There’s talk of a new Cold War between Russia and the West. What responsibility does the West carry for the dismal state of relations?
Russian leaders say Nato has expanded far beyond the borders that were agreed when the Soviet Union collapsed and a new European order was thrashed out. They see troops and hardware stationed close to their towns and cities as highly provocative. America and the EU are seen as meddling in the internal affairs of Russia and the states surrounding it by funding pro-democracy movements and helping to topple regimes. And a new arms race is underway. Russian military leaders perceive an active threat from the West – are they right?
The previous edition was: Is Russia At War With The West?
Presenter: Kavita Puri
Producer: Lucy Proctor
United States


00:00:00one question for expert witnesses welcome to the inquiry from the BBC world service I'll put Costa supported by advertising you're listening to the inquiry on the BBC world service with me could be temporary each week one question for expert witnesses and then on so if someone nineteen eighty
00:00:29nine and the styles yet is a secondary school in a small town in the south of Russia it's the day the American exchange students arriving she watches them from a distance as they approach in their genes and colorful skirts looks so cool free she wants to hang out
00:00:53with them date them talk about vanilla ice lyrics are these really our enemies she thinks maybe twenty years on the Cold War has long ended the many wonder if we sinking into a new one last week we explode if Russia was at war with the west this week
00:01:14we ask is the west at war with Russia part one broken trust yes will love at the national security archive will love reading documents that's just %HESITATION that's my idea of great time Lana severance cat is a Democrat George Washington University in the United States she spends her
00:01:54time poring over records held in the National Archives of both America and Russia looking at the years around the end of the Soviet Union the new moon came down in nineteen eighty nine discussion from German reunification students tend to what the future of Europe would look like directions
00:02:23on the president Mikhail Gorbachev wanted a completely new European security structure which they would be possible to them NATO was a remnant of the Cold War in this view of course NATO either disappears or becomes another political structure the Americans one easy scrapping NATO was too new too
00:02:48ambitious they felt more comfortable with NATO one of the most crucial conversations happened in early February nineteen ninety James a Baker the US secretary of state comes to Moscow specifically to discuss the future of German unification in the future security structures in Europe and he talks to Gorbachev
00:03:20and in both conversations several times beaker says that NATO would not expand he agrees when Gorbachev says NATO expansion is unacceptable Baker says I agree with that he asks goodbye trough if good about show would agree you too German unification in NATO provided that NATO would not expand
00:03:50one inch to the east can I ask you have you actually seen the transcript of that conversation between that %HESITATION yes yes and even though actually many transcripts in the years that followed despite assurances to the contrary it became clear to the Russians that the Americans were increasingly
00:04:11focused on NATO expansion Russian diplomats continue to argue for a new European security system that would include them as an equal partner an alliance dubbed the partnership for peace the archives detail key conversation in Moscow between US secretary of state Warren Christopher and the new Russian president Boris
00:04:32Yeltsin Yeltsin specifically asked Christopher so in will be partnership not expansion and Christopher replies yes exactly when Yeltsin hears that there will be no expansion there will be a partnership for peace and that some later point maybe expansion Yeltsin gets very excited because this is exactly what you
00:05:08want to hear he says this is genius please tell bill this is a brilliant idea bill that's Bill Clinton to you and me actually has a very different idea his administration pressed ahead with NATO expansion into the Czech Republic which was still in Czechoslovakia Hungary and Poland the
00:05:30Russians with furious warning the skin new containment will lead to a new division of Europe and that would strengthen anti American anti western forces in Russia and nationalists in Russia and you know partly it is a self fulfilling prophecy Russians were feeling not yup threatened in the nineties
00:05:54when did they begin to feel threatened by NATO expansion definitely when recently in may two began putting combat troops in the Baltics and %HESITATION missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic and I think that the kind of real sense of threat that got through to a
00:06:19regular Russian person was when the NATO started discussions about giving membership to Ukraine and Georgia and he thinks that NATO and the west underestimated their actions %HESITATION and the consequences it would take within any the Russian leadership it'll say within Russia of more widely you know what strikes
00:06:46me is that if you read the internal documents that's exactly what they expected and a lot of very senior people Russian experts were saying the same things but I think the American leaders a specialist were pursuing their interests kind of near side totally they so will will will
00:07:09expand will will do it and then we will deal with the consequences and also remember Russia was very weak and so they believe that the Russians will have to swallow it and then we will sweet told them after the fact but unfortunately it did not work out this
00:07:29way Svetlana severance Kerr says current Russian president Vladimir Putin has the scars of these years the trust has been broken and the roots of that lie in the nineteen nineties she thinks the west is still issuing Anya cited policy on NATO expansion this dangerous and could lead to
00:07:50possible confrontations and given that there's so little trust situations can quickly become unmanageable part two overthrow I would have a great fortune of going to one of the first high schools in the United States that offered Russian as a foreign language so I actually started learning Russian when
