Many people tend to forget that while America’s relationship with Russia was one of economic dominance and condescension throughout most of the 1990s, at the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s first Presidency, the west and Russia both had a more ambiguous view of one another, even though many old suspensions lingered, especially from the American side.
During a meeting in Moscow with the outgoing US President Bill Clinton, Vladimir Putin even suggested that Russia could join NATO. The details of the event were revealed by Putin to US film maker Oliver Stone whose interviews with the Russian President will be released on the 12th of June.
Putin recalled US officials getting nervous when they heard the remark, although Clinton seemed less overtly bothered.
Between the end of the Soviet Union and the illegal NATO war on Yugoslavia in 1999, many even in America were confused about the role of NATO. When George H.W. Bush declared the dawning of a “New World Order” in the early 1990s, it was clear that the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation would only be allowed to participate in this New World Order if they became subservient to America.
However, this penultimate conclusion wasn’t entirely clear to some at first. While many in the US including Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot questioned why an expensive alliance designed to fight a state which no longer existed should itself still exist, many in Russia honestly felt that the US might be willing to share actual collective responsibility with Russia in a ‘post-confrontational’ new geo-political reality.
Russia quickly learned that this was not the case and that it was only a short matter of time before NATO found slightly amended excuses to continue antagonising old ‘enemies’.
It is important to remember that Vladimir Putin set out to make Russia stable, prosperous and modern when he first became President in 1999. He had no overt goals of making Russia into a geo-political counterweight to the US because most people in Russia did not deem it necessary, as they underestimated the aggression of the US while others simply lost faith in Russia’s historic role as a Eurasian world power and instead consigned themselves to being a second rate power on the fringes of Europe.
Those who felt that way in Russia were always naive and lost, however temporarily, a true understanding of Russia’s historic role in the world which dates back to the early days of the Tsars.
Putin never lost sight of history but he did give the west a chance to treat Russia as an equal. The west turned its back on Russia long before Russia turned its back on the west.
Had Bill Clinton’s minders listened more carefully to Vladimir Putin decades ago, the world would be a very different place today. Russia has risen to the west’s challenge and it is Russia who has come out on top.