2016 has been a significant year in American and Russian relations, to say the least. After nearly a year of politics and choices for both countries, it is a time to reassess where we stand. In spite of tensions between the two nations, we may still have the potential to stand together in order to establish a unified global community. With tensions in the Middle East, decreasing fossil fuel reliance, and international political disarray, there is no better time than now to cultivate a mutually beneficial international relationship between two of the world’s most influential powers.
Despite increasing anti-American sentiment in Russia and a similar disdain amongst Americans, the global political environment is at a point where we need to work together to institute meaningful change. While it can be difficult to reconcile the fundamental differences in American and Russian political beliefs, that does not necessarily mean the two nations are doomed to opposition. In fact, it seems that, through economics, there is at least one avenue to achieve productive, although perhaps limited, cooperation.
A precedent to this already exists in the United States’ dealings with China, another superpower with widely different values and culture. Cooperation with the east Asian country has already proved mutually beneficial, yielding scientific and economic benefits for both. That said, the growing power of these nations has led to concerns and suspicion on all sides. Just as anti-Russia sentiment is prevalent in America, there is an undercurrent of anti-China sentiment as well. Yet, China and America complement each other in numerous industries, including environmental regulations, business and investment opportunities (think EB-5 programs), and even cybersecurity measures.
By emphasizing mutually beneficial ventures, the United States and China are able to effectively stand side-by-side despite their different political orientations and underlying tension. The same can and should be done with Russo-American relations. Compared to the overwhelming desire of wealthy Chinese citizens to gain American citizenship through the EB-5 program, the response from Russia has been decidedly lackluster. This is certainly not because wealthy Russians don’t exist. In fact, between 2010 and 2010, the Russian elite donated $1.64 billion to various charitable causes; so it’s clear the funds are there. It’s more of a matter of reorienting current negative perception and encouraging economic collaboration.
What’s more, the EB-5 program is only one small way to encourage economic cooperation. Part of the reason that America and China continue to stand together is because of mutual economic dependence. For Russia, there are no such ties, with American goods exported there totaling only .1% of the U.S’s GDP. Antagonism between the two continues in part because neither have much to lose from sanctions placed on the other. In the future, a closer trade relationship may be crucial to fostering trust between the two countries.
While this is certainly easier said than done, that does not diminish its significance in the slightest. With financial motivation driving international cooperation, America and Russia could potentially mend their relationship and thrive.