Webinar Recap: US – Russia Relations: The Cold War 2.0?

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Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, October 13th, 2020, the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs held a webinar discussion on US-Russia Relations: The Cold War 2.0. The expert roundtable discussion consisted of participants Dakota Wood, Senior Research Fellow for Defense Programs at the Heritage Foundation; Editor, Index for U.S. Military Strength and Suzanne Massie, Former Advisor to President Ronald Reagan; Expert, Author, Scholar on US-Russia relations.  

Principal Director, Justin Russell, moderated the discussion beginning with the context of US-Russia relations at the conclusion of World War II.

Dakota Wood offered the view that it stemmed from the two desires of the United States and the Soviet Union to expand their influence in spite of competing interests.

To that end, Suzanne Massie noted that there is a distinct difference between the Soviet Union and Russia, and that has played into the notion of a new Cold War. Rather, the term “Soviet” holds a negative connotation in modern day Russia. 

Massie offered a unique perspective regarding misperceptions of Russian “aggression.”  Offering alternatives to what she perceives has been a mostly negative US media campaign on the Russian government.  She also contributed rare insight into the Russian demographic and its under-reported information.  For example, Russia is a young country, the US is an old country. She noted that Russian society is made up of mostly young people and young men, and even the announcers on television are young. The deputies are under the age of 50. They are educated differently, they are not oligarchs and the US has not done basic study on any of them, contrary to the method of President Ronald Reagan.

Wood echoed the importance of acknowledging the differentiation of the new world and the old world. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was a happy time for the United States. Within the US diplomatic intelligence community, the US got rid of all the Sovietologists, and the people who were studying the Soviet Union.  Then, when 9/11 happened the US shifted its focus. Since 2001, the US intelligence community has been focused on the Middle East and Latin America. The idea of focusing on foreign leaders went out the door, and now the rise in China, while Putin is coming to power, the US has not been able to carve it out.  There is only so much time and so many people in an organization. If 80% are looking at terrorist groups, there are not the resources to adapt to learning about modern day Russia. 

Speaking in terms of national security strategy, and talk of a heightened arms race possibly starting, Dakota Wood provided insight into potential options. The US has a couple options: they can either continue a confrontational relationship or try and talk compliance to try and make it better. Another option would be to respond in a way that has consequences to this. Wood suggested that if Russia is not going to be open in the Open Sky Treaty, the US needs to have another discussion about this arrangement. If the US is going to have limitations towards countries it can not be just against Russia, it should be against all countries, especially with the rise of China.  Furthermore, COVID-19 is a factor affecting economies. When the US wants to talk to European partners, the expectation is mutual assurance from our allies, but they have other interests. This is a multifaceted complex issue.  It is a competition for how Russia views the world and how the world views Russia. One side cannot sit down and let the other power run the show, that is why there always needs to be some sort of competition. 

The presentations were followed by an in-depth question and answer segment. If you were unable to attend this event, you can watch a recording of the webinar on our YouTube Channel or by following us on Facebook. 

Don’t miss the next Zoom webinar for the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs!  

For updates on future event updates, please visit nycfpa.org or e-mail info@nycfpa.org.

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