tv RAND Discussion on U.S.- Russia Relations CSPAN October 9, 2018 6:56pm-8:03pm EDT
to the 1st thing we talked about, as far as a leg up, i'm not quite sure what she means, but what i will say is, in terms of numbers, not only are college-educated women turning more democratic, but america is getting more and more college- educated as time goes on. if there's something, and that's a big if, if there's something about being a college- educated woman that predisposes someone towards being a democrat, then republicans would be in trouble because of that. that said, noncollege educated americans are still --
introduce you to our panel, and then we will turn it over to the discussion. 1st, i would like to introduce mike mazor, senior political scientist , he will be the moderator of our discussion this evening, before coming to ran, mike was a professor, an associate dean of academics at the u.s. national war college, a terrific colleague, we have next to mike a senior political scientist, and co-author of the book everyone loses, the ukraine crisis and the ruinous contest for post-soviet eurasia. sam has held a number of positions, including, previously, serving on the secretary of state's policy planning staff, covering russia and eurasia. to your left, on my right, is sarah massa go, policy researcher here at rand.
she previously served as a senior analyst for russian military capabilities in the department of defense. when i -- i'll turn this over to you, and join this group here at the end to have a few wrap-up comments. over to you. >> thanks so much. inc. you all for coming this evening. the format is, as you can expect, i will ask a few initial questions of our panelists to get some things out on the table, and then after 20 minutes or so, turn it over to a general question and answer period. be thinking of hard questions you would like to ask at that point, we very much appreciate you joining us this evening. let's start with you, sam, everyone loses, that sounds like a good summary of u.s. russia relations today, unfortunately, this is a relationship that has become politically toxic, it is analytically vexing, from some of our work here, it's also strategically perilous, increasingly so. how bad is the u.s. russia
relationship today? and why? >> as someone who has worked on this for a few years, i thought it got really bad after the ukraine crisis in 2014, and russia annexed crania, and subsequently invaded eastern ukraine. then it got worse, when, october 2015, russia began its military operations in syria. indirect contraction to a number of u.s. objectives of the time. subsequently, we had the interference episode in 2016 elections, which really send things off the rails completely. i keep thinking that maybe we've hit the bottom, but over the last five years, u.s. russia relations have surprised me and how far load they can go. we are at a very perilous stage, as mentioned. overall, the relationship is
both dangerous, in the sense that there are a number of ways in which you could see real instability and potentially even direct conflict developing, although that's by no means inevitable, and counterproductive from a broader interest perspective, and there are a number of things we could be doing if not in cooperation with russia, at least with russia's acquiescence. now, given that we are basically at loggerheads across the gamut of issues, where our interests are both at stake, where both sides are making each other's life difficult, it's a matter of principle. that plays out, everything from the un security council to syria to the ukraine, and so on and so forth, to even the small towns in the uk. it's dysfunctional, and at times dangerous.
overall, not a good scene. to say the least. >> what worries you the most, going forward? was the worst thing that could go wrong? >> there's a certain amount of rhythm that happens in u.s. russian relations, when we have ministrations, that the honeymoon phase, there's this realization that our interests are not aligned at all, and in is a fallout, and that usually changes over. it has a fairly predictable pattern. what troubles me, at this point, is that pessimism has seemed to settle in so deep down on both sides, it's almost like a despondent feeling that we can't get off this track. we are further and further apart, and there is no mechanism on either side to bridge the gap. >> on the russian side, would you describe that as a feeling of regret? or fury? somewhere in between? both at the same time? >> depending on the international event. the steady state is one of the
-- despondency, there are crises that crop up, and it flashes into anger. but then it settles back down. >> ultimately, do they want a better relationship? >> they do. there are discussions we've had with them that they do want that, they see the u.s. and russia as having a special responsibility in setting norms on the international stage, and they lament that we are in this space right now and there's no way out. >> that we can't run the world together. >> in harmony together. >> that sounds familiar for some reason. beyond that, what does russia want out of this relationship that it's not getting? >> it wants equality, it wants to be treated as an equal by the u.s., or maybe not as an equal, but if the u.s. is the chairman of the board of
directors of the universe, then russia wants to be vice chair, something like that. it wants its interests to be respected. it wants the u.s. to stop trying to overthrow its government, those of the top desires. it feels like it's getting none of these things. in terms of what it wants, concretely, in terms of give- and-take, what i would say is cooperation on its terms. i think that's what it is trying to get, rather than ultimately, trying to seek out instruction, they would like us to change our behavior. and are taking increasingly aggressive steps to achieve that outcome, but they would agree that mike involve a degree of cooperation on russian terms. >> following up on the proposal you started with, that leads to the $64,000 question of u.s. policy, history of u.s. policy,
