U.S.-Russia Relations After the Summit

June 12, 2002 // 12:00am

In a recent discussion at the Kennan Institute, Aleksandr Vladislavlev offered his perspective on the dynamics of Russian politics and U.S.-Russia relations. Vladislavlev contended that Russian politics have evolved from questions about reform to new issues that place the political community and interest groups on opposite sides. He noted further that U.S.-Russia relations have changed dramatically in recent months and praised President Putin's efforts to develop a new Russian foreign policy.

According to Vladislavlev, the "mechanism of power" is the largest problem with present Russian politics. Political agreements in Russia are based on compromises between influential special interest groups and government officials. Parties have yet to consolidate to offset the growing number of influential groups and government officials continue to cater to special interest needs. Although this type of arrangement occurs throughout different political regimes, including here in the United States, party systems limit the influence exerted by interest groups.

In order to limit government corruption, Vladislavlev argued, Russia should create a three-party system. Despite the anti-party sentiment in Russia, there is a basis for creating a three-party system consisting of liberals, communists and other political parties. According to Vladislavlev, about 40-45 percent of the Russian population is interested in the different views of Russian political parties, while the other 60 percent can be categorized as liberals or communists.

While many Russians do not follow day-to-day political affairs of the state, most have common political views. Freedom is extremely important to Russians because it is viewed as an instrument of survival. Despite various interpretations, Russians view the government as a provider of order. Finally, most Russians, regardless of party affiliation, expect politicians to recognize the importance of the family.

President Putin has learned many lessons in the past two years and has the skills needed to restore power back to the Kremlin. Under Putin's leadership, an effective three-party system could be created if he would sit down with the leaders of the main political groups. Vladislavlev praised Putin for bringing logic to Russian foreign policy and commented on possible implications for U.S.-Russia relations. During the Cold War, relations between the two sides developed under unnatural conditions because Russia's foreign policy contradicted its own interests. Putin's efforts to engage the West have created a more natural, coherent foreign policy that benefits the Russian Federation.

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