In the wake of Snowden affair the U.S.-Russia relations have been characterized by rivalry rather than cooperation. The revelations of U.S. surveillance program by National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden about a month and a half ago in Hong Kong, before he boarded his plane for Moscow, where he has been granted one year asylum, have brought a great damage to the bilateral relationship.
The announcement by Russian president Putin that Snowden cannot be permitted to harm the U.S. interests despite being given temporary asylum has hardly been soothing as the U.S. had been insisting on extraditing him to his home country for facing prosecution on charges of felony. The displeasure of American government over the Russian government behavior towards fugitive U.S. citizen has been reflected in a series of remarks that have been coming out in the aftermath of Snowden’s temporary asylum in Russia.
The spokesperson of U.S. State Department has been quoted saying that the asylum affair may harm bilateral relations to the extent that it may even impact adversely on president Obama’s upcoming visit to Moscow in September. Needless to say that the U.S. will likely be attending the next G-20 summit scheduled in Saint Petersburg but Obama’s proposed meeting with Russian president Putin is still shrouded in darkness due to differences arising from Snowden’s treatment by Russia.
There are many examples which attest the contention that U.S.-Russia relationship has become opportunistic as opined by Job C. Henning, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress in Washington.
In his recent op-ed column of the New York Times “America and Russia Can Skip a Reboot” he attempts to substantiate the fact that the relationship between the U.S. and Russia seems to careen from crisis to crisis, ranging from Snowden to Syria.
Job C. Henning presents the instance of arms control where both countries had progressed in slashing their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons by concluding in 2010 a new START treaty, which required them to cut down the number of deployable strategic nuclear weapons by one third within the period of seven years from the date of ratification by both signatories. Woefully, now when president Obama renews his call for further reduction in this category of nuclear weapons, the Russian response has been far from being positive.
At a time when the U.S. views the renewal of new agreement in cutting down the size of nuclear arsenals belonging to America and Russia, which possess almost 95% of worldwide stock of nuclear weapons, through president Obama’s June speech in Berlin, as a right step towards global zero, Russia has been loath to take such proposal favorably showing no willingness to participate in arms cut talks. President Putin is citing Russia’s weakening economic situation for being disinclined to further cut down the weaponry.
As quoted in the above op-ed article of New York Times, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel did not succeed in convincing the Russian side about allaying their fears of proposed American missile defense system in Europe. In March 2013 the defense secretary had announced that the U.S. would not go ahead with the fourth and final phase of the European missile defense shield, which was to include long-range interceptors that would have done more than any other part of the program to undermine Russia’s strategic deterrent.
Furthermore, on Iranian nuclear crisis, Russian approach has been of calculations to see that the U.S. gets entangled in prolonged confrontation with Iran as the latter refuses to abandon uranium enrichment program. Undoubtedly, the American policy is to constrain Iran’s power to develop nuclear weapons capability. Had Russia been more cooperative in isolating Iran by declining to supply nuclear fuel and implementing UN economic sanctions against Iran its nuclear program could have been constrained significantly.
In no other field than Syria the Russian attitude has been more problematic seen from the American lens. Russia as mentioned by Job C. Henning is sending advanced anti-ship weapons to Syria and indicates no reluctance to proceed with the delivery of S-300 anti aircraft missile systems-the only purpose of both being to deter potential action by the international community.
Perhaps the influence of fashionable notion that the global shift of power is under way is visible on Russia’s relationship with the U.S. The first official visit of the Chinese president Xi Jinping was to Moscow in March 2013, when Russian president Putin declared “We are not frightened. China does not worry us….China and Russia will cooperate on many questions”. Putin has been quoted by Fiona Hill and Bobo lo, who have explained Russia’s growing interest to cultivate the countries in the east, especially China.
In their Foreign Policy feature “Why Russia is Looking East” the above duo authors have exemplified the increasing cooperation between Russia and China by presenting the example of their joint naval exercises in the Sea of Japan in July 2013. To them Russia also shares the current understanding that the rise of China comes at the expense of the U.S. and the West.
More interestingly the revelations made by American fugitive and former intelligence officer Edward J. Snowden regarding the April 2009 London G-20 summit have impacted negatively on prospects of mobilizing international cooperation in Harold James’ opinion, who is a professor of history and international affairs at Princeton University.
In his feature carried by Project-Syndicate “The Snowden Time Bomb” he recalls that the revelations by Snowden that London summit’s British hosts allegedly monitored participants’ communications make it difficult to imagine that the genuine intimacy of earlier summits can ever be recreated. He further notes that with the espionage apparently directed at representatives of emerging economies, the gulf between advanced countries and those on the rise has widened further.
In a globalizing world with interconnectedness becoming the lifeline of present day countries, the opportunistic relationship of the U.S. and Russia can never be helpful. International cooperation is a must to resolving common problems that transcend national boundaries. With power comes greater responsibility. Therefore, it behooves on both America and Russia to manage their bilateral relations in a way that becomes conducive to better mobilize international cooperation for the common benefit of mankind.