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

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to William C. Wohlforth.

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Wohlforth, W.C., Zubok, V.M. An abiding antagonism: realism, idealism and the mirage of western–Russian partnership after the Cold War. Int Polit 54, 405–419 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-017-0046-8

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Keywords

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