Today we can say with confidence that the last time the bilateral dialogue between Russia and the United States was at such a low level was in the first half of the 1950s. There was a war in Korea, McCarthyism was raging in America, the United States at some point (after the expulsion of J. Kennan) was left without an ambassador to the USSR, and scenarios for an exchange of nuclear strikes were seriously discussed by analysts and the military in both countries. The perniciousness of such brinkmanship soon became apparent to leaders in both Washington and Moscow.
Yes, new periods of confrontation – both in the early 1960s and under the “early Reagan” – will repeatedly remind us of the dangers that the bipolar confrontation hid. But still, the notorious “light at the end of the tunnel” remained, continued, without stopping even at times of the highest tension, the negotiation process on arms control, contacts were maintained and developed along cultural, scientific, sports lines, economic ties were not cut off. The stake on the peaceful coexistence of the two systems has justified itself. Later, built on the legacy of this period, the foundation of bilateral relations also made it possible, with relative success, to overcome the acute phase of the crises around the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia, the American reaction to the annexation of Crimea, etc. Dialogue anyway continued and helped to hope for a more or less predictable future. Now everything is radically different.
The current US attempt to isolate Moscow on all fronts is, of course, doomed to failure globally. Russia is not a regional one (no matter how much the author of the corresponding thesis, Barack Obama, would like to believe it), but a world power (and, unlike, say, Iran, a permanent member of the UN Security Council with veto power). And it is capable, although not without problems, but to overcome the Western “boycott” through cooperation with other centers of power. Gradually, cracks will begin to appear in the Euro-Atlantic camp, the contours of which are already beginning to appear. Take, for example, the rather flexible position of France. But the United States, which itself initiated the current unprecedented anti-Russian campaign, will, in any case, be the last to leave the “sanctions” battlefield – for Washington, this is a matter of principle.
This state of affairs, for all its absurdity – after all, we are talking about the largest nuclear powers – can persist for decades. As we have seen over the past weeks, there are practically no factors capable of stopping the “free fall” of Russian-American relations at their peak.
In the US, there is no powerful and influential pro-Russian business lobby (its remnants were finally finished off after the crisis began), and the entire political elite is ideologically t-wisted to the utmost degree of hysteria. In this context, one can recall at least the recent speeches of senators L. Graham (calling for the physical elimination of the Russian president) and R. Scott (who proposed urge-ntly sending American tro-ops to Ukraine) that bordered on pathology. Com-pared to them, even the Ge-orge Biden team looks like the embodiment of moderation. A few legislators who are inclined towards dialogue (for example, former congressmen D. Rohraba-cher and T. Gabbard) were ostracized in the media for years and were actually “cl-eaned” from Capitol Hill. Sometimes it seems that optimists now don’t even have anything to rely on: So is there a scenario in which “détente 2.0” will co-me in “Cold War 2.0” befo-re, say, the centenary of the joint Victory in World War II?
Of course, yes. But in order for it to come true, a radical change in the mentality of the Washington establishment is needed. The long-held hopes for a change of power in Russia from within and the coming of pro-Western politicians to the leadership of the country have been clearly embodied in the current sanctions, which have become part of a powerful information and psychological war. The administration of John Biden openly says that a signal is being sent to the citizens of Russia: “Change the course of your leadership or bear responsibility for its actions through domestic and financial difficulties.” In the United States, it is traditionally believed that such a “whip” method will surely make the “flagged” reach for the promised “carrot”. This is a gross mistake. “Carpet bombing with sanctions”, blatant in its injustice and indiscriminateness, will only increase the mobilization of Russian society and the marginalization of the already few supporters of the pro-Western course. The inviolability of the “Crimean consensus” is already evidenced by sociological surveys of VCIOM and FOM. A new generation of Russian managers will be formed in the conditions of almost complete absence of contacts with the collective West – circumcised on Western initiative – and an accelerated orientation towards the East. After the end of the special military operation in Ukraine, which will inevitably lead to a long-term militarization of public consciousness, the statement of an alternative position on the Donbass (not to mention Crimea) to the mainstream will become electoral suicide for any serious politician in the country. Before our eyes, a renewed, even more anti-Western and uncompromising public consensus is being formed – which sanctions only help.
