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Elena Alekseenkova

Ph.D. in Political Science, Senior Research Fellow, Head of the Center for Italian Studies, Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Associate Professor at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, RIAC Expert

The dramatic deterioration of relations between Russia and the West over the events in Ukraine has led many international relations experts to believe that the world has returned to the times of the Cold War. Russia is compared to the most extremist and unpredictable quasi-state entities, such as the Islamic State and even Nazi Germany. For its part, Russia claims that the world system is increasingly reminiscent of a “game without rules”, blaming the West for the escalation of conflicts and growing global chaos. This development of international discourse inevitably raises questions as to how such a deep crisis in the relations between the parties has become possible and whether trust can somehow be restored.

Ukraine has led many international relations experts to believe that the world has returned to the times of the Cold War. Russia is compared to the most extremist and unpredictable quasi-state entities, such as the Islamic State (1) and even Nazi Germany (2). For its part, Russia claims that the world system is increasingly reminiscent of a “game without rules”, blaming the West for the escalation of conflicts and growing global chaos (3). This development of international discourse inevitably raises questions as to how such a deep crisis in the relations between the parties has become possible and whether trust can somehow be restored.


However, before looking at the current crisis of confidence between Russia and the West, it would be useful to define what trust is and the role it plays in international relations.

The Concept of Trust

From the psychological point of view, trust is a condition in which the actor has positive expectations with regard to a partner’s motives and intentions, assuming that their behavior would not seek to cause the actor harm (4). Considering the inevitable asymmetry of information (no single international actor possesses all the information about the motives, intentions and interests of their partners) and the anarchy in international relations in general, trust is an important instrument for reducing uncertainty and formulating the rules of the game, i.e. international institutions that reduce risks.

Relations of trust between the sides arise from a mutual and voluntary decision to become more vulnerable to the partner, or at least not to take any actions to raise the threshold of vulnerability. The sides are thus taking risks by sending each other the message that they do not harbour any aggressive intent. In other words, the decision to trust (5) is key in the relations of trust. Demonstrating vulnerability is an extremely important stage, because the very fact that you are taking a risk and this risk does not entail any negative consequences reinforces confidence that the partner can be trusted.

Obstacles to the development of trust

Trust is not an inherent characteristic of relations between states. Initially, states mistrust one another and compete for limited resources (territory, finite natural resources, population, etc.). However, because a permanent state of competition, confrontation and especially war would inevitably deplete resources, the search for an optimum modus vivendi begins. Peaceful coexistence requires a certain level of trust, which helps to avoid living in permanent fear and building up of arms to deter the neighbour. At the same time, there are some obstacles in the way of mutual trust. Removing these obstacles is a necessary condition for the decision to trust somebody.

The prime and probably the main obstacle is ontological mistrust. Its cause lies in the overall categorization of the partner in the “us against them” continuum. As a rule, the basis for such categorization is ethnic, national and religious affiliation, ideology, the memory of past interactions, membership of a bloc or union, etc. The closer the partner is to the category of “them” in this continuum, the greater the amount of effort that is required to develop trust in them. Ole Holsti, a prominent expert on political behaviour, described the phenomenon as “an inherent bad faith model” (6), i.e., when the partner is expected (even before the start of interaction) to behave in a negative way.

The second most important obstacle to the formation of trust is the security dilemma (7), which arises from information asymmetry. Incomplete information about the partner’s intentions makes it difficult to interpret his or her actions and to tell whether they are defensive or aggressive (8). No matter how strenuously one party insists that it is its peaceable in nature, other states may interpret its steps as preparation for aggression. An additional complication is the change of generations among political leaders: even if the incumbent head of state has promised that a certain instrument (weapons, anti-ballistic missiles, the Navy, etc.) will not be used against the partner, where is the guarantee that his or her successor will not change this stance? (9)

The behavioral spiral (10). What matters for our partner is not how we would like to be seen and how we see ourselves, but how the partner perceives us. If the partner perceives our defensive actions as a sign of aggression, we are more likely than not to perceive the partner’s response as aggressive. This leads to a behavioural spiral based on the discrepancy between actual intent and its perception by the partner.

