Views expressed by US Secretary of State Tillerson (28 November 2017)

  1. Moscow has engaged in a campaign of force, intimidation and subterfuge in an attempt to overpower neighbors and reassert a position of dominance on the world stage.
  2. The United States and its European allies would like to have better relations with Russia, but its behavior under President Vladimir Putin made that impossible, with Moscow’s 2014 invasion of the largest country in Europe Ukraine.
  3. We will not stand for this violation of international norms and until Russia withdraws its forces from neighboring Ukraine, relations with Washington will never be normal.
  4. Russia has shown it seeks to define a new post-Soviet global balance of power.
  5. Moscow by virtue of its nuclear arsenal, seeks to impose its will on others by force, or by partnering with military regimes that have brutalized their citizens, like the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.
  6. Russia has employed malicious tactics, from using disinformation campaigns and cyber-attacks to undermine U.S. and European democracies, to the serial harassing of diplomatic personnel, including U.S. Embassy employees in Moscow.
  7. Russia can continue to isolate and impoverish itself by sowing disorder abroad and impeding liberty at home, or it can become a force that will advance the freedom of Russians and the stability of Eurasia

AALEP Comments

What Does Russia Want?

  1. Russia would like the United States to treat it as a great power with global reach, a country with a right to a seat at the table in all important global decisions, a nuclear superpower, a country that is respected and feared by the rest of the world, and one that the United States treats as an equal. The Kremlin has long felt that the U.S. has not treated its interests as legitimate.
  2. Russia has three objectives in Europe: a sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space; ways to diminish the influence of NATO and the European Union; and a seat at the table in defining what a new European security order might look like. Russia does not want a reemergence of the Soviet Union,  but they want neighbors that defer to Moscow’s interests and are open to Russian business, not only because this is beneficial to the Russian economy, but also because these business interests are instruments for increasing Russian leverage along its periphery.
  3. Russia wants an international system that allows Russia to focus on its internal challenges and problems. It wants a rules-based international system, but with different rules—specifically, rules that constrain the U.S.’ use of force. Russia would also like to see strong governments capable of controlling their own territory to ensure that terrorism and instability do not spread elsewhere.
  4. With regard to the EU, it is not unusual that Russia would prefer to work bilaterally with its individual members rather than with the institution as a whole—a sentiment likely shared by most other countries. Indeed, the U.S. often seeks to do the same. Russia also wants a role in the international system that satisfies its self-image as a major power, as well as a voice in collective security decisions at the international level. What Russia does not want, is outside actors interfering in its political and economic system.

What Does America Want?

  1. In terms of American objectives vis-à-vis Russia, the US would like to have meaningful cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State and in bringing the Syrian civil war to an end. The U.S. would also like to work towards a viable solution in Ukraine and garner Russian support in confronting North Korea. More generally, the U.S. would like to have Russia as a constructive player rather than a spoiler.
  2. U.S. policy towards Russia is one focused on managing differences and opening lines of communication as well as taking small steps in order to make progress towards a more cooperative relationship with Moscow, though it will undoubtedly take a significant amount of time to achieve normalized relations. The relationship will not improve anytime soon.
  3. The U.S. wants a stable international system that continues to reflect its values and interests. Washington must ask itself if Russia, on its own, is the greatest threat to the international system. The largest threat would be cooperation between Russia and China that undermines the system as a whole. U.S. policy  should seek to avoid this.

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