by Andrei Tsygankov
Russia and Western nations continue to be divided over issues such as Syria and missile defense systems.
Psychological and ideological traits of national leaders do not fully explain this divide. The larger cause of divide between Russia and the West is a disagreement between national elites over emerging world order. Western nations continue to perceive themselves as the leading part of the world. In their perception, they hold the key to the global financial architecture, possess the most powerful military capabilities and are institutionally superior to Russia and rising powers.
But Russia focuses on the West's limited ability to project global power. In Russia's view, the 2008 Russia-Georgia War undermined the West's monopoly for use of force in world politics. In addition, the global financial meltdown revealed the West's economic vulnerability. The Kremlin anticipates a new power balance and acts assertively to promote Russia's values and interests.
When Dmitry Medvedev was president, he attempted to improve relations with the West by focusing on nuclear nonproliferation and economic development. U.S. President Barack Obama and European leaders wanted to work with Medvedev, but they expected Moscow to follow their lead and dismissed Russia's proposal for a new all-European treaty and warnings from the Kremlin that a new arms race may take place should Russia and the Western nations fail to cooperate on missile defense.