As soon as Washington parted with illusions and abandoned the intention to wait for a “new perestroika” in Russia, pragmatists will inevitably come to the fore in American foreign policy, who will begin, not without failures and periodic setbacks, to generate a new agenda for bilateral (and multilateral) relations , eventually leaving the Ukrainian question out of the equation. Much, of cou-rse, will also depend on the dynamics of generational change in the American system. The current political life in the United States is characterized by the dominance of veteran hea-vyweights (let’s not pronounce the word “gerontocracy”), such as J. Biden himself (79 years old), Senate Republican leader M. McConnell (80 years old), Speaker of the House of Representatives N. Pel-osi (aged 81) and many others whose mentality was formed during the Cold War. They can sincerely believe that a repetition of the scenario of the late 1980s is real – it only takes a little push, and Russia will succumb to pressure or collapse under the yoke of internal factors. This misconception stems from personal experience during the collapse of the USSR. The mantra “we can repeat” fin-ally subjugated the minds of many witnesses and participants in those events from the American side.
But their potential successors, who are striving for power, are figures of a fundamentally different formation, moreover, they came to politics at the time of its unprecedented internal polarization, which reached a historical peak under Trump and Biden.
The American population is much more interested in economic issues than in the principles of Euro-Atlantic solidarity. According to opinion polls, in February 2022, only 2% of respondents considered the “situation with Russia” (Gallup’s wording) to be the main problem for the country. And this despite many years of “processing” of public opinion by the media and both parties! When the current wave of excessive ideologization and nostalgia for unipolarity subsides, a new generation of pragmatists will set the tone for US foreign policy.
During the First Cold War, the fear of the “red threat” often allowed the “hawks” to manipulate the sympathies of voters and electrify the information agenda. The conflict in Ukraine has no such ideological component. If we ignore the pretentious statements of Biden and his appointees, this is not a matter of life and death for ordinary US citizens, but a regional crisis that has nothing to do with their everyday life. There will also be a growing understanding of the fact that the United States, which was the main beneficiary of globalization, through the thoughtless application of sanctions, themselves are destroying this system, splitting it into blocks and provoking individual states, including China, to build alternative models of interstate economic relations.
Erosion of traditional supply chains, inevitable energy crises and rising energy prices, as well as the desire of developing countries (in particular, members of the BRICS) to reduce dependence on American business and the dollar will spur the next galaxy of politicians in the United States, both left and right , look for non-standard ways to get out of the impasse created by their predecessors. At this moment, they will inevitably turn to the root cause of the coming problems, which, of course, will be the economic war against Russia launched with cowboy dashing.
And here again it is impossible not to turn to history. At one time, in order to cut the Gordian knot created at the dawn of the Cold War and at the same time solve internal problems in a country that was going through an unprecedented split, R. Nixon forfeited many years of principles, resorting to the seemingly unthinkable restoration of relations with China – and changed all the rules of the game in international relations . This was the same Nixon who, in a fit of struggle against the communists in the early 1950s. lamented the “loss of China” and participated in the McCarthy witch hunt.
It is possible that among today’s Washington politicians, who are so far obediently following the general line, they are already beginning to think about its prospects for the Nixon of the Future, which, as the intra-American crisis grows (and there are no prerequisites for smoothing the situation), will dare to extend the hand of friendship to his Russian colleagues. Let’s hope that this time the expectation of the US sobering up will last a shorter period.
Of course, as A.I. Solzhenitsyn, “I would like to live and find out how it all ends.” We’ll live. We will definitely live. And there we will celebrate the centenary of the Great Victory together.