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I am talking about pre-Ukraine War situation. Especially from 1990 to 2021.

At present there are only two major powers that are posing themselves as an opposing force to the US leadership.

I admit that China's position is naturally anti-West as they are a one-party state, and the West doesn't like one-party states.

However, why does Russia have an anti-West stance all the time?

The general population of Russia doesn't have anything uncommon with the West, be it culture, be it lifestyle. Their US visa getting rate is also very high.

Why haven't Russia/Serbia been able to become friendly with the West during the past, say 30 years or so?

What is the fundamental issue?

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  • 6
    Does this answer your question? politics.stackexchange.com/questions/10960/…
    – Allure
    Jun 21, 2022 at 4:55
  • 2
    "Opposing" inequal "stop integrating". So the question is not duplicate, voting to reopen
    – kandi
    Jun 21, 2022 at 21:24
  • 3
    There is no free press in Russia, no freedom of speech, no fair elections. Those are quite important factors of freedom for most people in the West. A lot of opposition politicians die or are imprisoned.
    – Polygnome
    Jun 21, 2022 at 21:31
  • 1
    @Polygnome Some alies of the West have even more problems with all that things you mentioned, but they are still alies.
    – convert
    Jun 21, 2022 at 21:47
  • 3
    Why is Serbia mentioned in this question?
    – A. R.
    Jun 22, 2022 at 19:53

5 Answers 5

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If one wants to read the "writing on the wall", Russia never gave up pursuing its interests even if they were deemed "imperialist" by others (to paraphrase a discourse of Yeltsin published on Nov 25, 1992.) So, in that perspective, it's little wonder the Baltic countries etc. kept banging on the door of NATO. The factions in Russia that decry NATO and those that demanded Russia reassert itself over the 25 million Russians that ended up in other former USSR republics (outside Russia itself) are closely overlapping.

Besides that, Putin and his like-minded could not stomach the 2003-2005 era "color revolutions" as further diminishing Russia's sphere of influence over the other such republics (Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan etc.) They saw these as being orchestrated by the West, etc.

Whether the breaking point (we're currently experiencing) could have occurred earlier than it did is a matter of speculation, but Yeltsin did decry the "genocide" committed by NATO against the (brother) Serbs etc. That was counterbalanced by Russia needing Western investments back then. And later, during Putin's time probably by a hope that NATO would refocus on counter-Islamic-terrorism etc. and give Russia more leeway "near abroad" in return for help/cooperation in that regard. Not entirely an unfounded hope one could say, given that NATO-Russia joint military maneuvers, which debuted in 2003 (with US and Russian marines making a joint landing on a Polish beach) continued until 2013, with on a one year hiatus in 2009 (much to the dismay of some Baltic country leaders, after the 2008 war in Georgia.)

So, a level of opposition has alway existed, but it has ebbed and flowed, counterbalanced by some cooperation. And Putin-circle elites even nowaday think/say that the West will ultimately concede on Ukraine, eventually reducing the level of West-Russia conflict(s) again. Apparently not entirely an unreasonable view given some polls in Europe.

3
  • 25 million? It was more than 140 million. RF retained only about half of the USSR's 285 million population. Ukraine alone was 45 million (> 25 million). Or is that a statement about the ethnic Russians who settled in the successors of the USSR other than the RF? If that's the case, it should really be made more clear.
    – wrod
    Sep 7, 2022 at 4:14
  • @wrod It says "25 million Russians", not "25 million USSR citizens". Sep 9, 2022 at 2:58
  • @Acccumulation the term is rarely used to refer to ethnic Russians outside of the fmr USSR. In fact, such use usually requires an explanation. Most commonly "Russians" refers to (1) citizens of RF (2) residents of the former USSR (3) descendants of the residents of the former USSR, in that order.
    – wrod
    Sep 9, 2022 at 22:59
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Your question implies that it was Russia's decision to oppose the West, but it was hardly the case. During the first Putin's first term, Russia was very pro-Western and even was expressing interest in joining NATO. Yet, there were zero interest in befriending Russia on the opposite side. Surely, noone was admiting that (on the contrary, Merkel was telling fary tales about how she wants to see "common economic area from Lisboa to Vladivostock"), but the fact is that even talks on visa-free travel between Russia and EU which were started in 2003 were on for ten years resulted into nothing because of lack of real interest from the EU's side. And the fact that the EU was not even wanting to remove visas clearly indicates that it was against any other integration. Quite naturally, when there is a dominant club where you are not invited, you would like to oppose that club and seek a new one to enter (the candidate for that was BRICS). This is the position Russia was in. By the way, another important fact concerning visas is that Ukrainaians and Georgians were granted right to travel to EU visa-free which is hard to interpret as anything but a reward for oppsing Russia.

