On April 10, 2017, RIAC in Moscow hosted the discussion of joint RIAC–CSIS report “Roadmap for U.S.-Russia relations”, prepared by group of experts from the two countries.
A short summary of expert discussion:
— Had I been asked a week ago what my expectations for this visit were, I would have said that anything but a tangible success, could be considered a failure. The key expectation of the Secretary of State’s visit was that it was supposed to give a new impetus to Russia-U.S. relations and put them on the path towards summit. Today my answer would be different. Anything that is not an obvious failure can be considered a success. It is important to avoid escalation and identify priorities. (Andrey Kortunov, RIAC Director General)
— Earlier on we were worried about the Russia-U.S. deterioration. Today, a major cause for concern is the lack of experience of the current White House team. They were could aim for a symbolic gesture – signing of a treaty that would most likely be followed by disappointment. The airstrikes on Syria are not viewed in the U.S.A. as carried out ‘under a false pretext’. (Olga Oliker, Senior Adviser and Director, Russia and Eurasia Program, CSIS)
— When the work on the joint project started, it was feared to result in a very ‘bland’ report sugar-coating the issues and making general statements only. Fortunately, this did not happen. Despite a dramatic escalation of the Syrian conflict, Russian and American experts’ opinions remain relevant. The relations between Russia and U.S. do lack a common agenda, and the joint expert project is the first step on the long journey towards cooperation. Russia’s illusions about the the presidential elections’ results were unfounded. One should not expect any major progress from the visit of the Secretary of State. The focus should be on determining the agenda. (Sergey Rogov, Academic Director of the RAS Institute of RAS Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies, RAS Full Member, RIAC Member)
— Economic relations between our countries have not become an engine for development, as it was in the case of China-U.S. relations. At the same time, economy is the basis upon which relations between countries are built. Trade between Russia and the U.S. has dropped from $43 billion (2011) to $20 billion. This is due to objective factors (i.e. the USA’s lack of interest in Russia’s dominance as an exporter of natural resources) and subjective factors (i.e. sanctions on Russia). Even though the near future is not as bright, there is certain potential, first and foremost in trade as in Russia there is unsatisfied demand for the U.S. companies’ high-tech products. (Viktor Supyan, Deputy Director of RAS Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies)
— There is a risk of a direct confrontation – intentional or unintentional – between Russian and American forces in Syria. The communication channels between the military must be restored. Same measures need to be undertaken in the Black sea region, Baltic sea region, and in the Arctic. (Andrey Zagorsky, Department Head at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, RIAC Member)
— Russia and the U.S. have different approaches to the region. However, there is room for cooperation. Last week’s events can, in fact, have only limited influence on the situation in the region, without shutting the doors to Russia-U.S. cooperation. These strike will not turn the page of the Syrian conflict. Washington’s next steps are, however, of great importance. (Vasily Kuznetsov, Director, Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences)
— Russian footprint' in the U.S. elections is transforming into the domestic policy issue in the U.S. even though it would be much more sensible to carry out a joint investigation. (Pavel Sharikov, Director of the Applied Research Center, RAS Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies)
— During the past 25 years Russia has viewed the U.S. as an opponent. Russia-U.S. relations have been perceived as a zero-sum game. Every action on the part of the U.S. has been considered either as a threat or as a weakness. The U.S., on the other hand, did not have any elaborated strategy towards Russia. Now their approach is very similar to that of Russia during the past 25 years: they look at Russia’s actions through the prism of threat-weakness. (Olga Oliker)
— What could be considered a success of this visit is an announcement of the high-level meeting which is crucial for bilateral relations’ development.
Another aim is to restore the key communication channels between the two countries that existed during the years of the Cold War and later on and helped to avoid crisis escalation as well as to develop common solutions to the most difficult problems. These are the communication channels between our Foreign Ministries, Defence Ministries as well as law enforcement. (Igor Ivanov, RIAC President, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004))
Prepared by Nikita Chernyshenko and Maria Belyak.