towards russia, which is one camp says there's been this unending series of provocations that started after the cold war, with loans we promise and didn't grant all the way through nato enlargement in the balkans, that is pushed russia into a corner, and created certain acting out, and that the way to solve that is by restraint and recognizing your interest. the other side says it wouldn't have mattered what we did, russia has certain essential habits of relations with the west, it was going to turn this bad anyway, and is a good thing we did nato enlargement so we are defending certain places. who is right, and why? >> i'm pulling back, i'm thinking about preschool discipline right now, and sometimes everyone needs to go to the timeout corner. to answer the question, they would prefer a negotiated settlement on these difficult issues, and they have felt that over the last 20 years, when they have tried to come to the table, and they didn't have a
military option to back it up, that their interests were ignored. i think they took that on board, and they started acting out in this way, when other avenues weren't productive for them. >> so that would suggest that we might have ended up in a different place, had western policies been different. potentially. >> it takes two to tango. it does. from their perspective, during a very difficult historic time for them, they felt like they were taken advantage of, and they felt like they were talked over. i think that is something that carries forward to them in the present, making decisions and that government, that's still a very visceral emotional reaction 25 years on, and we are dealing with the hangovers from that period. >> what's your reaction to that question? >> the problem with the essentialist narrative about how russians are genetically, or inherently somehow inevitably , immutably hostile, and that's the behavior we have seen in the last 4 years, is apart from
the court, that a glides over the 20 year period from 1989 to 2014, when there was a very different u.s. russia relationship. it certainly wasn't happy, i don't think either side was totally satisfied, and there were periodic crises, but it didn't feature anywhere near the level of dysfunction, and it did feature some important areas of cooperation, and nowhere near the same levels of tension that we now see. if that was just a few short years ago, we have to think that, rather than speaking in terms of historical cycles and nothing changing, looking back to the relatively recent past when things were different, which suggested they could be different again. however, so much water has passed under the bridge since that break, that began in 2014, that we are never going to get back to the pre-2014 climate, but we could hope for is a
degree of stability, which do -- we do not have today. >> that's a question i want to get to at the end, given where we are now, where do we go? you mentioned there's a problem of hopes that the administration, president trump came into office, talking about remarkably better relations with russia, and using some of the language i imagine russia would have wanted out of the u.s. president in terms of, we want to make you a partner. why did that fall apart? >> i think the russians were simultaneously hopeful, when they heard those words, but then their experience tells them that the bureaucracy in dc is on a different task, and that has borne out since that time. they are getting one message from one part of our government, and another message from another part of it, and they don't know what to make of that. they don't know who to listen to, who is in control, and that's disorienting for them. that goes back into the despondency, how do we move
forward with this, when we are not sure who is driving the policy. we hear that we want improved relations, but we are being sanctioned at this rough level, it's very hard for them to parse that. >> it shouldn't be that difficult for them to figure out, looking at what they did in the ukraine, what they did to potentially our elections, if i am in moscow, it shouldn't confuse me that there are american officials that want to put sanctions on me. what they expect that we would overlook that? and move in the direction of a better relationship? >> from their perspective, these were, in large part, reactions to what they saw as increasing encroachment, and/or actual attempt to overthrow their government. a lot of that coincides, comes to a head in 2014, and with the severe economic sanctions the u.s. has incremented against
russia, the aftermath of what happened in the ukraine and for a number of other reasons, they see this as economic warfare, intended to weaken the foundations of their government and perhaps even ended. in a certain form. under the circumstances, i think they feel like the gloves are off, and they can play dirty if that's how we are going to behave. that's whether we agree or disagree, that mindset needs to be taken into account. they see the kinds of things like ukraine very much through the lens of responses to other events, and proceed u.s. actions that are trying to block worse outcomes for them from happening, rightly or wrongly, as out right aggression for little or no justifiable reasons.
>> one more question, some of the things that have gotten us to this point, you referred to the conflicting interest in russian dividers that we are prepared to give, not everything, giving them a voice on certain issues seems like it's forward, not everything they want conflicts with our interests, sometimes there's references to spheres of influence that they want that we are not prepared to grant, in your view, where are those couple of fulcrum points where they want some things that it's impossible for us to give? >> they don't want military expansion near their borders. of nato. you take the view that those are our partners, you can do it we'd like, they can do what they like, but this is a real issue for them, very often in their strategy documents, it repeats often in their speeches, we are not willing to let them have a say over what nato chooses to do. that's a large one for me.
