Dr. Angela Stendt’s lecture on the prospects of US-Russian relations during the second Obama term presented valuable viewpoints on an important contemporary issue. To me, one of the most interesting aspects of her presentation was her discussion of Russian respect for state sovereignty.
Since the 19th century, the US has built an image as the policeman of the world. US intervention in foreign affairs is a contentious yet recurring issue, and often begs the question of whether or not one nation has the right to interfere in the actions of a legitimate sovereign state. According to Stendt, Russia has maintained a non-interventionist policy since the fall of the Soviet Union, as Putin believes in the importance of classical definitions of sovereignty. This concept came back to me when Stendt discussed the claim that the reason for terse US-Russian relations is that the US has not had enough empathy for the hardships that Russia has faced in the past two decades. It occurred to me that Russia’s non-interventionist policy may be a result of its desire to focus first and foremost on itself. Many Americans see Russia as a powerful, wealthy, and even potentially dangerous country. You can debate for ages about whether or not US interventions have accomplished more harm than good, but I wonder whether their policies of non-interference can make them less dangerous than a nation such as the US that tries to act as a global police force.
Tonight’s lecture also confirmed my belief going in that I am woefully ignorant of global politics. I thought Stendt’s presentation was an accessible and well-organized primer for those who wanted to learn more about US relations with Russia, and as we move forward in our study of Russian history I look forward to contextualizing many of the details of tonight’s talk.