment.”
At the same time, much depends on the US position, as the country has been battling serious economic problems that are difficult to resolve. Sergei Rogov, Director of the Institute for US and Canadian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that “despite China’s rise, the United States will remain the number one country in the foreseeable future,” adding, “This is why bilateral economic relations remain important.”
Russia and America should also work together to settle regional conflicts, for instance, in Syria. Rogov believes they should not take extreme positions as they did during the global ideological confrontation of the Cold War. James Collins said talking about each other’s mistakes they have forgotten what they could do together.
The ABM Treaty continues to be the main problem in bilateral talks. Collins said he does not see any technological obstacles to cooperation in developing a missile defense system. New opportunities for dialogue emerged after the decision of the Obama administration to scrap the missile defense system in Europe. “Now the task is to enhance European and global security,” Bessmertnykh said. “Washington’s move is very interesting but it is important to analyze its potential consequences.”
“Complications are a regular, normal part of bilateral relations. Yes, we have problems but we don’t think our relations with the United States are in crisis,” Bessmertnykh concluded.