>> that's the main one. if they came out today and said, for example, for any further nato enlargement is indefinitely off the table, would that make a revolutionary difference in our relationship with them? or would russia say, we can't trust them, it's only a statement? >> in other sticking points, where they have wanted to come to a settlement with us, they want a legal guarantee. i don't think we are willing to do that. we were unwilling to do that or ballistic defense, we won't do that with nato. >> sticking points? >> that we can't, or won't address, it's an important distinction, i could name dozens where we want, for sure, most likely, can't is hard to think about policy in a vacuum, given the domestic politics associated with this administration, but some of the
fundamental elements of, that we have talked about earlier, the quality and being chairman of the board of the universe, is that we don't do business that way, in the post cold war error, era, that we are used to compliance, that we don't get that, we seem to see divine influence. that kind of ranting, that co- decision-making is not something that policy is engaged in in recent decades. >> in a worrisome way, that suggest that our national characters are headed for for the trouble, because we are just fundamentally not willing to view them in the -- the way they demand to be viewed. >> or something to that. situationally, in the pre-2014 reality that we had, we were
able to find compromises. on discrete sets of issues, where both sides could see mutual benefits. and we did treat them as equals, negotiating a new arms control treaty that was signed in 2010, was, by definition, annex between sovereign eagles. there are other examples like that. as a matter of principle, we have to be convinced, on the issues specific basis, but another major issue, of course, is their immediate neighborhood, which they have always identified as the most important region to them, and one thing we certainly can't, even if we wanted to grant them, is significant attractiveness in the eyes of the elite of the countries around them. once the competition between
western integration and integration with russia became more apparent, the elites and public were making decisions based on preferences, and that's hard to change. russia has yet to develop the political and economic model that is broadly attractive, there are certainly countries and elites that do find it attractive, but in places like ukraine, that's not been the case. >> support of the goal of our policy is to try to find a way to stop being blamed for the resentment that will go inevitably at russia anyway, get ourselves out of that dynamic somehow. let me ask about, bringing it to the current issues that a lot of us have been reading about, concerned about, the political influence in the last u.s. election, the allegations of continuing russian influence. i want to ask both of you, in a way, what is the right way to
see this, from what you know of russia's intent, the decision- making process, was this a highly centralized effort from the beginning? with the decision to undermine american politics, or put a certain person in office? or, should review it in some kind of other light? >> it's important to backup a few years before the election, the russian government, after the ukraine, that really set them on a different plane of threat perception with the u.s. unless you move up into that heightened threat perception, a lot of new options are on the table. one of those options is election interference. i think, as we know now from the indictment and everything else that has come out, this was a fairly centralized effort. this was, in some ways, i don't want to say revenge or payback, but it's an option on the toolkit that you use when you are at that heightened level of threat. >> and the threat was
specifically, a result of perceived american interference in ukrainian politics. or, the sink would -- shank sanctions that came after? >> it's a building a decade plus of grievances that they have. when the events played out in the ukraine, that is very close to home, it could happen in moscow, and the sanctions that followed after, this is part of a stretch that they have already written. for a long time, before we did it, there is a nation out there that is acting in ways the u.s. does not appreciate, they will use their considerable economic and political assets to punish them in a punitive way. when the sanction started rolling in, it's something they were already looking for, and they were just waiting for to happen to them, and it did. it plays into this pre-existing narrative, and it's very difficult to remove them from that mentality. >> i would agree that it's difficult to imagine an
operation that this incident would have been undertaken without some degree of top- level sanction, that seems improbable to me. however, the russian system is not a well oiled machine, where boudin pushes a button and suddenly the entire thing snaps into motion and is exactly what he had in mind. it operates in a more byzantine fashion, with bureaucracies that are relatively in competition with each other, innovate and improvise, and try to impress their bosses and so on. the expense in terms of concrete tactics played out, it's probably some lit mix of these elements. one thing that's important to note, here, is that it was relatively, we talk about
because of the sensitivity, it's needing political sanctions, but it was cheap. we are talking about, based on these indictments, a couple of dozen people operating over the course of, at most, a couple of years. with relatively low budgets by american standards. the effect that is difficult to measure, they achieved, is another thing, it's so easy and cheap and this information to have, to strike back at your adversary, to a certain extent, this kind of thing was that russia was prepared to take more assertive steps in light of its heightened perceptions, as i mentioned, this was an easy step to take, it didn't require a huge amount of resources. chief in terms of the initial
