Russian-American Relations: What each side needs to hear
Ella Odeyash, a Russian expatriate poet living in Israel, said in one of her poems, “About both Russia and Israel I say the word ‘we.’” I’ve lived for extended periods of time in both then-Soviet Union and America. What this means in practical terms is that I have loyalties in both places and want both places to be the best that they can be and to enjoy a fruitful relationship with one another.
The Americans need to hear that they did not win the Cold War. If the Communist Cuba and North Korea have gone on indefinitely, then so could have the Soviet Union. Instead a noble-minded leader came into power in the Soviet Union to make the place more humane and more democratic, and in 1991 the military refused to follow the Bolshevik hardliners’ orders to shoot at the people gathered in the Red Square. Rewarding these noble actions by making Russia the toilet of the world, while continuing chummy relationship with China whose military did shoot at its people in the 1989 Tiannanmen uprising, is neither politically nor ethically viable stance.
The Russians also need to hear things, the main one of them being that living by the motto of “he fears me, that means he respects me” is not viable at this point in history. Respect at this time cannot be coerced, it has to be earned. And the best way to do that is twofold. One is to practice achievement – in case of Russia, economic and civilian technology achievement in addition to its achievements in science, education, sports, arts and space and military technology. And the other is that of creating a humane, transparent and livable social climate in which we don’t have 14,000 Russian women a year dying of domestic violence, 99% of the accused being convicted by courts, and 5,000 young men dying each year from military hazing.
For someone who has two such widely distinct influences, any number of paths is available. One is to side with one against the other. Another is to care about neither side or to hate both. And then there is a superior solution: To seek the well-being of both places and their improved relationship with each other.
You know which stance I am choosing to take.