Ambiguous symbolism (11). Ambiguity of symbolic actions is a continuation of the behavioural spiral. Interpreting meanings is an inherently non-trivial task, and when trust is lacking each of the partner’s actions risks being perceived as a threat. That is why the symbolic aspect of communication is so important: a symbol must convey the true meaning of an action or situation with maximum accuracy. There are many examples of problems with interpretation in modern international relations. One of these is Russia’s delivery of humanitarian aid to Eastern Ukraine, which the West interprets as violation of the border of a sovereign state. Another vivid example is the Iranian nuclear programme. In spite of the Iranian leadership’s assurances that the country’s nuclear programme is strictly peaceful, in the eyes of the United States (as well as Israel and some other countries) any Iranian actions in this field are aimed at acquiring the technology for building a nuclear bomb.

Levels of Trust

When analysing trust in inter-state relations, it is important to understand the levels at which trust can be formed. Whenever the question of whether State A trusts State B is asked, trust is considered at the level of political leadership. The real picture, however, is much more complicated. At least three levels of trust can be identified.

1. Personalized trust is trust at the level of specific individuals, including within elites, and at the level of families, small groups, social networks, etc. Trust between political leaders and members of the elites is of course important for the relations between the corresponding states. For example, the good personal chemistry between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan undoubtedly helped to put an end to the Cold War. One can cite the “friendship” between Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton and the special relationship between Moscow and Washington in the 1990s. Personal trust among members of the elites is exceedingly important, because the decision to trust depends on them. And it is they who shape international discourse, which may be dominated by trust or mistrust.

One should not underestimate the contribution that interpersonal trust at the micro-level (families, small social groups and social networks) makes to trust between states made. As a rule, such trust is the result of shared cultures, history, active migration processes, established communications, etc.

Thus, a high level of trust at the micro-level can be observed within the European Union; and, until recently, this was also true of relations between the citizens of Ukraine and Russia and so on.

It should be noted that trust at the micro-level takes time to form and usually emerges during the course of day-to-day practices. If there are no cross-border social networks and positive interaction practices at the level of societies, no protestations of trust between states at the top level would ensure trust.

2. Generalized trust is trust at the level of civil society. Generalized trust exists when the citizens of two states do not see each other as enemies, when there are no radical differences of ideology, irreconcilable religious contradictions or territorial disputes and the struggle for identity, and when allied relations prevail over rivalry and open hostility in the collective historical memory. Typically, such perceptions are accompanied by close trade relations, extensive cross-border business and close interaction at the level of civil structures. Generalized trust also applies to business, i.e. whether a country is considered business-friendly, has a good investment climate, how big the political risks are, whether there are socio-cultural barriers to entrepreneurship, etc.

3. Institutionalized trust is trust towards the institutions of the partner state, as well as trust embodied in the institutions created jointly or in partnership with it.

Trust in the market economy institutions of a neighbouring state manifests itself in the creation of a free-trade zone, confidence in the work of customs services, the justice and law enforcement system (in the lifting of visa restrictions and opening one’s borders) and confidence in the monetary and financial system (the creation of common financial institutions, a common currency, etc.). Institutionalized trust also manifests itself in the formation of economic alliances and joint security structures in the granting of trade preferences and other forms of integration.

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Institutionalized trust essentially reinforces all the preceding types of trust. Trust that has emerged as a result of prolonged interaction between civil society networks and business is, over time, reinforced institutionally. Positive practices based on mutual trust become institutionalized. In that sense, institutionalized trust is the highest form of trust.

However, institutionalized trust also means trust towards international institutions (the United Nations, international courts, etc.) and third-party institutions. Trust toward international institutions means trust in jointly designed rules of the game, which makes the behaviour of the partner that follows them predictable. Forming a consensus of the rules of international behaviour shared by all actors is an important condition of a stable world system. Trust toward the third party is also important, because it can compensate for a shortage of trust between partners: given a third party that both actors trust, a dispute between them would not ruin mutual trust.

The Origin of Trust

In the context of the anarchy that on the whole prevails in international relations, trust is the key instrument that diminishes uncertainty and makes it possible to avoid “a war of all against all”. What creates trust in the relations between states? How are these conditions seen by various theories of international relations?

According to political realism (founded by Hans Morgenthau, George Kennan and others), trust arises from the ability to correctly understand the interests of a given partner, as interests are an objective given that drive peoples’ actions. If the partner’s interests are correctly identified, his or her behaviour becomes more predictable. Superior force helps to control the partner’s behaviour without causing any harm. In addition, trust is generated by a balance of forces and a system of mutual deterrence. As long as there is a balance of forces and a system of deterrence is in place, we can say that the partner’s behaviour is predictable. But since the balance of forces is extremely fragile, there is no question of trust between partners being systemic. In the realistic way of seeing the world trust is highly unstable.