00:08:20I was thirteen or fourteen years old tomgram on next expert witness went on to use those language skills but he became a US diplomats in Moscow in the years just before the collapse of the Soviet Union as I'd like to tell everybody part of my job was bringing
00:08:37down the Soviet Union one of the things I succeeded in doing he returned to Moscow for the state department in the early nineteen nineties when the US was helping rush to develop the foundations of the democratic system giving advice on how to build political policies hold democratic elections
00:08:54have a free press and judicial reform and all of this we did with the support and encouragement of the Russian government at that point two decades later things had changed and the west was operating quite differently its support for pro democracy movement on Russia's borders in Georgia in
00:09:15two thousand and three and Ukraine a year later was seen as meddling in their antenna fez these are countries traditionally seen as part of Moscow's spare of influence and the west support went time rectally against Russia's preferred candidates shop in Moscow are pro democracy effort in Ukraine and
00:09:42to a lesser extent in Georgia was seen as part of a broader geo political struggle %HESITATION an effort to rid Ukraine out of Russia's or but bring it into the west whenever presented it that way although to a certain extent we were being disingenuous said the west is
00:09:59considered that Russia would have concerns you just put it to one side because the world it was more important that they supported the democratic effort in Ukraine that's absolutely right we don't tend to do empathy very well in the United States so it's very difficult for us to
00:10:14put our %HESITATION cells in the shoes of I say uprooting or other senior Russian government official and see the world the way they see the world and do you think that Weston meddling could be perceived as warlike actions by the Russians well I I think the answer to
00:10:29that is obviously yes they do perceive them as war like actions in the sense that they see them as directed against fundamental Russian interest and that the Russians would argue that what they've done over the past couple of years is a response to that but off the pro
00:10:44Russian politician big Sienna Kovic took back the presidency of Ukraine in twenty ten his government refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union G. to Russian pressure mass demonstrations took place and the Americans will once again actively engaged and encouraging the protest is in Ukraine against
00:11:07Moscow's interests now the meddling with blatant because you are encouraging a protest movement that you're providing not only moral support we had assistance programs that help pro democracy groups in Ukraine and elsewhere to learn how to mobilize for political purposes how to conduct %HESITATION protest and so forth
00:11:30and US involvement seem to go much further than just assistance apparently bugs conversations that then Assistant Secretary of state and US ambassador to Ukraine will mysteriously uploaded to YouTube but I think I think we're in play %HESITATION they are quick scope pieces obviously the complicated you look at
00:11:54the tapes that were leaked this sense that the United States was very much engaged in trying to think through what the structure of the Ukrainian government should be who are the people that should occupy keep post so I don't think we should go into the government I don't
00:12:08think it's necessary I don't think it's a good idea yeah again the United States directly involved in trying to shape the government that was consistent with American entrance Dixie and because each was overthrown in twenty fourteen Tom Graham says that the president Putin looking on the logical conclusion
00:12:29was that the west wanted to go even further he believes I think quite firmly that one of the goals of US policy is regime change in Russia itself now that may have changed a little bit with the current administration but certainly Clinton bush and Obama administrations in his
00:12:46mind we're trying to fundamentally change the nature of the Russian political system to the west may not think it's engaged in a war with Russia his activities its support for pro democracy movements in the former Soviet republics and its rhetoric give an impression itself to regime change even
00:13:07in Russia to Moscow it looks like an act of war part three the new arms race no the entanglement between nuclear and non nuclear capabilities is growing and the sometimes it's hard to distinguish the two Dimitri Stephano **** ministry analyst the Russian international affairs council he studied nuclear
00:13:36proliferation time when it was impressionable now his expertise is broken Dimond one nuclear owns a still an important part of the minute she equation for the west and Russia weaponry has advanced since the end of the Cold War new process good munitions so stealth aircraft long range cruise
00:13:55missiles on different platforms and this buildup of arms was led by the west of the collapse of the Soviet Union he says Russia skips a generation of military technology while the US and the west continue to develop and deploy then known nuclear capabilities the use the opportunity he
00:14:16believes to try to ensure that dominance on a global scale is new threats were merging around the world but in Russia the understanding was that these capabilities may one day be used against Russia as well he says Russia is now successfully catching up in amassing its non nuclear
00:14:35arsenal so the idea is that these may prevent the aggression without going nuclear they can inflict damage big enough for the aggressor to reconsider his intentions were you describing in a way since like a new type of arms race from the cold will well I think yes but
00:14:53I moved to refrain from using the war race because the Cold War there was some kind of understanding the if your side is not running fast enough there will be a missile gap and you will lose now I don't think that there is such a to toot they'd
