USA UU It has touched rock bottom with Russia. This is not going to end well



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This article appeared for the first time on the site of the Wilson Center.

I am an American expert in Russia. It is my job to pay close attention to the ups and downs of the relationship between EE. UU And Russia, with the aim of helping lawmakers, the press and the general public understand what is happening.

Under normal circumstances, such understanding would be useful to design a better policy and to more effectively manage the challenges and opportunities we face with Russia.

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But this is anything but normal circumstances, and it makes no sense to say anything about politics unless we first recognize why our circumstances are what What are they.

The United States has never had a more dysfunctional or less effective relationship with post-Soviet Russia than today. While it is more than fair to blame that dysfunction on Putin – and on Trump, Medvedev, Obama and other past and present heads of state – I fear that now it has causes far deeper than state policies.

On the Russian side, the dysfunction is based on insecurities and grievances stoked by widely accepted conspiracy theories and historical narratives, all of which amounts to labeling the United States as public enemy number one.

It is also based on the tolerance of ordinary Russians to consolidated authoritarianism, the Kremlin at the top of the "power side" to the corrupt and unchecked thugs at the bottom.

 GettyImages-872528266 Donald Trump shakes hands of Vladimir Putin at the gala dinner of leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 10, 2017. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV / AFP / Getty ]

On the US side, the dysfunction is different but it could be said to be just as profound. It begins with a national state of mind that combines the paranoia of the Cold War style about the man in the Russian coat with a zero-sum vision, "us against them" of everything from taxes to public safety.

These disturbing trends find resonance in the media, and a civic culture in which any sense that there are rules of decency has been trampled for a long time.

We should not have illusions. Vladimir Putin is a big problem for the United States, as it is for his neighbors and for his own people.

He has crushed all outbreaks of liberal democracy in Russia, invaded Ukraine to seize his sovereign territory by force, at the cost of more than 10,000 lives, and he has supported the dictator Bashar Assad in Syria, with blood of hundreds of thousands in their hands.

Evidence is rapidly rising of Russia's interference in the 2016 US elections and its continued operations, ostensibly aimed at eroding democratic politics, social cohesion and security alliances from Europe to Latin America. These are serious threats and must be received with clarity, strength and resolution.

However, not one of these threats posed by Russia has a military solution. We can hit the Russians as hard as we want, to "punish" them for their bad behavior, but as long as they have the ability to strike back, they will, and the cycle will continue.

Such escalation entails unacceptable risks.

As Ronald Reagan said, a nuclear war between the US UU and Russia can not be won, so you should never fight. That means that Americans will have to make difficult decisions about what tools of our national power to use to manage relations with Russia.

The good news is that we have an impressive arsenal, if we can carry it out intelligently.

In addition to our armed forces, which in any measure are the strongest in the world, the US economy. UU It is still the largest, and far surpbades even a fast-growing China as a center of investment and innovation for the whole world. The greatest badet of the United States has been its incomparable soft power: the attractive strength of our culture, our values, our willingness to lead and, when necessary, to sacrifice ourselves.

These strengths can lead us to victory over the Russian threat, and any other-long term.

But meanwhile, our vital national interests, including our security, prosperity and our own identity, are at risk because of the dysfunction that affects our national life.

This problem is much bigger than US-Russian relations, but it reaches a critical point in the contest between Washington and Moscow.

Consider Russia's treatment today in much of our national debate. Somehow it is a great threat – apparently capable of stealing all our secrets, manipulating our leaders, brainwashing our electorate – and yet it is also the target of jokes, which do not even deserve the grudging respect that A wise warrior grants his adversary.

In the rush to unearth and erase the nefarious Russian influence in our country, Americans have adopted a logic of conspiracy theories and strictly zero-sum thinking that, if anything, is familiar to Russians for decades of Soviet life and post-Soviet

In this climate, efforts to understand and explain Russian behavior as more than terrestrial expressions of evil are condemned, as victories for Russian propaganda and calls for diplomatic engagement are dismissed as irremediably naive.

When it comes to Russia, there simply is not a longer space for the pragmatism that has been at the very center of our American worldview, and that ensured our survival and success despite a half century of Cold War.

This is not what we are as Americans. That's not how good people behave. And, most importantly, this can not end well.

Matthew Rojansky is Director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

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