cost, this mindset, it's almost like they are not thinking about consequences or the 2nd step, or something like that. especially given how sensitive they are, about their politics, could they not have imagined that this would have the explosive effect it had? >> it's hard for any of us to imagine that. it would have been different had the election results been different, but taking a step back, what we do know, as i'm press recording, is that in the summer of 2017, they came to the u.s. and offered to negotiate a truce on interference. this is a classic russian tactic where you punch the person in the face and then you say stop doing this now, and have an agreement that we will no longer be punching each other in the face. that strategy works so well
with so many countries around the world. >> this is, to agree with you, that demonstrated the degree of political tone deafness about the impact of what had happened, and the ability of any administration, under the circumstances, to bargain with the state that had just interfered on the principles of interference. as much as that might make sense in an abstract policy sense, divorced from any political reality is, the policy does not exist in a political vacuum. >> let's talk for a couple minutes about how we get out of this mess, and then we will open it up for questions. we have put a series of rounds of sanctions on russia. is russia feeling adequately punished, and as if they are prepared to change their behavior? how would you describe the outcome of this process? >> sanctions are hurting them,
they are having an impact, they've had an impact on removal, their economy, procurement, moving forward -- forward to the next, they've made some movements downward as a result. of the sanctions, the most effective ones, the turn sanctions, these are the ones that will be triggered within 30 days of the midterm election, if it's determined that russia is interfering, that's what triggers them. that's a very specific redline, if you do this the, the consequence is this. we have to follow through on that. if interference happens, and we feel reasonable that this occurred and we do nothing, then we have made it so much worse. we have to be prepared to follow through. >> then we follow through on another round of sanctions, and this leaves us where? >> the nuclear option is sanctioning with sovereign depth, that's a very significant thing. >> do you have any since the
people have an idea of what is at the end of this road? if we keep putting on sanctions to the point of what happens? >> if our goal is to sanction russia until they give back crimea, i don't see that happening. >> i take it from your answer, that you have a sense that there's not a clear endgame. >> no. >> sam? >> i think another, i'm going to mangle the quote, but something along the lines of coercion divorced from diplomatic process ends up resulting in states harming one another for the sake of harming one another. i think that's where we are right now. there is no parallel track where we are delivering clear messages about what would be necessary for russia to do, in
a realistic sense, in order for the sanctions to be relieved. sanctions are only as effective as the prospect of rolling them back is real. now that so many of them have been codified in law, the legislation countering american adversaries for sanctions act, which was signed into law in august 2017, has tied the executives hands to a certain extent, and made it very difficult to deliver credible messages about what it would take for russia to do in terms of changing its behavior for the sanctions to be rolled back. we are now in a position where, because of the mightiness of the message, the russians have included that there is nothing that they could do. that would allow for sanctioned relief. and feel better to just not pay attention.
the americans are going to do this no matter what. >> which is an extraordinarily dangerous situation, because they will keep ignoring, and it can go to something else. let me follow up on that, the last we will get into the final question of what do we do, what should be the medium term goal? if we say, we agree that we don't have a clear endgame right now, we can't think 20 years ahead, and imagine a wonderfully reformed relationship, but over the next 2 to 5 years, what should we be aiming for in this relationship? what would be one or two steps you would recommend to move us in that direction? >> i would recommend that those areas that we do have a common vision on focusing on, we are in a very dangerous period in our relationship. we need some wins at this point, i think negotiating the start is very important for both sides, very important. it's coming up soon, as something to focus on,
counterterrorism is something we are both very much in alignment on, that's something to focus on, these are human beings. when president trump called president putin to tell him about the terrorist attack in st. petersburg, that's not a little thing. the personal touch involved, can go a long way, and making this process more pleasant. for both sides. >> it seems like the political will that's required, you both described the situation where the momentum on both sides, there's such a calcification of anti-russia feeling in washington right now that we have little -- little appetite for that, and on the russian side, if you come to me and start talking, we have to resolve a bunch of other issues where we are getting hit over the head every day. is there enough appreciation on each side that things are dangerous that if we started trying to go down the path
you're talking about, we would be able to accomplish some things, or do you think we would run into quicksand quickly? >> the russians can carpet -- compartmentalize. there's a problem in the relationship, but they are willing to focus on the parts that can work. they can put the rest to the side. i don't think that we are good at that. i'm trying to be polite. >> you're being very polite. >> but syria is an example of where we are in alignment with russia, but we talk to them almost every day. because we have to. we have to de-conflict things. it's possible, we won't solve the whole relationship, but we should at least start with a win somewhere. >> sam, medium-term objective? where should we push for, and a couple of actions. >> i would say that our objective should be stability. in u.s. russia relations. we shouldn't aim any higher than that, because we don't