In the liberal approach (Joseph Nye, Robert Keohane and others), trust arises from interdependence between states at various levels of integration (business communities, civil society, elites). In the presence of interdependence, negative behaviour towards a partner is fraught with damage to the actor. It follows that the actor will not try to harm the partner. This generates trust. Trust is also promoted by the existence of common threats (at the regional and global levels). Awareness of such threats leads to cooperative behaviour prevailing over conflict behaviour. As a mechanism for the prevention of deviant behaviour on the part of partners, interdependence manifests itself in the spread of multi-vector diplomacy and an increase in the number of integration alliances. The means of communication within such entities stimulate the process of negotiations and the formation of trust.

In the framework of the Marxist and Neo-Marxist paradigm, as well as in the world-system approach, trust is interpreted as a consequence of the international division of labour and interdependence. This may be both dependence of the weak on the strong (of the periphery on the centre in Immanuel Wallerstein’s concept) and the dependence of the strong on the weak due to the division of labour. However, such trust is very unstable. Sustainable trust is only possible if the state withers away and international exploitation disappears.

The advocates of the civilizational approach (Samuel Huntington and others) attribute trust mainly to the cultural and civilizational community of states. In their opinion, the similarity of cultural-religious perceptions of the world is the basic prerequisite of trust.

In the constructivist paradigm (Alexander Wendt and others), trust is a derivative of collective values, ideas, shared culture and social identification. Social norms shape and change international politics much more than national security issues. Trust arises from shared perceptions of events, norms and values.

The Evolution of Trust in International Relations

The foundations of trust between states have changed as a result of the system of international relations being transformed.

The main prerequisite for trust between states in the pre-Westphalian system, which made trust possible in principle, was the absence of an overt competition over resources. Common religion also played a part: representatives of other faiths were “alien’ by definition and could never be trusted. The key element of maintaining confidence in each other was interpersonal trust within the elites, mainly in the form of dynastic marriages and family bonds.

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After the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the role of religious values diminished and the foreign policies of states came to be determined above all by economic, dynastic and geopolitical interests. The Westphalian System was based on the principles of national sovereignty and inviolability of borders. This gave rise to the idea that the basis of trust exists in the balance of forces. However, because the balance of forces is a fickle thing, the alliances and coalitions of states formed on its basis are flexible and changeable, reflecting a generally low level of mutual trust (today’s “friend” may be tomorrow’s “enemy”). This uneasy system of trust is based on the desire to prevent any one actor from accumulating forces significantly superior to those of its rivals. Nevertheless, it was during this period that trust began to be gradually institutionalized, as there was a growing sense of the need to comply with the treaties signed and international law. Jean Bodin introduced the concept of sovereignty in his Six Books of the Commonwealth (or State), while Niccolo Machiavelli mused on the interests of the state in The Prince and Hugo Grotius lays the foundations for the future of international law in his treatise On the Laws of War and Peace.

The Treaty of Versailles marked another step towards institutionalizing trust by creating a broader and more diversified legal treaty framework. Yet even that system failed to prevent World War II. A system based on national interests and the concept of the balance of forces is fragile by definition unless the balance of forces is bolstered by a more stable factor.

The Yalta-Potsdam System consolidated the bipolar world order within which two projects of world development competed. In spite of the arms race and the shaky balance of forces, the confrontation of two blocs made world politics (and hence the level of trust) more predictable, above all at the institutional level (which was aided by the development of international structures). The emergence of nuclear weapons made the balance of forces more stable: paradoxically, mutually assured destruction became a factor of trust.

Trust between societies (or generalized trust) within that system was tightly controlled by ideology. The notions of enemies and friends, “us” and “them”, divided the world into those who could be trusted (the states within one’s “own” bloc) and those who could not. However, even the behaviour of those who “were not to be trusted” was fairly predictable because it was guaranteed by the leader of the corresponding bloc.

