Carnegie: First US elite think tank is thinking about the option of US-Russian cooperation in the future

Carnegie: First US elite think tank is thinking about the option of US-Russian cooperation in the future

In their contribution US-Russia Relations 2030, June 15, 2020, Richard Sokolsky,and Eugene Rumer for the first time break the taboo of a US American think tanks of thinking about a cooperation with Russia in the future.

Summary:  U.S.-Russia relations will remain frosty for years, but even Cold Wars eventually thaw. The United States should prepare now to act decisively when this one finally does, even if it takes a decade“-

Till now the idea of an US-Russian cooperation was confined to Trump, Steve Bannon and John Mearsheimer who think that the rise of China also threatens Russia in the mid and longterm and that Russia has three options: Become an appendix of China, stay neutral or to make a cooperation with the USA and the West. While Trump even wants a short term solution, bring Russia in a G 11 against China, make a deal and let Russia become junior partner of the West and the USA, the Carnegie contribution is much more realistic. It predicts,. that for the next decade there will still be a thorny and conflict-ridden relation between the USA and Russia, that the best thing was try to contain an escalation of conflicts by dialogue and balancing, but if China rises and becomes too assertive that then it is time that the USA and Russia may find a middle ground for cooperation. The article lists a long list of differences:and describes a changing environment:

„U.S. and Russian leaders in 2030 will face a global landscape whose key features will include the following:

  • A Bipolar+ World: The United States and China will remain the biggest actors on the world stage, even if their ability and will to act globally over the next several years is significantly diminished as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, competing domestic demands on resources, and preoccupation with internal matters. At the same time, a number of significant state and nonstate actors will continue to exercise considerable influence in regional and global affairs. Eurasia will remain the strategic center of gravity in the world.
  • A Proliferated World: The spread of new, lethal, and potentially destabilizing military technologies will further strain the global nonproliferation regimes, especially in the absence of new multilateral measures that strengthen the norms and institutions that limit the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
  • A More Conflict-Prone World: The number and intensity of conflicts in and around the Eurasian continent will likely grow, and many of these could generate new dangers for Moscow as well as the United States.
  • A Strategically Unstable World: The United States and Russia are developing weapons that are not constrained by existing arms control frameworks or subject to any rules or limitations. If left unregulated, these capabilities will increase the risk of an accident or miscalculation that could precipitate armed conflict.
  • A Technologically Transformed World: Breakthroughs in various technologies (such as artificial intelligence, 5G networks, renewables, and vaccines for new coronaviruses) are bound to widen America’s competitive advantage over Russia.

Accommodation Unlikely

Over the next decade, the accumulated grievances on both sides and profound differences in interests, values, and conceptions of global order will all but rule out any notions of a sustainable partnership, a reset, or a significant improvement in ties. Domestic politics in both countries will also be a factor. Mutual accommodation, therefore, will be difficult. The U.S. foreign policy community views Russia as a hostile actor, and this view is likely to prevail for the foreseeable future. U.S. policymakers resent Russia’s global activism and are increasingly concerned about its partnership with China. Likewise, Moscow’s foreign policy community sees the United States as an aggressive, unilateral, hostile actor and a threat to Russia’s domestic stability and claim to a prominent position on the world stage.

The Solution: Managing the Relationship

It is precisely because the U.S.-Russian relationship is likely to remain contentious that Washington and Moscow need to manage their differences. To steady the relationship, both countries will need to resume a high-level dialogue on issues that divide them. This effort would not be a panacea for the current troubles, but it could create opportunities, however limited, for cooperation. U.S. priorities for a renewed dialogue should be:

  • avoiding a U.S.-Russian conflict in the Euro-Atlantic area and reducing the risks of inadvertent escalation;
  • retooling strategic stability in response to the erosion of arms control and the development of new military technologies;
  • cooperating to prevent other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons;
  • preserving peace and stability in the Middle East, especially the Persian Gulf;
  • preventing China from establishing hegemony over the Asia-Pacific region; and
  • managing U.S.-Russian competition in cyberspace and in space.

To begin the slow process of rebuilding a degree of trust, the two countries should develop a framework for cooperating where their interests overlap and for managing disagreements before they escalate. In the U.S. approach, small, pragmatic steps should be given precedence over big, ambitious goals. Whether these opportunities can be exploited will depend on the leadership, will, and vision of leaders in both countries, who must overcome a wall of mutual mistrust and the resistance of publics, politicians, and legislatures.(…)


For the first twenty-five years of the post–Cold War period, the U.S.-Russian relationship was characterized by a mix of competition and cooperation. Since 2014, the balance between these elements has shifted dramatically toward competition, and this trend is likely to continue for the indefinite future. Nonetheless, changing global trends and domestic political dynamics could pry open the door to greater possibilities for cooperation. Whether these opportunities can be exploited will depend on the leadership, will, vision, and courage of leaders in both countries, who must overcome a wall of mutual mistrust and the resistance of publics, politicians, and parliaments. It is not too early to ask what the United States and Russia should want from each other over the next decade, what kind of bilateral relationship the countries would like to have in 2030, and how they could get from where they are today to the U.S. preferred end state should circumstances permit.“

However the timeline is 2030 and there is still talk that Pution might not be President in Russia anymore, even if Putin by his constitutional reform made clear that he wants to reign till 2034. The Carnegie paper however isn´t talking about regime change or democratization of Russia, but to come to a great power agreement. At the moment Carnegie ist the first US elite thinktank which openly promotes the possibility of an US-Russian cooperation. Of course, as starting point Carnegie claims that this article is just the opinion of two authors. However, it could become a breakthrough in Putin bashing thinking and it remains to be seen if a debate about an US-Russian cooperation find supporters in the US elite in the midterm.

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