After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation declared itself the successor state of the Soviet Union, and thus inherited a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. American experts actively participated in the development of Russia’s economic reforms in order to help it make the transition from a planned to a market economy. During the transition period, the US has provided humanitarian aid to Russia (operation <Provide Hope>). Relations between Russia and the US improved, but not for long.
During the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Russia in January 1999, she and Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin reaffirmed the commitment of the U.S. and Russia to build bilateral relations based on equality, respect and consideration of each other’s interests. It was emphasized that the importance of constructive cooperation between Russia and the U.S. was a stabilizing factor in international affairs. The two leaders spoke in favor of further progressive development of multifaceted relations between the two countries at all levels and noted that any differences in approaching certain issues must not obscure the fundamental strategic goals of both Moscow and Washington. Albright confirmed the willingness of the U.S. administration to support reforms in Russia.
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Soviet Union’s collapse and Russia’s crisis
The collapse of the Soviet Union, the economic, social and political crisis in Russia, and the dramatic fall of its inter national influence and military-political poten tial led to the fact that the U.S. became the only world leader. Many political experts believe that this period showed the weakness of Russia, and as a result, its numerous concessions and failures of diplomacy.
These failures include: the uranium deal in 1993, the Budapest Memorandum declared in 1994, which did not prevent the expansion of NATO, and, in particular, the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security. Russia’s weakness was also revealed in terminating military alliances and reducing its activity in Eastern Europe and other regions and in a number of trade agreements.
Russia expected that with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, NATO would also be dissolved sooner or later. However, the credibility of the popular statement that Gorbachev was given solid guarantees of NATO’s non-expansion, which were later violated, are extremely doubtful. Gorbachev even expressed the intention of the Soviet Union to join NATO in order “to undermine it from within.” Furthermore, in December 1991, Yeltsin told U.S. Secretary of State James Baker that he hoped for the future merger of the armed forces of the CIS and NATO. However, in 1999, NATO accepted the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, and in 2004, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Bulgaria.
This fact and the U.S. operation with its allies against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq caused confusion in Russia about building relations with the United States. On the one hand, after the terrorist attack that took place on September 11, 2001 in the United States, Russia joined the anti-terrorist coalition led by the United States; on the other hand, on June 13, 2002, the United States denounced the 1972 ABM Treaty, justifying it with the need to have protection against “pariah states.”
Bush believed Russia was not a threat
As noted by journalist Peter Baker, at the beginning of his first presidential term, George W. Bush was inclined to work with Vladimir Putin. Bush believed that there was no real threat coming from Russia to the United States. In 2001, an expert on Russia, Michael McFaul, advised Bush to lure Russia into a pro-American camp, and Bush agreed, arguing that “someday we all will have to deal with the Chinese.”
In 2003, Russia, France and Germany actually led the “camp” of countries opposed to the U.S.’ actions against Iraq. At the end of 2004,the relations between Russia and the U.S.experienced an unprecedented “cold snap” related to the events in Ukraine (the Orange Revolution).
According to political expert Edward Lausanne, “Putin started out with a very pro-Western policy.” Lausanne added that “at first, Putin even hinted at the possibility of joining NATO as well as abandoning Russia’s military bases in Cuba and Vietnam. After September 11, he suggested that the U.S. and Russia should have closer military and political cooperation as well aswork on the development of an anti-terrorist alliance. However, almost all of his initiatives were rejected. This was followed by the ‘Munich Speech’ and other harsh statements.”