The erosion of the Yalta-Potsdam world order in the 1990s and the gradual decline of the Westphalian system of international relations prompted the need to look for new principles of international trust. This gave rise to the continuing attempts to create and institutionalize the system of interdependence at the economic as well as the ideological level, as manifested in the rapid development of supranational international structures and integration entities. Because the obligations a state assumes within a structure inevitably limit its actions in the international arena, integration into supranational structures and alliances increases predictability, and hence the degree of trust, of the actors’ behaviour. The liberal-democratic system of values being spread by the West, coupled with economic dependence essentially came to play the same role as national interests and religion played in the preceding epochs. Like religion in the pre-Westphalian period, ideology based on the liberal-democratic system of values divides the world into “us” and “them”, its main function being to identify the circle of those who can be trusted and those who cannot.

However, unifying the world on the basis of common values did not happen. The liberal-democratic world as a global project has failed, and “the end of history” is still not in sight. Religious, ethnic, ideological and value fault lines persist and they run not only between states, but also within some of them. In spite of the huge body of international law, there is still no question of institutionalizing trust. To this day, there are different interpretations of the same provisions, and their number is growing. Even such seemingly established notions as “national sovereignty” continue to be fiercely debated.

As a result, international relations in the postmodern era are a “mix” of national interests and the balance of forces (which did not go away), interdependence (which succeeded in some places, but not in others) and underlying pre-modern ontological and value schisms, which are playing an ever greater role in the modern international narrative (12). The postmodern world calls for a constructivist approach and corresponding analytical instruments. The key factor in fostering trust is the construction of a narrative and discourse, identification with this or that set of norms and values. Meanwhile, in some modern societies, integration on the basis of religion and ethnicity is still relevant and this narrative is often translated outside, often in radical and extremist forms.

The globalization of information exchange makes it impossible for postmodern states to hold their own against the narrative formed over national borders. The contemporary state is losing its monopoly on discourse and the integration of society on its territory (13). Trust in modern international relations is formed not on the state level but on the level of social networks on the basis of shared values and identities.

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States, in turn, are vying for spheres of integration, which is fast becoming just about the only method of institutionalizing trust. Trust for the United Nations is diminishing by the day and the same is happening to the international financial structures, G8 (now back to the G7 format) and G20, which in the wake of the 2008 crisis are seen as essentially discussion platforms. All this prompts the desire to create effective regional integration entities (both in economic and security spheres) capable of providing a higher level of trust among its participants than in the global arena as a whole.

However, in the connected postmodern world, as has been mentioned above, the integration aspirations of states do not always coincide with the aspirations of all parts of society, because some of them may be integrated into a totally different discourse. Supranational integration as a means of enhancing international trust, far from removing the problem of internal integration and internal cleavages, on the contrary, aggravates it. The result is a conflict of narratives and a crisis of confidence both inside and outside the state. And it is precisely this that has caused the political crisis in Ukraine.

Crisis of Confidence or the Ukrainian Crisis: Which Came First?

The Ukrainian crisis has had serious repercussions for Russia’s relations with the European Union and the United States. Thus, on September 30, 2014 the U.S. Ambassador to Germany Peter Wittig declared that Vladimir Putin’s policy had destroyed trust in Russia, making politicians and businessmen feel that “we are no longer partners”. In his opinion, the decision to make Crimea part of the Russian Federation and Russia’s support of the separatists in Eastern Ukraine had thrown Europe back to 1989 (15). However, would it be true to say that it is the events in Ukraine that have provoked this crisis of confidence in relations between Russia and the West? Or should the question be couched differently: would the Ukrainian crisis have been possible if it had not unfolded against the background of mistrust between Russia and the West?

Obviously, at the ontological level, mistrust existed before the events of 2013 took place (16). Russia was seen as a source of danger and was never including in the notion of “us” (17). Russia, for its part, declared that it would not agree to NATO’s expansion towards the east and the deployment of its anti-missile system close to its borders. In other words, Moscow perceived these actions as hostile. All the official discourse that prevailed until 2013 succeeded in doing was to hide this ontological mistrust behind the screen of “partnership”. With the breakout of the Ukrainian crisis, the screens were cast aside, and this was received with relief both here and in the West: at long last, one could speak one’s mind openly.

