Russia and the USA: Reflecting on the Conflict

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2017-61-5-5-13

V. Zhuravleva (,
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow 117997, Russian Federation  

Acknowledgements. The article has been supported by a grant of the Russian Science Foundation. Project no. 151830069 “World Order Crisis: Expert Community Answers”.

Abstract. In the article, the author reflects on the conflict nature of Russia–U.S. relations. Through the years, the interaction between these two leading powers is balancing between two poles: confrontation and friendship. Only two models of relations exist: the model of hope and the model of disappointment, which follow each other as the day follows the night. Why it is so difficult for these states to build a strong and stable partnership? The author supposes that besides the absence of a firm economic base there are cultural and psychological roots that go up to the national identity of both countries, their competitive visions of self-greatness and self-exclusiveness, and their special missions in the world. Along with these two rather close self-visions, there are two different visions of the counterpart. The image of Russia in the United States is that of “Stranger”. In different periods, Russia has been perceived in the U.S. in various ways, in particular, as an enemy during the Cold War. However, even in the World War II when the two countries were allies, USSR was still a “Stranger”. A “Stranger” means a country, which is difficult to understand, which is too different to be attractive, and finally, which arouses suspicion and anxiety. For Russia, the United States is “The Other” – the alter ego, the one who can be both an example and a scapegoat. Unfortunately, these two different images – “The Stranger” and “The Other” – are very easy to be transformed into one – “The Enemy”. The mismatched perceptions of each other, effectively used by political elites to create negative or even aggressive context, underlie mutual misunderstanding and mistrust that dominate bilateral relations both at the governmental and societal level. When it comes to conflict, this misunderstanding easily evolves into an unwillingness to understand, full emotional and psychological closeness and alienation, which inevitably sharpens every confrontation. The mismatched images together with different political models, also analyzed by the author, and a rivalry for the international influence, make the conflict in the U.S. – Russia relations inevitable. Meanwhile, the modern international reality itself, full of challenges and threats, could be a cure to this perpetual conflict. 

Keywords: conflict nature, mutual images, messianic concepts, misunderstanding, different political models, reliance on personal contact, rivalry, transformation of the World Order 


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For citation:
Zhuravleva V. Russia and the USA: Reflecting on the Conflict. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2017, vol. 61, no. 5, pp. 5-13.

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