How have past Russian/American relations shaped the modern world?

May 17, 2019 by

The global political scene may seem like a fast-moving and fairly chaotic place right now. With the threat of terrorist attacks seemingly higher than ever, the impending bombshell of the UK finally leaving the EU and President Trump’s continued trade wars with China, it may seem that we are living in unheard of times. In truth though, world politics have always been liable to throw up surprises and ongoing feuds between nations that others seek to contain.

In recent times, the USA has been right at the heart of this. The aforementioned spat with China over international trade is the latest instance, but there have been others before this. One major political battle of wills that shaped the entire modern world is the past relationship between America and Russia. Although this had become a touch friendlier in recent years, it has once more deteriorated in modern times again. Of course, the Cold War era certainly saw a period where the ideological battle which took place consumed the whole planet.

Past relations between Russia and America

It is no surprise to many that the relationship between these two global super-powers has always been a complex one. As time goes on, this looks like it will never change! As leading expert on US-Russian relations Angela Stent explores in her book ‘Putin’s World’, even now, there is significant strain on this relationship. Through her research in putting the book together and her role as a Georgetown University Professor, she explains in ‘Putin’s World’ how the complicated nature of relations continues to affect the future path they follow.

Real US-Russian relations began in earnest and on good footing during World War I and II. As America fought on the Allies side with Russia, this made them firm friends for a while. However, after World War II, things did not carry on quite as favorably. This led to the infamous ‘Cold War’ period which ran from around 1947 until 1991!

During this time, the former allies began to drift apart on ideological grounds, with America embracing capitalism and Russia communism. This, along with increasing concern from either country over the other’s military might, led to mounting tensions between them at this time. Interestingly, there was never any actual fighting – it was instead a war of propaganda, intelligence gathering and paranoia.

Where has this led to in recent times?

As the old Soviet Union began to break up and communism was rejected in the region by many, it actually led to a thawing of Cold War relations between the two superpowers. Come 1991, Boris Yeltsin was in place as Russian President and he formed good relations with his counterpart in America. Unfortunately, since then it seems relations have gotten worse once more – mainly since Vladimir Putin has held power in Russia.

During this period, there have been accusations and counteraccusations from each country over a range of issues including the Russian annexation of the Crimea and the war in Syria. This has led both countries to blame the other for the breakdown in relations and left US-Russian politics on a knife-edge again.

How has all this affected our modern world?

In simple terms, the ensuing feud between the two biggest nations has shaped the modern world by involving the whole world! This was especially true in the ‘Cold War’ era where the whole world lived in fear of nuclear warfare between the two leading to the destruction of the planet. Alongside that, it forced other countries around the world to choose a side and fight against the other, depending on if you were communist or capitalist. Most of these countries would not have involved themselves in anything like this if it were not for how Russia and the US were behaving towards each other.

Of course, the other way their relations have shaped our modern world is by affecting society’s attitudes towards Russians and Americans, capitalists and communists. With so much propaganda and stereotyping on both sides in the past, this has led to attitudes being formed that still exist today in many areas. This has, in turn, led to a lack of integration and understanding in the past, in both Russia and America. Thankfully, proper education on these issues should be enough to make this a distant memory.

Where will things head next?

The burning question for many people is simply where will US-Russian relations take the world next? Many fear that a slide back towards the ‘Cold War’ era will see the whole world engaged in their differences once more. While this is not on the agenda yet, if tensions within this relationship cannot be overcome, then it may only rise to cause further problems in the future.

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