Today, both sides admit the conflict of national interests between Russia and the West (18). However, the official discourse built up in the 1990s obscured this fact, which was not difficult: at the time, Russia was preoccupied with its own problems at home and had no time to uphold its interests in the international arena. And it was this, it would appear, that enabled the West to develop the “partnership” and “trust” discourse. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union dramatically shifted the balance of forces in favour of the West, why not “trust” a weak Russia? After all, it poses no serious threat and, being dependent on financial flows from the West, is behaving in a thoroughly predictable manner. This discourse suited the Russian leadership as well, because it guaranteed the financial flows. But once Russia had the opportunity to look around, it turned out that such a “partnership” and “trust” implied almost complete inaction on the international scene, while the wish to be an independent actor rooted in the old sociocultural tradition had not gone away. The Russian leadership’s perception of the situation was succinctly expressed by President Putin when he addressed the Valdai Discussion Club on October 24, 2014: “One gets the impression that the so-called ‘victors’ in the Cold War have decided to ‘hold the situation’, redraw the whole world exclusively to their own needs and interests” (19).

At the same time, it should be noted that politicians on both sides have to some extent managed to convince the public that partnership relations are possible. The 1990s “setting” stimulated trust at the level of the civil society and business, as witnessed by the numerous joint ventures, projects and mutual investments (which have been hardest hit by the current economic sanctions). The abandonment of Cold War discourse played a positive role by creating trust at the lower levels, even though no serious ontological transformations occurred.

Given the lingering ontological mistrust, the prospect of Ukraine signing an Association Agreement with the European Union was perceived by Russia (at the level of official discourse) as a threat fraught with the break-off of economic ties between Ukraine and Russia, Ukraine joining NATO and Russia losing its main Black Sea Fleet base. The agreement on Ukraine’s association with the European Union was de facto equated with NATO troops being deployed on Russia’s borders and a total severance of economic ties, with the Agreement becoming a symbol of the West’s aggressive intentions. For its part, the West perceived Russia’s attempts to negotiate with Ukraine as pressure and interference in the affairs of a sovereign state. Thus, first the mechanisms of the security dilemma and ambiguous symbolism came into play. Then we observed the classical picture of the behavioural spiral when the actor’s moves thought to be aimed at protecting its national interests and preserving the status quo in relations (i.e. essentially defensive actions) were seen by the other side as aggressive.

Perceived in terms of the security dilemma, making Crimea part of Russia crystallized the West’s perception of Russia as an international aggressor. Thereafter, no one doubted whether Russia’s actions were defensive or aggressive. All Russia’s moves are now interpreted within that paradigm, a paradigm that is likely to be very difficult to overcome.

Both in Russia and in the West, the emerging official discourse sealed the division of “us” and “them”, “victims” and “perpetrators”. The Ukrainian crisis and its consequences for relations between Russia and the West have highlighted the fact that, in the modern world, discourse is more important and “effective” that interdependence and even national interests. Obviously, the deep economic crisis that is sure to hit both the Western and Eastern parts of Ukraine is in the interests of neither Russia, which had close economic ties with Ukraine, nor the European Union, which needs the Ukrainian market. Nevertheless, they allowed the conflict to become so deep as to cause damage to both sides (both the Russian and EU economies are suffering from the sanctions currently in force).

The destructive impact that the Ukrainian crisis has had on trust between Russia and the West is felt at all levels.

At the institutional level, Russia is perceived as a country that violates international norms and treaties, as well as the key principles of the modern world order, which are based on the concept of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders. There is no trust in Russian institutions and legislations, because they are thought to be liable to change by the will of one person (20). Interaction with Russia within international structures is being scaled down, Russia has been suspended from the G8 and the Russian delegation has been stripped of its vote at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

Generalized trust in Russian society has been undermined (21) partly because the majority of Russians approve of the leadership’s actions with regard to Ukraine, including taking back Crimea. Economic sanctions have made Russia still less attractive for investments, increasing business risks and worsening the investment climate. The destructive onslaught of the prevailing discourse has made inroads into economic interdependence, which has been much talked about in recent years in the context of Russia–EU relations (22).

Personalized trust, including at the level of small social groups and social networks, has suffered seriously. As regards trust in the Russian political leaders, it is virtually non-existent.

Thus, the events of the past year have shown that mistrust at the level of decision-makers and the accompanying official discourse resembling that of the Cold War can destroy trust at all the other levels within a very short time. However, the reverse process is not as simple. Tight bonds at the level of business entities and civil society, and cross-border networks, usually take decades to form; institutionalizing trust requires even more time and effort.

Ways to Overcome the Crisis in Confidence

Obviously, the starting position for building trust between Russia and the West today is worse than in 1989. It is equally obvious that, for Russia, the terms of dialogue will be tougher than 30 years ago because it was not in the habit of annexing other countries’ territories back then. What mechanisms can be employed here?

