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Why is the United States so tough on Russia? The answer may be in the Lenin’s brochure of 1920

Popov, Vladimir (2022): Why is the United States so tough on Russia? The answer may be in the Lenin’s brochure of 1920.

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Even before the war in Ukraine of 2022 and even before the ‘Russian-hackers-undermine-US-democracy’ campaign of 2016, Russian-American relations had degraded to a level not seen since the 1950s. Why? Today the US has fewer ideological disagreements with Russia than it had with the USSR during the Cold War. Nowadays Russia is a capitalist market economy and a more democratic country than the USSR. Also, Russia is much weaker than the USSR – the size of its population and territory, and economic and military potential are about 60 to 80 percent of that of the Soviet Union. Its influence simply cannot be compared to the global impact of the USSR. But today the rhetoric and the actions of the US towards Russia are much harsher than they were in the 1970s, in the era of détente.

The case in point is 1968 Czechoslovakia crisis, when the USSR together with its Warsaw pact allies moved the troops into the heart of Europe, de facto replacing the old leadership of the country with a new pro-Soviet regime. Not only the West refrained from imposing sanction, it started the détente only 3 years later. But sanctions were imposed in 1980, right after the Soviet Union moved the troops into Afghanistan in 1979, and in 2014 after Crimea became part of Russia. Why the difference?

It is argued that the US and Western policy towards USSR/Russia is driven by perceptions of the political class about the prospects of the strengthening/weakening of the regime. In the 1960s it was perceived that the role of the USSR will continue to rise in the world economy and international politics, so there was a need to find modus vivendi and rules of co-existence, which eventually resulted in détente. In the 1980s, however, and especially in the 2010s it was perceived that the USSR/Russia is not catching up with the West economically and is likely to be on the decline, not on the rise.

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