Events in Ukraine (starting from 2013) are also an important reason of the outcome. Let's note that Ukraine itself (i.e. not as a part of Russia-the West confrontation) has zero value for the US (to America it's just a tiny economy very far away) and even negative value for the EU (remember how much economic trouble caused Greece, now imagine Ukraine gets integrated for real). Depsite that, the West actively supported Euromaidan knowing perfectly well that Euromaidan was clearly anti-Russian and that Ukraine was an existential interest for Russia. Moreover, given that in Russia Ukraine was seen as a part of Russia which accidently got independence but still remained in some kind of orbit of Russia, supporting Euromaidan was almost like supporting sepatists in Russia. So this was the moment when an open hostility started, and it was started by the West.

The way the West reacted to Russia's intervention in Ukraine also provides some hints. By the moment this answer is being written, Ukraine doesn't have much of its own arms left, so the war probably could have been ended by now if the West wasn't passionatly supporting the bloodshed by provided just as much arms as to keep parity. This is a clear indication that the West's goal is to weaken Russia and not help Ukraine (sending more arms than now and defeating Russian army might cause a democratic revolt in Russia, which might strengthen Russian economy in the long run and thus bad for the West).

As for the reasons why the West want to contain Russia, the possible answers are:

  1. the leader of the West is the US, and the US might lose significant amount of its influence in Europe if Russia becomes significantly stronger
  2. pure Russophobia. For instance, one of the EU sanctions is forbiding persons holding Russian pasport (and not having EU residence) from having deposits higher than 100 000 euro. There is no way how such measure creates problems for Putin's regime and helps Ukraine, it just basically sends the message "even if you're anti-War, anti-Putin and so on and you immigrated to Europe, we will threat you as an untermensch".

To sum up, Russia ended up as an opposing power because it was not welcome in the Western society, the West treated Russia as an enemy and probably because many in the West simply loathed Russians.

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  • 17
    "probably because many in the West simply loathed Russians." - have you got ANY evidence to support that? I've never met anyone in my life that "loathed Russians". Up until recently most European people I know basically thought of Russia as a just another part of Europe (the continent, not the EU). Jun 22, 2022 at 22:04
  • 9
    @Allure Being cautious and/or concerned about a country's treatment of minority groups or some other kind of regressive policy is perfectly valid and doesn't IMO indicate a wider bias against the people of that country. As an Australian I disagree heavily with the US's gun policy, and even our own government advises that the risk of gun violence is high: smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/americas/…. But despite that I have no ill will or aversion towards Americans in general.
    – Kayndarr
    Jun 23, 2022 at 6:52
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    @NathanGriffiths see the example about deposits in my answer. In fact, the recent Western actions are good proof, given that many of them are specifically targeting to harm and humiliate ordinary Russians without having any effect on Putin's regime or anyhow helping to stop the war. Strictly speaking, this prooves the current hatred, but do you really believe that it didn't exist before and appeared all of the sudden just because of a small war?
    – kandi
    Jun 23, 2022 at 14:54
  • 4
    @kandi I don't think that proves anything at all about how the average Westerner views Russia, any more than Putin ordering the mass murder of civilians proves all Russians hate Ukranians. Jun 25, 2022 at 21:00
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    This answer treats Ukraine and its people entirely as objects with no interests on their own. It assumes that the West should base its policy on Ukraine primarly on what Russia thinks about it completely denying any importance to what Ukraine wants itself.
    – quarague
    Jun 26, 2022 at 6:11
5

Repost of the answer I wrote in the linked question.

