Angela Stent Discusses Her New Book on U.S.–Russian Relations at EWI
Angela E. Stent discussed The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century, her timely new book, calling for a fundamental reassessment of the principles and practices driving this bilateral relationship, at the EastWest Institute’s New York Center, on February 12, 2014. She both described the trajectory of the relationship and suggested a path forward to meet the urgent challenges facing both countries.
Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University, discussed U.S.-Russian relations from both historic and present-day standpoints. Though the two countries share common interests, their perspectives diverge significantly on three issues: Snowden, Syria and Sochi.
EWI President John Mroz introduced Stent at the event, which was well attended by members of the foreign policy community and press. A lively discussion followed her presentation.
Building on President Barack Obama’s comments that he wants to “pause and reassess” ties with Russia, Stent echoed that we are now in a down cycle of collaboration, particularly fueled by the Snowden issue, which is a “new low point in the bilateral relationship.”
As detailed in her book, Stent defined a series of four “resets” in U.S.–Russian relations since the Soviet Union’s collapse, beginning with nuclear disarmament and ending with the 2011 Moscow protests. Stent highlighted the disproportionate importance of personal relations between the two countries’ leaders in how the states have interacted post-Cold War. She described the varying rapport between top officials—from President Obama and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Stent pointed to several instances where the U.S. has hindered a more productive bilateral relationship over the years, including, most recently, the Magntisky Act, a bill passed by the U.S. Congress that specifically targeted Russian citizens accused of corruption and human rights abuses. She noted that when it comes to criticizing Russia for human rights violations, it’s important for the U.S. to “sit back and do a cost-benefit analysis.” But she also argued that the United States should not retreat from its principles, particularly when there are issues such as the Kremlin’s increased pressure on NGOs and legislation targeting gays.
While recognizing the role that public rhetoric plays in U.S.–Russian relations, Stent pointed to opportunities for the two countries to collaborate, with a “cadre of people below the top level” who can communicate and build trust.
Although there is “no golden key” to change the nature of the relationship, Stent urged the U.S. to adopt a more balanced and realistic approach to Russia. She mentioned a key issue of respect, which some have accused the U.S. of lacking, amounting to “an empathy deficit disorder.” The areas she highlighted as opportunities for future partnership include Iran, Syria and economic growth, particularly trade. Right now, she pointed out, U.S.–Russia trade amounts to $40 billion a year, which constitutes less than 2 percent of U.S. total trade.
The Limits of Partnership has received praise in international news outlets, including The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. “Her compelling book provides perhaps the most comprehensive and sober—as well as sobering—assessment of relations across the past two decades,” the FT wrote. For more information on Stent’s book, and to purchase a copy, visit Princeton University Press.
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