Bears, Donkeys ‘n’ Elephants

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, was interviewed on Russia Today television. The discussion ranged from the recent deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations under President Obama to possible U.S.-Russian cooperation in fighting terrorism to the implications of the crisis on Ukraine, and other foreign policy issues, for American politics.

“For all of the ups and downs in the 1990s and 2000s, there was a kind of continuity in the parameters of the [U.S.-Russian] relationship,” said Rutland, who is also professor of government, professor of Russian and Eastern European Studies. “That really has fallen apart since 2008. Yes, there were some changes in Putin’s policy, but Putin had been around since 2000, so the main responsibility for the collapse in the relationship must like on the American side, unfortunately. There was a mindset of the Obama Administration coming in that thought that Putin was a man of the past…They put all their chips on the idea that Russia would return to democratization under President Medvedev, and that proved unfortunately to be a losing bet.”

In response to the interviewer’s assertion that Russia has continued down a road of democratization, Rutland said, “There are different types of democracy. Putin is certainly a popular leader and he’s certainly stayed within the loose parameters of democratic politics understood in the Russian context, but what the Obama administration had in mind was real, competitive Western-style democracy with parties competing for the presidency, competing for seats in the parliament, and also much more interaction of civil society organizations in Russia with Western organizations.”

Watch the entire interview here.