khrushcheva145_Peter Klaunzer - PoolKeystone via Getty Images_bidenputin Peter Klaunzer/Pool/Keystone via Getty Images

What the US Misunderstands About Russia

In recent decades, the US and Europe have consistently dismissed Russia's security concerns relating to its former territories, and portrayed its resistance to NATO’s eastward expansion as paranoid revanchism. Until the West changes its approach, the cycle of crises will continue, with escalating risks.

MOSCOW – With thousands of Russian troops now massed near Ukraine’s border, the announcement that Russia and the United States will soon hold security talks is undoubtedly welcome. While a de-escalation of tensions is hardly guaranteed, it is a lot harder to talk past someone who is in the same room.

Russia and the West have been doing just that for most of Vladimir Putin’s 21 years in power. There was, of course, a brief honeymoon period: in 2001, US President George W. Bush famously claimed that he had looked his Russian counterpart “in the eye” and gotten “a sense of his soul,” which was “very straightforward and trustworthy.” And Putin was helpful in the early months of the US intervention in Afghanistan.

But things went downhill from there. Nowhere is the West’s consistent failure to understand Putin clearer than in American assessments of Russia’s Ukraine policy – especially the claim by senior US officials that Putin may be seeking to “reconstitute the Soviet Union” as part of a “legacy project.”

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