Courtesy Reuters

Is Russia Still an Enemy?

Treat your friend as if he will one day be your enemy, and your enemy as if he will one day be your friend.


It is official: Russia no longer considers the Western democracies antagonists. The military doctrine that the government of the Russian Federation adopted in 1993 declares that Russia "does not regard any state to be its adversary." The May 1997 NATO-Russia agreement reaffirmed the premise. Although not admitted to NATO, Russia has been given a seat on the alliance's Permanent Joint Council, which assures it, if not of a veto, then of a voice, in NATO deliberations. Given that in last year's presidential election Russian voters rejected the communist candidate for one committed to democracy and capitalism, it is not unreasonable to assume that in time Russia will become a full-fledged member of the international community.

Yet doubts linger because so much about post-communist Russia is unfinished and unsettled. Fledgling democracy contends with ancient authoritarian traditions; private enterprise struggles against a collectivist culture; frustrated nationalist and imperialist ambitions impede the enormous task of internal reconstruction. Russians, bewildered by the suddenness and the scope of the changes they have experienced, do not know in which direction to proceed. A veritable battle for Russia's soul is in progress.

Its outcome is of considerable concern to the rest of the world, if only because Russia's geopolitical situation in the heartland of Eurasia enables it, weakened as it is, to influence global stability. Whether it indeed joins the world community or once again withdraws into its shell and assumes an adversarial posture will be decided by an unpredictable interplay of domestic and external factors.


Over the past three centuries, Russia has had its share of conflicts with what are now NATO countries -- notably Turkey, Britain, and Germany -- but Russian relations with the United States before the Bolsheviks' seizure of power were exceptionally friendly. In the early decades of the nineteenth century,

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