00:15:09do it probably to have the capabilities so they can use them in %HESITATION some regional %HESITATION %HESITATION conflicts or they can sales some of these newly developed systems on it arms market Dimitris seven of its says these capabilities combined with NATO's military presence near Russia's borders and up
00:15:31to the perception among the Russian leadership that the west wants to keep the option of an attack on the table do you think that the Russian leadership thinks the west is at war with Russia current deployments %HESITATION from NATO forces in the Baltics do militarization Poland to the
00:15:49US missile defense these are parts of a greater picture if you take all these parts of the picture may provide a perception of a threat but I don't think that this is the scenario the rest our leadership looks forward to it can become a war in case both
00:16:15parties make a series of shoes mistakes if I might conflict could flare up in adversity in any number of places in the world he believes with both parties have interests there's no appetite among the western leadership for that to happen what about the people %HESITATION Weston is at
00:16:37war with Russia part for bridges %HESITATION the memories that I have my mother managed to procure me a ticket to the Kremlin new year's show it was a dream of every Soviet kit a final expense witness is an estancia it'll she grew up in the south in Russia
00:17:02and is now an academic about to university in the U. S. when she teaches Russian culture was in third grade and you know the the villain in that new year's show was named evil can toggle injury return of Pentagon who sneaked into the Kremlin to steal the Soviet
00:17:20kids gifts and the new year tree so that that was a pretty low point it was like a miracle she says when the Soviet Union went through glasnost and the country began to open up in nineteen eighty five series of groundbreaking programs news TV bridges was launched linking
00:17:45studio audiences in cities in the US and the Soviet Union by satellite those TV bridges commanded multi million audiences in Russia people were glued to the screen citizens from both countries could now speak freely and directly to one another might might I inquire about your perceptions of Americans
00:18:08not America as a political institution but what do you feel about us what do you think about us how would you think about our lives the questions ranged from provocative you know when Americans what's ask why a Russians afraid to speak the truth about their own government it
00:18:26seems to me that you're really very nice people go to and we really want to be friends we extend our the Russians would ask well why is America so imperialistic but then there were genuine questions like you know how do women in Russia go on maternity leave or
00:18:46what do you think about violence and sex in movies and that was one of a very famous moments on Soviet storica TV when the Russian side responded that they have no sex in the USSR and everybody started laughing hysterically and %HESITATION you know when you look at the
00:19:05people on the other side of the screen and you're both laughing you realize this is not war we're not at war with each other didn't he is off to the Soviet Union collapsed Russia the west's former enemy was given little thought she says you know a bomber famously
00:19:24cold Russia regional powers so pressure really sing tend to oblivion nobody really thought about Russia or cared what was going on that change she believes in twenty sixteen with interference in the US election you know the Russian misinformation campaigns and that's where people kind of woke up to
00:19:47that there is this big country out there but now I feel like we've gone from one extreme to another and now Russia is often faulted for everything that I knew concerns inside the U. S. defense community over a Russian military satellite exhibiting some very strange behavior are bright
00:20:08tonight a sophisticated Russian spy ship is making its way toward America's east there's also a lot of spend a lot of hype and labeling you know people are thrown labels around in there is just a a sort of a short cut for use in Russians as standing in
00:20:24for the democracy enemies or or just stand here and don't think people in the west see Russians as the enemy if you go back to the height of the Cold War people were pouring Russian walking in the gutters in New York as an act of protest and now
00:20:46that sort of thing is is not happening here at all so I am an ordinary Russian I just happen to live in the west and I don't think that the west is at war with me I understand you and remains optimistic her recollections from nineteen eighty nine of
00:21:05watching the American exchange students walking to her Russian school but they jeans and colorful skirts looking so cool began the program political situation had changed in her lifetime and it could change once again so we have just witnessed a FIFA World Cup in Moscow rate where there was
00:21:27widespread sort of embraces and dancing on the streets and so I think people are being told repeatedly that they are enemy is but you know when the real human interaction happens I think all of this really peels off this war is a mental construct and to which I
00:21:48think people are being driven room and is the west at war with Russia the west would say not the tool however their actions the broken promises ever bringing Russia into the Westin security alliance expanding NATO close to Russia's borders king pro democracy movements and building up its military
00:22:17also gives the impression to Russia that the west is on a war like fitting the Cold War may be over but what has replaced it is something less tangible it is a state between war and peace it is a delicate dangerous place but not one yet war has
00:22:42been officially the class this inquiry was presented blame me could be to curry and produced by Lucy proctor the research ship was to our Amazon today it was mixed by Neil Churchill and edited by Emma written a production coordinator is Brenda brown and if you like this episode
00:23:05do you listen to is Russia at war with the west you can leave us a rating or comment but if you get your podcasts

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