Discussions with Yevgeny Shestakov: The U.S. must increase dialogue with Russia

In this discussion, Yevgeny Shestakov talks about U.S.-Russian relations with Tobi Gati, a senior international advisor to the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP.

In the U.S. National Military Strategy, Russia is not described as a foe or an enemy. It is described as a country positioned in the European context and also, by extension, the Asian context. The emphasis is on cooperation not confrontation.


Yevgeny Shestakov: How would you assess the new U.S. National Military Strategy in comparison with the previous document?  

Tobi Gati: The new national military strategy of the United States is, I think, a realistic, rather sober, look at the challenges America faces, and at the tools available to the military and the civilian part of government to meet the new challenges. I think it describes a world in which we go from concentrating on fighting two wars to a broad strategy that involves fighting wars but also using the capabilities of diplomacy and of development as part of a unified whole.

Y.S.: In your opinion, what is the main reason, behind the American reorientation towards the Pacific region?

T.G.: The transition to a more active priority in the Asian-Pacific region is the recognition of reality. It’s a recognition that America’s economic interests are increasingly focused on Asia, and also recognition of the fact that the countries of Asia are playing a larger role in the international system. Finally, it’s recognition that China is increasingly a factor in international politics. 

Y.G.: The new U.S. National Security Strategy highlights different spheres of cooperation between Russia and the United States. What form will this cooperation take? How would you assess the U.S. appeal that Russia play a more active role in preserving security and stability in Asia?

T.G.: I think it’s very notable that in the strategy Russia is not described as a foe or an enemy. It is described as a country positioned in the European context. I think also, by extension, the Asian context, as a country with which we need to increase contact and increase dialogue. The emphasis in the strategy here is on cooperation, not confrontation. And even in the areas where we have disagreement, particularly of course anti-ballistic missile defense, the focus is on finding ways to deal with the differences, and not to make those differences cause for relations to break down or for the “reset” to come to a halt, but to bring Russia into discussions and also in having Russia play a more active role in security in Europe and Asia as well. I think the important point here is that, at least as far as Russia is described in the strategy, the focus is not on the differences, more on the commonalities. 

This is not to underestimate the very different views that were expressed, for example, in the statements on the New START ratification from the two sides. But as we’ve seen with negotiating the New START treaty, as we’ve seen with negotiating transit to Afghanistan, as we’ve seen in working with Russia and others on pressuring Iran not to develop nuclear weapons, these differences are the starting point for discussion and not the end point for walking away from the table. 

Tobi Gati is a Senior International Advisor with the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

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