From the end of World War II to almost the end of the 20th century, the relationship between the United States and that of Russia’s predecessor, the Soviet Union, was the most dominant of any two countries in the world. Locked into a Cold War of capitalism versus communism, the US and USSR looked suspiciously upon one another while arming proxies in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, and preparing for the ultimate conflict—World War III—involving nuclear weapons. The arms race engulfed security issues not only of the two countries, but the entire world, as the outbreak of nuclear-armed conflict threatened to destroy the entire planet.
Lay of the Land: Broad plain with low hills west of Urals; vast coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia; uplands and mountains (Caucasus range) along southern borders. Largest country in Asia in terms of land mass. Bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the east, North Korea, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan to the south, and Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Poland, Norway, and Finland to the west.
The modern Russian state was founded in 862. In the 10th century, Christianity became the state religion under Vladimir, who adopted Greek Orthodoxy, and Byzantine culture predominated over Russia’s architectural, musical, and artistic creations.
Relations between the US and Russia have steadily declined during this decade, however there are indications of warming relations. At the outset of the Bush administration, Russia expressed willingness to work with the US on issues related to terrorism and security. But during the president’s second term, a “frost” had begun to develop once again between the two mighty powers. In 2006, President Bush decided to open a new era of civilian nuclear cooperation with Russia. The two governments negotiated an agreement and initialed it just days before President Vladimir Putin went fishing with Bush at the family compound in Kennebunkport, ME.
A powerful group of American corporations are pushing for expanded trade opportunities with Russia, through the guise of the Coalition for US-Russia Trade. The organization includes Chevron, BP America, AIG, Boeing, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical Company, Eli Lilly, Exxon Mobil, FedEx, Ford, GE, General Motors, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, and Procter & Gamble.
A New Arms Race?
The State Department reports that numerous disappearances in Chechnya and elsewhere in the North Caucasus have raised concerns that federal and local forces continued to engage in unlawful killings. The NGO Memorial reported 75 disappearances—25 in Chechnya, 22 in Ingushetiya, 22 in Dagestan, and six in North Ossetiya—during the first eight months of 2007. In most cases, government forces involved in disappearances acted with impunity.
Should US Pursue Missile Defense in Face of Russian Opposition?
Ambassadors to Russia have included such noteworthy names as John Quincy Adams (6th President of the United States, 1825-1829), William Pinkney (the nation’s 7th US Attorney General), James Buchanan (15th President, 1857-1861), and George F. Kennan (father of the “containment policy” that helped shape US foreign policy during the Cold War).
Sergey I. Kislyak became ambassador of Russia to the United States on September 16, 2008. Kislyak graduated from the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute in 1973 and from the USSR Academy of Foreign Trade in 1977.
A Stanford University professor with no prior diplomatic experience but a great deal of experience studying Russia, Michael Anthony McFaul was nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Russia by President Barack Obama in May 2011. However, the Senate did not confirm his nomination until December 17. McFaul has served as President Barack Obama’s top adviser on Russian relations since the beginning of his administration.
A native of Muskegon, Michigan, John Beryle was nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to Russia by President George W. Bush on May 13, 2008, and confirmed by the Senate on June 27, 2008. He was sworn in on July 2, 2008. Beyrle received a BA degree with honors from Grand Valley State University, and an MS degree as a Distinguished Graduate of the National War College, where he later taught as a Visiting Professor of National Security Studies. His foreign languages include Bulgarian, Czech, French, German and Russian.