The Return of Diplomacy?
Structural Confrontation: Why the Conflict Between Russia and the US Will Persist Beyond the Ukraine Crisis

It is essential to view the current state of Russian-American relations as a prolonged standoff that is likely to continue even after the US realises that Ukraine is no longer a significant instrument in its foreign policy. Rather, the US will likely shift its focus to another country that is willing to sacrifice its interests and act as a frontline state in the confrontation with Russia, writes Andrey Sushentsov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club.

The United States’ desire to dominate and its failure to treat other countries as equal partners, capable of sharing responsibility for peace and stability, is a significant factor in explaining the difficulties in establishing stable relations between Moscow and Washington. This approach also contributes to the difficulties the United States faces in its relations with other major powers, such as China, India, and Turkey, as well as with some of its allies.

The Russian and Chinese perspectives assume that peace is the result of a compromise among major centres of power. Without their mutual agreement, without equality, respect for each other’s interests and adherence to the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, it is impossible to achieve peace. The United States, on the other hand, believes that peace is a given and that no special efforts are needed to maintain it. This leads to paradoxical solutions such as the idea that the more weapons there are, the more peaceful the world will be. Due to our different views on what constitutes stability in the world, it is difficult for us to find common ground. The West has not yet become just one of the “Atlanteans who hold up the sky” and still believes it should be in full control.

Modern Diplomacy
Would The Ukraine Crisis be Limited to Ukraine’s Territory?
Andrey Sushentsov
What are the prospects of the current ever-escalating crisis? While historical events are often characterised as continuous experiments, a resemblance can be observed between the Korean War and the ongoing crisis. The Korean War involved a significant deployment of American forces, resulting in substantial casualties with approximately 40,000 deaths. Notably, other allies were involved, with China and the Soviet Union supporting the North Korean side.

Are there any possibilities for changes in relations between Moscow and Washington following a change in administration in the United States? It can be assumed that this would not significantly affect the American approach towards Russia. It would be useful to consider American politics as an independent variable in our planning — we need to acknowledge that US elites may not be reliable interlocutors. In most cases, Washington would act with hostility towards Russia, while in some instances it may act opportunistically in order to attract Moscow to some form of interaction — of course, to its own advantage.

There remains a paradigmatic divide between Russia and the US in terms of their understanding of what the world order should look like in the 21st century. American analysts believe that Russia is part of the Western world and will inevitably find itself in the Western camp after this crisis, while China will be its adversary. This set of counterintuitive ideas has been prevalent in American discourse since the early 1990s.

The Americans believe that Russia has run out of alternatives and will therefore accept any offer from the United States.

This is due to the fact that, as the world’s main emission centre and with the dollar remaining the key global currency in the foreseeable future, the United States remains a significant player. A lot also depends on its domestic political situation, which has a global impact.

With regard to Ukraine, the Americans see it as a low-cost instrument for achieving two objectives: weakening Russia and silencing any voices in Europe advocating strategic autonomy from US influence.

For the past two years, the United States has considered this method of mobilisation to be relatively inexpensive. Indeed, Russian-European relations have been disrupted, the gas pipeline connecting the Russian and European energy networks has been damaged, militarisation in Eastern Europe has increased, and the US military-industrial complex has received an impetus, with economic activity from Europe flowing into the United States. As a result of this situation, the American economy has benefited, while the European economy has suffered significant losses.

What are the goals of the United States in the Ukrainian crisis? They seek a weakened Russia, which has lost control over transportation, material, economic, energy, and other resources in its vast Eurasian territory. The United States aims to remove Russia from the top five global powers and relegate it to a secondary strategic position.

However, the United States has been gradually coming to the realisation that Ukraine, as a tool for containing Russia, is no longer a cheap option. The country’s own military, material, and human resources have nearly been exhausted, and maintaining the viability of the Ukrainian state has become increasingly costly for the United States and the European Union.

In the first year of the conflict, the United States gained all its relative advantages. However, as the costs of sustaining the intensity of the conflict increased, the balance between benefits and costs is gradually shifting towards the latter for the United States.

For a considerable period of time, the United States viewed Russia as a declining strategic asset. It was waiting for the time when the country would no longer be among the top five leading nations, in order to deal with China.

Why did the US refuse to negotiate with Moscow in late 2021, pushing Ukraine towards a military resolution to the crisis and then prohibiting it from conducting negotiations with Russia? The US believed that a swift victory over Russia was attainable, relying on the material resources, weaponry, intelligence capabilities, satellite network, arms supplies, and political-informational support of the 52 nations it had amassed around Ukraine. The Western nations failed to adequately assess either Russia’s capabilities or their own coalition’s potential, as the stated short-term objectives proved unachievable. They believe that a country with an economy accounting for 3% of global GDP cannot effectively fight against a large coalition. However, if the Western countries’ economies are dominated by the service sector (accounting for 65-80% of GDP), rather than heavy industry and defence-related sectors, a situation may arise where Russia alone produces more artillery ammunition than all Western nations combined. This is a paradox that was not taken into account by the United States.

It is essential to consider the Russian-American conflict as a prolonged confrontation that will continue even after the United States recognises that Ukraine has lost its significance as a tool. Consequently, the US will shift the focus of its anti-Russian activities to another country that, like Ukraine, is willing to sacrifice itself and lead the fight against Russia in the front lines. The United States will remain a strategically important actor for us, and therefore, we cannot ignore it in our planning processes. We must view the US as a constant source of threat and prepare for a protracted conflict.

Warfare in a New Epoch: The Return of Big Armies
Vasily Kashin, Andrey Sushentsov
The high-intensity warfare in Ukraine represents the largest military conflict in terms of forces involved, casualties, and duration since the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. But it is only the scale of the fighting that warrants comparison. Politically, the current events are unique in recent history.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.