American-Russian Relations after 9/11: Grand Strategy & the Failure of Bush’s and Putin’s Strategic Partnership
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Since the end of the Cold War successive American presidents have tried to build a productive partnership with Russia, but all attempts so far have failed. Following the 9/11 attacks President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin attempted to reset American-Russian relations by establishing a strategic partnership. This partnership, however, never flourished, and at the close of President Bush’s second term it completely collapsed over the Russo-Georgian War. Many historians of American-Russian relations suggest that the Cold War legacy and Russia’s great ambitions for power help explain why American-Russian relations remain so troubled in the post-Cold War era. This study explores the failure of Bush’s and Putin’s strategic partnership through the concept of grand strategy using a theoretical framework built on realist and neoclassical realist theories. The study will show that President Bush underestimated both the enduring importance of the Cold War legacy in the 21st century, as well as Russian international power politics, and that this culminated in the Russo-Georgian War that ended the partnership. From an analysis of primary sources – President Bush’s National Security Strategies, speeches and news conferences – it can be concluded that the partnership failed because American international objectives internationally (derived from America’s grand strategy) clashed with Russia’s power ambitions, which the Bush administration had underestimated. The legacy of the Cold War indeed makes it particularly difficult for America and Russia to move past their disagreements.