Foreign experts on international affairs propose two key approaches to overcoming mistrust between adversaries. They are “graduated reciprocation in tension reduction” (23) and a “costly signal” system (24).

Under the first method, one of the actors takes a step to meet the partner while preserving the necessary level of national security and incurring a “limited risk”. If the partner reciprocates the initial concession, a “spiral of trust” begins to be formed and the parties make further steps to meet each other. However, the effectiveness of this method depends to a large extent on how the actors envision the world and the place that the partner occupies in this picture of the world, i.e. is it an ontological “enemy” or “alien”? There is also the danger that the first step could be perceived by the other side as a trap or a trick. Because the partner struggles to understand what level of national security is “necessary” for the other side, they are unlikely to appreciate the initial “good will gesture”.

In view of all these problems, the second approach envisages more drastic actions. If the “good will gesture” is to be noticed and properly appreciated it should constitute a “costly” concession. But in that case, the side that makes the first move has to incur a substantial risk, which is a strong deterrent for taking such a decision.

As for the “little deeds” policy, Russia, its leaders believe, has already made a series of steps by trying to establish humanitarian corridors for the Ukrainian military, delivering humanitarian aid to Donetsk and Lugansk, developing a truce plan and contributing to its adoption. However, the West perceived these moves in exactly the way indicated above – as a trap (25).

What “costly signals” could Russia send? One obvious signal would be to return Crimea to Ukraine, but the Russian leadership is extremely unlikely to do that, partly for internal political reasons. The unilateral lifting of sanctions against the West would most likely be seen not as a “costly concession”, but as further proof of the vulnerability of the Russian economy. In turn, for the West the “costly signal” would be recognizing Crimea as part of Russia, which is categorically unacceptable for the European Union and the United States in terms of the logic of their discourse. The lifting of the anti-Russian sanctions could be another similar signal, but this is basically the only non-military instrument of pressure for the West, and its renunciation would be seen as a show of weakness in the face of an “aggressive” Russia.

While recognizing the significance of both approaches to overcoming mistrust, it has to be said that the parties, which are really concerned about the low level of mutual trust, would do well to start by taking a long hard look at their own perception of the partner to see if they are ontologically, i.e. a priori, guilty in their eyes. If the answer is “yes”, then the trust-building potential can only be fully tapped by substantially changing the picture of the world and the partner’s place in it. Along with the change of ontological status of the other side, it is necessary to radically change the discourse, as seeking to build trust within a narrative in which the partner is seen as the main global threat obviously makes no sense (26). And yet this is exactly how Russia is positioned in U.S. discourse (27), and how the United States is positioned in Russian discourse (28).

Another question that should be asked is whether the partner’s behaviour is prompted by fear, rather than by aggression. This should be followed by an analysis of one’s own actions to identify which of them could be perceived by the partner as a threat.

The next factor, the importance of which cannot be overestimated, is the establishment of constant dialogue and working communication channels. This highlights the absurdity of such methods as toughening the visa regime, withholding visas, cancelling visits and disrupting talks, eliminating existing dialogue platforms, obstructing business, etc. Such methods are counter-productive from every point of view, because in the absence of communication it is impossible to achieve any positive result: the message will either be misinterpreted or not heard at all. The tactic needed to stimulate trust between states is the very opposite of what we are seeing today: opening borders instead of closing them down; promoting business contacts instead of imposing trade sanction; increasing the number of discussion platforms instead of reducing them and curtailing joint projects; unbiased reporting in the media instead of promoting an image of the partner as an enemy image.

1. Russia tops ISIS threat, Ebola worst of all? Lavrov puzzled by Obama’s UN speech // Russia today. September 24, 2014 (

2. Obama Compares Russian Aggression to Nazism // Ukrainskaya Pravda. September 3, 2014. URL:

3. Meeting of Valdai International Discussion Club // Website of the Russian President. October 24, 2014. URL:

4. Gambetta D. 1988. Can We Trust Trust? // Gambetta D. (ed.) Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations. – N.Y., Oxford.

5. Wheeler N.J. Trust-Building in International Relations // Peace Prints: South Asian Journal Of Peacebuilding, Vol. 4, No.2: Winter 2012; Notter J., Trust and Conflict Transformation // The Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, Occasional Paper Number 5 (April 1995) (

6. Holsti O. Foreign Policy Formation Viewed Cognitively // Axelrod R. (ed.) Structure of Decision: The Cognitive Maps of Political Elites. – Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1976.