See source Trust deficit: The roots of Russia’s standoff with the West

Immediately after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russians did look at the West positively, but that changed because:

  • NATO expansion after promising Gorbachev it would not expand. Then US president Bill Clinton apparently took the view that since Russia lacked the power to oppose NATO expansion, the US didn't need to take Russian interests into account anymore. Edit: Clinton claims that he expanded NATO because he wanted to "work for the best while preparing for the worst".

In his view, today’s inflamed geopolitical crisis was rooted in the post-Cold War failure to create a security system, primarily in Europe, that would fully include Russia. Western leaders gave Mikhail Gorbachev strong verbal assurances NATO would not be expanded into the former Soviet sphere but, as Mr. Gromyko ruefully notes, Mr. Gorbachev failed to get that in writing. Following the USSR’s demise, U.S. President Bill Clinton took office and adopted other plans. That lesson was not lost on the Russians.

“After the collapse of one pillar of the former bipolar world order, it became fashionable in the West to think that the world order could become unipolar, with the U.S. at the helm,” he says. “In the 1990s, Russia descended into its worst crisis since 1917. It not only ceased to be a superpower, it suffered political, economic, and social collapse as well. It was not even clear that Russia would survive physically. So, perhaps believing that Russian interests and views didn’t matter anymore, Clinton made the decision to enlarge NATO to the east.”

“But just because Russia couldn’t do anything about it at the time doesn’t mean that we accepted it. We never did. Since then the process of NATO expansion has been unstoppable, and so has the subsequent chain of events.”

The Western alliance has since taken in all of the former Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact allies, as well as the three former Soviet Baltic republics. Mr. Gromyko says the Russians signaled repeatedly to Western counterparts that inducting Ukraine or Georgia into the alliance would be a red line. At its 2008 Bucharest Summit, NATO shelved those countries’ applications, but issued a statement insisting they would eventually join.

  • Economic reforms recommended by the West went very, very badly.

“You can blame Putin, or some kind of Russian stubbornness, but that wasn’t the main thing,” he says. “In the early ’90s we wanted to be a prosperous, democratic country, and the West was the model for our development. But reforms enacted on Western advice produced economic disaster and mass misery. People started to believe that the West didn’t want Russia to succeed. It looked like the U.S. wanted Russia to become a junior partner, like Germany or the U.K. But most Russians wanted to follow an independent policy, to be friends and partners with the West, but to be ourselves.”

  • Aggressive US foreign policy, coupled with apparent US incompetence.

He says several events led many Russians to question not only the idea of U.S. leadership, but competence. The 1999 war over Kosovo illustrated to them that NATO was not simply a defensive alliance. The 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and subsequent Middle East misadventures, created the impression the U.S. was an aggressor, and one that didn’t seem to know what it was doing. The 2008 financial crash tarnished the U.S. economic model.

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    "It looked like the U.S. wanted Russia to become a junior partner, like Germany or the U.K." Russian Federation would actually agree but that deal was never on the table.
    – alamar
    Jun 23, 2022 at 8:30
0

One aspect that was not mentioned in any other answer, at least as long as I haven't missed anything, is that countries from Eastern Europe (former Warsaw Pact and USSR republics) see Russia as their enemy. Many of these countries have joined the West (EU and NATO) or, at least, have their lobbying groups in the West. These countries hate Russia and they have historical reasons to do so, but after World War 2 everybody hated Germany the same way. By "historical reasons", I mean occupation by the USSR and, in some cases, also by the Russian Empire.

As requested by @Joe W here is a table with countries seeing Russia as an enemy and types of occupation they have faced:

