A reflection on “Russia’s Leadership and U.S.-Russia Relations”

Kuchins WILL Interview

Kuchins at his WILL Interview with David Inge

On February 2nd Dr. Andrew Kuchins presented a REEEC Distinguished Lecture entitled “Russia’s Leadership and U.S.-Russia Relations.”  Dr. Kuchins is a senior fellow and the director of the CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program. He is an internationally known expert on Russian foreign and domestic policies who publishes widely and is frequently called on by business, government, media, and academic leaders for comment and consulting on Russian and Eurasian affairs.  Kuchins currently teaches at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and has also taught at Georgetown and Stanford Universities. He holds a B.A. from Amherst College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins SAIS.

Kuchins made the point that it doesn’t matter who becomes the next Russian president and that external factors will matter more to Russia’s political system.  According to Kuchins the likely return of Putin raises questions about his political capital:  Will he reform?  Can a re-set of U.S. foreign policy occur?  Kuchins noted that three political factions will try to push their influence.  The liberals want Russia to pursue more integration and cooperation with its neighbors. The power balancers believe that the west has overplayed its roll and want power ceded to Russia.  Russian nationalists advocate neo-imperialism, and want to create buffer-zone while uniting Russia with Diasporas in near-abroad.

Kuchins made the point that while Putin is often thought to be opposed to American policy, it is forgotten that he pursued his own reset in 2000-01. The pursuit of a reset stopped when Russia’s situation changed. Moscow’s opinion of Washington became negative and Russia’s own sense of reemergence was strengthened.  Also, as Russia’s fiscal situation improved, financial sovereignty helped to inform political attitudes towards foreign policy in 2003-08. Russia was reemerging while American uni-polarity was diminishing.

But now the Russian middle class has been undergoing a radical change and is continues to grow. When Putin started, Russia was more monolithic, but now society is more polarized.  And Putin will have to decide whether or not to adjust for more pluralism as his political brand is becoming more tarnished.

While he was on campus, Dr. Kuchins was a guest on WILL AM 580’s Focus program.  That interview can be found here:  http://will.illinois.edu/focus/interview/focus120203a/. Additionally, he visited the REES 201 course – Introduction to Eastern Europe to speak on the broader impact of Russia’s elections and its government on surrounding nations. He also presented the same topic at an OLLI lunchtime lecture to a capacity crowd on February 3. That lecture is embedded below. https://dl-web.dropbox.com/get/Kuchins%20OLLI%20Lecture.mp3?w=80df0527

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