International Politics

, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 405–419 | Cite as

An abiding antagonism: realism, idealism and the mirage of western–Russian partnership after the Cold War

  • William C. WohlforthEmail author
  • Vladislav M. Zubok
Original Article


Europe’s security environment is critically dependent on nature of the relationship between Russia and the broader west. What are the obstacles in the way of a stable partnership? Against the conventional wisdom that foregrounds domestic politics, we establish the importance of an abiding clash of definitions of national interest on both sides. The US and Russian strategic perspectives draw on the modern historical experience of both sides, are consistent with well-established international relations theories and are independent of particular personalities such as Putin’s. We demonstrate that though personalities, ideas and contingency played their roles, these basic clashing perspectives existed even during the euphoric days of the Cold War’s end. Success in negotiating an improvement in USA–Russian relations will require a pragmatic compromise between deeply divergent interests. Stable economic and political relations may be possible, but the first step in attaining it is recognizing the scale of the challenge.


USA–Russian relations Russian Foreign Policy US Foreign Policy Geopolitics EU–Russia NATO enlargement Russian worldview New Cold War 


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GovernmentDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  2. 2.London School of EconomicsLondonUK

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