Country member of EU and NATO USSR occupation Russian Empire occupation
Poland yes yes yes
Bulgaria yes yes no
Romania yes yes no
Czech Republic yes yes no
Slovaki yes yes no
Lithuania yes yes yes
Latvia yes yes yes
Estonia yes yes yes
Ukraine no yes yes
Moldova no yes yes
Georgia no yes yes
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  • If you are going to make claims that there are countries that they see as the enemy you should name those countries and attempt to explain why, not just make a claim with no attempt to back it up.
    – Joe W
    Sep 5, 2022 at 13:44
  • 1
    Adding a link in that lists all former Warsaw pact countries isn't what I was talking about. I meant actually expanding your answer and listing the countries that you are talking about in the answer along with the reasons. People should not be expected to read a wiki article about the Warsaw pact itself to understand which countries you are talking about.
    – Joe W
    Sep 5, 2022 at 14:13
  • 1
    It is way too biased to call all Warsaw pact members "occupied by the USSR". Is Germany occupied by USA to that day? Same for Russian Empire of which some countries were integral part of.
    – alamar
    Sep 6, 2022 at 8:53
  • 1
    @alamar There are people in Germany, that would answer your question with yes the country is occupied by USA. In this context it doesn´t meter how many people exactly in Germany think so, the claim is existing. In all the countries mentioned in my list there is a claim about occupation by USSR and in some cases Russian Empire. This claim is strongly suported by the ruling elites and used for example for laws like the ones to remove all monuments asociated with that occupation.
    – convert
    Sep 6, 2022 at 10:41
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    @alamar West Berlin was certainly occupied by the US until the fall of the Berlin Wall. And the 1956 invasion of Hungary and 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia (which wasn't even leaving the Warsaw Pact) and in contrast the nonreaction to French removal of their military from NATO indicate why the Warsaw Pact members were considered occupied by the USSR.
    – prosfilaes
    Sep 6, 2022 at 15:56
-1

I have an answer to a linked question which answers how Russia ended up opposing West, but not why. The answer to latter is actually not known, but I can guess:

We are mostly discussing the standoff between Russia and the USA. Europe (or Japan and South Korea) just did not have that much of a problem with Russia before February 24th.

First of all, USA is famous for not being able to befriend some countries. Examples include Cuba, North Korea and now Russia. One can possibly explain out North Korea from that list, but the fact that USA can't normalize relations with Cuba points to either some fatal flaw of American diplomacy or some hidden force preventing this from happening and exposing USA to the only real attack surface in its vicinity.

Second, Russia looks to be the most convenient opponent to counter USA. If you would be picking an opponent for the USA, but one who would not end the world as we know it, who would you choose? Iran and other Muslim countries have motivation but don't really have any means to scare USA. India is too far to do any damage to USA and does not have motivation. Brazil could find motivation and economically large but military-wise nothing to write home about. China, on the other hand, is too large economically and its military still lacks some capabilities, though it is obviously catching up. Anything in Europe is too interdependent on the USA economically and too vulnerable for direct American military influence. USA - China or USA - Europe standoff would cause world economy to crash hard.

Russia is in the perfect spot, so it seems - serious military with all kinds of stuff available, including some fleet, an air force and long-range rockets. Russia's economy may survive the conflict for some period of time but sufficiently firewalled from the global economy as to not crash it immediately. If you wanted to put some check on the USA it would be Russia.

Thirdly, Russia (and ex-USSR) is a part of "ring of fire" around Europe, comprising also of Maghreb countries and Middle East, where all kinds of wars tend to happen in the last 30 years. This supplies the necessary military action, which is not there even if you consider China - USA standoff. How the ring of fire came to be is another question.

This still does not answer the "why" question - the potential is there but motivation for both conflicting parties is hard to reason. In that sense it looks more a bar brawl than a conflict of interests - USA and Russia just don't really have much conflict of interest.

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  • Well, Cuba is fairly easy to explain by the diaspora concentrated in what is roughly a swing US state (Florida). That was also part of the explanation for they US agreed to the 1st NATO expansion wave, at least according to some commentators. (There was a Q here about that, but I can't find it now.) Those explanations are probably incomplete (and more compelling in the case of Cuba) but probably have some merit. Jun 25, 2022 at 23:18
  • That article has errors in first sensence of the abstract, and does not even try to answer the questoion why Cuba relations are so bad.
    – alamar
    Jun 26, 2022 at 6:18
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    Who is He who "would be picking an opponent"? Me? I don't have opponents!
    – Zeus
    Jun 27, 2022 at 5:56
  • I'm not sure @Zeus, but judging by your nickname it may as well be you.
    – alamar
    Jun 27, 2022 at 9:08

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