The Myth of Yalta II


The Myth of Yalta II

Эксперты МГИМО: Троицкий Михаил Алексеевич, к.полит.н., доцент, Samuel Charap

Despite the improvement in U.S.-Russia relations over the last two years, the belief that the «reset» is doomed remains widespread in both countries.

According to the naysayers, Russia and the United States are fundamentally and inexorably at odds on many issues, in particular their approaches to the countries neighboring Russia.

This view is based on flawed, dated assumptions. A closer look at the facts tells a very different story.

«Reset» skeptics in the two countries have little in common with one another — as they will be the first to tell you. Yet, paradoxically, they are united in their fervent belief that the only way for Russia and the United States to avoid confrontation in the former-Soviet region is through a Yalta-style «grand bargain»: a delimitation of spheres of responsibility and a pledge of mutual noninterference in each other’s sphere.

The Russian skeptics say the reset is meaningless until such a bargain is concluded. Their American counterparts, knowing that the entire mainstream U.S. foreign policy establishment rejects out of hand the very idea of spheres of influence, argue that unless the Obama administration undermines this basic tenet of U.S. foreign policy, the return of rivalry with Moscow is just a matter of time.

Both views ignore the fact that today «grand bargains» between great powers to delineate «spheres of influence» are impossible.

First, unlike when Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met in Yalta to carve up Europe, both Russia and the United States are party to a whole host of international treaties, from the United Nations Charter to the Helsinki Final Act, that guarantee the right of all states to make their own foreign policy choices. Particularly relevant is the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe in which all signatories committed to «strive for a new quality in [their] security relations while fully respecting each other’s freedom of choice in that respect.»

Second, even if one of the sides tried to impose decisions on a country in the region against the will of its citizens, it would likely fail. This is particularly true in the countries where perceived U.S.-Russia rivalry is said to be most acute, like Ukraine. Whatever Moscow’s or Washington’s intentions might have been, neither the victor in the presidential race there last year nor his main rival were running on a pro-NATO membership platform, because that would have spelled the end of their respective campaigns. (A survey released just before the election showed only 19 percent of Ukrainians favor membership).

But even if it were possible, a grand bargain between Moscow and Washington is unnecessary. Historically, spheres of influence were delineated between irreconcilable rivals — for example, between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Today, differences between Moscow and Washington vis-à-vis the former Soviet region can be largely accounted for by mutual misperceptions — not a fundamental divergence of interests.

Ghosts from the Cold War that continue to haunt both capitals are largely to blame. Many in Moscow are convinced that Washington is inclined to support «anti-Russian» politicians in order to limit Russian influence. Some even assert that the chances of a public figure to get support from the United States depends on the intensity with which he or she undermines Russian interests. In other words, while Washington thinks it is simply backing freely elected leaders, Moscow sees the specter of containment.

For Washington, even discussion of the region with Moscow, let alone joint action there, is a fraught endeavor, in large part because it immediately conjures the ghost of Yalta: the lingering sense of responsibility many Americans feel for those arrangements which gave the Soviet Union a virtual carte blanche to impose repressive regimes fashioned in its own image on the states of Central and Eastern Europe. And although Moscow no longer claims to be the font of world revolution or the keeper of an expansionist ideological flame, these phantoms of past transgressions against smaller countries in the region continue to haunt many in the United States.

But if we put historical experience and inflammatory rhetoric to the side, it quickly becomes clear that both countries are shadow boxing with imaginary adversaries.

Russia’s political transformation clearly has a long way to go, but there are no longer any fundamental reasons for a division of Europe. Nevertheless, Washington often seems to operate on the assumption that cooperation with Moscow would necessitate imposing decisions on Russia’s neighbors against their will.

Yet recent tragic events in Belarus demonstrate the opposite to be the case. Prior to the purported re-election of President Aleksandr Lukashenko that was marred by brutal violence against peaceful protesters, the United States (along with the European Union) offered Minsk carrots to conduct a free and fair vote. Meanwhile, Moscow was making disturbing noises for Mr. Lukashenko, threatening not to recognize the poll after losing patience with his flip flops on economic integration proposals, among other gripes.

But neither Brussels nor Washington made an effort to talk directly with Moscow about the situation in Belarus, let alone coordinate their efforts. The Kremlin seems to have grown suspicious that Belarus was somehow about to be wrested away, and did an 11th-hour reversal, throwing its support behind Lukashenko in the final days before the poll. The result served no one’s interests but his.

The continuation of this dated approach to the former Soviet region by both sides does pose an imminent threat to the «reset." But the conclusion of a new Yalta agreement is not an option for resolving the problem. The fact is that there are no longer any insurmountable conflicts between Moscow and Washington that would require a «grand bargain» to mitigate. The alleged spheres of influence that drive policy makers in both capitals into fits are little more than a figure of speech.

Samuel Charap is a fellow in the National Security and International Policy Program at the Center for American Progress; Mikhail Troitskiy is an adjunct professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

Точка зрения авторов, комментарии которых публикуются в рубрике
«Говорят эксперты МГИМО», может не совпадать с мнением редакции портала.

Источник: «The New York Times»
Распечатать страницу