The National Interest : Russie / US, un affrontement inévitable ?


La revue américaine The National Interest, un des contrepoints majeurs de sensibilité « réaliste » à la pensée de type « néo-conservatrice » hyper-dominante dans les Etats-Unis de l’après-Guerre Froide, poursuit sa méditation continue sur la possibilité de relations apaisées entre les US et la Russie. The National Interest cite même Sergey Witte, premier ministre du Tsar Nicolas II, a l’appui de sa vision réaliste des relations internationales.

« ONE REASON for avoiding a sense of inevitable confrontation with Russia is that Moscow’s truculence is primarily a function of what America does rather than who it is. To the extent that Russia has an ideology, it is an assertive nationalism that allows cooperation with any nation that does not challenge Russian geopolitical interests or its system of government. Russia thus maintains good relations with authoritarian countries like China and Qatar, and with democracies like India and Israel. In part because its leaders are pragmatic rather than messianic, Russia’s authoritarianism is still relatively soft and incorporates many democratic procedures including meaningful if not entirely free or fair elections, a judicial branch that is autonomous most of the time and a semi-independent media.

While a U.S.-Russian conflict is not inevitable, Russia’s estrangement from the West after the Cold War probably stemmed from the unrealistic and contrasting expectations held on both sides. When Mikhail Gorbachev and his liberal allies like Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, Central Committee Secretary Alexander Yakovlev, and foreign-policy aide Anatoly Chernyaev began articulating and implementing Gorbachev’s “new thinking,” which emphasized universal human values at the expense of national interests, they assumed that the Soviet Union could cease being a global superpower, give up its system of alliances, rely increasingly on foreign economic assistance and still benefit from others’ deference to Moscow as a key player in world affairs. If Soviet leaders had consulted Russia’s own history, they would have realized how profoundly unrealistic their expectations were.

Sergei Witte, who became Russia’s first constitutionally appointed prime minister under Czar Nicholas II following the country’s humiliating defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, would have immediately foreseen what was to come. “It was not because of our culture or our bureaucratic church or our wealth and welfare that the world respected us,” Witte wrote. The world respected our strengths, and when they saw to an exaggerated degree that we were not as strong as they thought, that Russia was « a colossus on clay legs, » then the picture changed immediately, domestic and foreign enemies raised their heads, and the indifferent stopped paying attention to us ».

Notwithstanding the motives of Gorbachev and, later, President Boris Yeltsin, Western officials showed little gratitude for their roles in destroying the Soviet empire once it became clear that a Russia collapsing upon itself was unwilling to use force and had very little remaining economic leverage »…


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