7. Booth K., Wheeler N.J. 2008. The Security Dilemma: Fear, Cooperation and Trust in world Politics. – United Kingdom: Palgrave MacMillan.

8. Herz J.H. Idealist Internationalism and the Security Dilemma // World Politics, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Jan., 1950), pp. 157-180.

9. Jervis R. 1976. Perception and Misperception in International Politics. – Princeton: Princeton University Press.

10. Booth K., Wheeler N.J. 2008. The Security Dilemma: Fear, Cooperation and Trust in world Politics. – United Kingdom: Palgrave MacMillan.

11. In the broad sense of the word, as the flow of deeds, not only words.

12. Lakshmanan I.A.R. Putin Has Destroyed Europe Trust in Russia: German Envoy // Bloomberg, September 30, 2014 (;

German ambassador to Russia: Trust lost between Berlin and Moscow // European Dialogue, 27/08/2014 (

13. Lakshmanan I.A.R. Putin Has Destroyed Europe Trust in Russia: German Envoy // Bloomberg, September 30, 2014 (

14. Top 10 Reasons Not to Trust Russia // The Heritage Foundation. Factsheet #71 on Russia and Eurasia. July 29, 2010 (

15. Thus, during the 2008 Obama–McCain debate, the moderator asked the candidates: “Ronald Reagan famously said that the Soviet Union was the evil empire. Do you think that Russia under Vladimir Putin is an evil empire?” Obama replied: “I think they've engaged in an evil behaviour and I think that it is important that we understand they're not the old Soviet Union but they still have nationalist impulses that I think are very dangerous.” At the same time, speaking about Russia, senator McCain said: “I think we can deal with them but they've got to understand that they're facing a very firm and determined United States of America that will defend our interests and that of other countries in the world.” (Solomon J. McCain, Obama Say Financial Crisis Threatens U.S. Power Overseas // The Wall Street Journal, Updated October 8, 2008. URL:

16. Special thanks to Professor V. Sergeev for the apt metaphor.

17. Lavrov: Moscow is Against “Primitive Schemes” of Russia–West Confrontation // Rossiiskaya Gazeta. October 13, 2014. URL:

18. Stop Global Chaos. The Global Security System is Weakened, Fragmented and Deformed. Vladimir Putin’s Speech to the Valdai International Discussion Club // Rossiiskaya Gazeta October 24, 2014. URL: (in Russian).

19. Nocera J. Putin Shows His Hand // The New York Times, Oct. 10, 2014 (

20. A survey conducted in August 2014 revealed that 82 per cent of Germans think Russia cannot be trusted, with 70 per cent favouring tougher sanctions. For more detail see CNN/ORC POLL Thursday, September 18, 2014. URL:; Shuster S. Putin’s Loss of German Trust Seals the West’s Isolation of Russia // Time. November 17, 2014. URL:

21. >Freiherr von Fritsch R. Goodwill is the Key to Restoring Confidence // The Moscow Times (

22. Osgood Ch. E. An Alternative To War Or Surrender. – Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1962.

23. Kydd A. Trust and Mistrust in International Relations. – Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.

24. Botelho G., Isaac L. Russian convoy rolls into Ukraine: 'Humanitarian' aid or 'direct invasion'? // CNN. Edition: International, August 28, 2014 (

25. Rupert J. General Wesley Clark: America’s Global Strategy Begins With Ukraine // Atlantic Council, October 09, 2014 (

26. Ibid.

27. Garton T. Putin’s Deadly Doctrine // The New York Times, July 18, 2014 (

28. Thus, addressing the Valdai Discussion Club on October 24, 2014, Vladimir Putin said: “a one-sided diktat and imposing one’s own templates is counter-productive. Instead of conflict settlement there is escalation. Instead of sovereign, stable states there is a growing space of chaos. Instead of democracy there is support of a dubious public, from overt Neo-Nazis to Islamist radicals.” Speech by Vladimir Putin to the participants in the Valdai International Discussion Club. URL:

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Poll conducted

  1. In your opinion, what are the US long-term goals for Russia?
    U.S. wants to establish partnership relations with Russia on condition that it meets the U.S. requirements  
     33 (31%)
    U.S. wants to deter Russia’s military and political activity  
     30 (28%)
    U.S. wants to dissolve Russia  
     24 (22%)
    U.S. wants to establish alliance relations with Russia under the US conditions to rival China  
     21 (19%)
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