Nicolai N. Petro: A Response to Mark Galeotti

“Our beef is with Putin, his thugs, spies and oligarchs, not Russia – and we need to make sure that while we win today’s struggle, we don’t waste the chance for better relations with a post-Putin nation tomorrow.” This concluding remark by professor Mark Galeotti from his latest article in The Spectator is, I think, based on some questionable assumptions.

The first is that the perfunctory inclusion of measures to improve relations will have any bearing on future relations with Russia. After all that we’ve learned about the origins of the Russian collusion and Russian hacking narratives, such an assumption seems quite naïve. If there has been a U.S. strategy toward Russia over these past two decades, it has been to revive containment and along with it the implicit assumption that preventing Russia’s growth will lead to its decay and eventual demise. I state this conditionally, since I know that there are many who feel there has been no U.S. strategy on Russia at all, but only ever expanding chaos. The net result, however, is the same, since the default setting of American elites thirty years after the end of the Cold War is still containment

The second is that a post-Putin Russia would respond positively to American overtures. The chances of this are risible because Putin is merely expressing the consensus view that has developed within the Russian elite, especially those educated in the West, that the West is seeking to contain and ultimately destroy not just Putin, but Russia itself. They have come to this conclusion very reluctantly, after more than two decades of Western media/government campaigns directed at discrediting all things Russian, whether they have anything to do with Putin or not.

This critical assessment of the U.S. as an erratic and often irrational international actor is now widely shared in the world Beyond The West; the United States certainly seems to be doing everything in its power to make sure that China adopts it. The net result has been to accelerate global re-alignments aimed at reducing the damage to the current world order being caused by U.S. efforts to isolate Russia, China, Iran and other major nations.

You might say that these countries are now in the process of devising their own strategy for containing the United States, and for many of the same geostrategic reasons that the latter once sought to contain the Soviet Union.

Nicolai N. Petro
Professor of Political Science
University of Rhode Island

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