Five things I learned about Russia last week
I was in Sochi all last week with a healthy fraction of the Russian foreign policy elite. Here's what I learned.By Daniel W. Drezner October 31 at 9:05 AM, WashPost
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a regular contributor to PostEverything.
The hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts hasn’t completely recovered from the jet-lag that comes with leaving Sochi at 2:30 in the bleeping a.m. to get back to the United States. But enough brain function has returned to make some observations about what I learned from my days in Sochi at the
1) Russian-American relations are going to be bad for a good long spell. Regardless of the nationality or ideological predisposition of the participant, everyone attending Valdai thought this to be true. Bloomberg’s Marc Champion offers up a concise summary of the mood at the conference.
The most disturbing part of this is how easy it is for both side to engage in an Airing of Grievances. By now Russian officials have a hardened line of discourse about How We Got Here that starts with the end of the Cold War, goes on to Kosovo, proceeds to Iraq and the dissolution of the ABM Treaty, continues through the 2008 Bucharest Summit about NATO enlargement, and then ends with some shots at U.S. policy in Libya and Syria. From Vladimir Putin on down, the brief against America is clear, concise and pretty damn compelling to Russians.
American interlocutors have their own doppelgänger version of this narrative, of course. It usually starts with Putin’s crackdown on internal opposition, goes on to Georgia, focuses a lot on Ukraine and Syria, notes Russian support for some unsavory Western politicians, mentions Moscow’s pressure on the Baltic states, perambulates around cyber, and closes with rumored interference in the U.S. election. Bear in mind that anyone attending Valdai is by definition pretty far from being an anti-Russian hardliner, and yet this is an easy brief to put forward.