have stability, that's potentially dangerous not just for the two countries, but for the rest of the world. under that rubric, you can imagine a number of different tracks, be of prolonging the start when it comes up for possible extension in 2021, or salvaging other arms-control treaties that are on life support, or having a more regular strategic stability exchange in terms of meetings, and taking this the confliction mechanism that has worked in syria that they are referred to, and trying to see if that kind of thing can't be done in the baltic or the black seas, things like that. conflict avoidance, and having a degree of confidence that we are not one step away from
things devolving into direct conflict would be an important, that should be our objective. we do have signs that the russians are, potentially, for the reasons mentioned, more open to this than we are. they've already proposed extending new starts for the five years that allowed. the politics of this work differently in russia, because of what we have mentioned earlier about the desire to be acknowledged as a great power, and an equal, so whenever businesses has gone in the u.s. russia contacts to affirm that yearning, if, polling indicates that the average russians like the idea of restoration of great power status. that kind of dynamic makes it
easier, politically, the russian government to potentially engage, even if they don't like a lot of the things we are doing. including, as they see it, trying to overthrow their government, which is pretty serious. that does raise questions about whether the politics are as forgiving on this side. i think we have yet to see that. it should be noted that the politics on this side are largely a function of russia's actions. they have themselves to blame to a significant extent. that has become so politically toxic for the u.s. russia relationship to even exist in any form. >> in a bipartisan way. >> we will turn to a question with that, one of the great risks right now is that we are stuck in a dilemma, that the political dynamics on our side and to some degree on both are just not going to let us sit
out or use these baby steps. great if daunting insights, i'm going to open it up to questions. if i can ask, try to be brief with your question, but ask one question rather than three, and particularly because we are broadcasting, if, once i call you, if you could wait for a microphone to ask her question. sir, in the back. >> think you. what are the eu's stakes in what is going on here, and how can they be helpful, or in some ways, are they being hurtful? >> u.s. russia relations, the economic relationship between the eu and russia is far more significant than ours with russia, and of course, they are neighbors, in a way that only alaskans are. therefore, the broader west
relations with russia, it's a more palpable thing for a lot of eu countries. generally speaking, that has been somewhat of a force for moderation in the broader western position, and the context of decision-making bodies like nato and the eu. at the moment, if we dial back a couple years, there was a very united u.s. eu front on russia policy, resulting from the ukraine crisis, to an extent that was really unprecedented, even going back to the soviet period. that was coordination on sanctions, and the eu was taking more of an economic hit from the sanctions than the u.s. was, and unified policy on how to deal with the ukraine crisis. now, as a result of tensions in the broader trans atlantic relationship, to be diplomatic,
the foundations of that unity are eroding, and particularly on sanctions where the piece of legislation that i mentioned targets european countries, for doing business with russia, particularly in the context of a pipeline project that germany , or german companies, are spearheading. that's also in terms of sanctions, we are now on the opposite side of the wrong sanctions as well. when acting together, the u.s. and the eu can have a greater impact, the challenge is now this essential coordination is happening on a more complex u.s. eu relationship that has developed in the last couple of years. >> on the same question, the last couple years, it seems like the cycle is different, europe has been in infuriated by meddling and the poisonings and all that, would you agree with that characterization, is
the eu more aligned with u.s. policies than they were two or three years ago? >> we are seeing a lot of popular trends popping up in europe, whereas a few years ago i would have said the translated relationship was strong, we have a common vision, i don't feel that way anymore. i think when russia says that, it's an opportunity for them. >> okay. >> sir? >> think you. talking about things i worry about in terms of russia and u.s. relink desk relationships, the russian economy is in trouble. and putin will look to the outside for excuses for why the trouble exists, and sanctions are perfect excuse. migrate theory is as the russian economy tanks, both his expansionist desires and is anti-western rhetoric will
increase, and we are playing into that hand complete he. does that compute with you? >> the good news is that you don't have to be so worried about the russian economy tanking. if you look at consensus estimates of the imf, the world bank, the ebrd, russia's economy is stagnating, but it's been experiencing 12% growth rate over the course of the foreseeable future. that's not collapse. however, the political the sanctions are a political gift in a lot of ways, in that they allow for pointing to an external reason for an economic downturn that was as much caused by internal problems as it was by sanctions, particularly the secular
slowdown of russian economy, dependence on hydrocarbon exports, and so on. that having been said, going forward, what's interesting is that this might just be a blip, but there were some suggestions that over the summer that the degree of anti-western sentiment among the russian population has sort of waned, and putin's popularity is also taking a hit from recent tension reform that he's implement it, raising the retirement age. domestically, things might be more dynamic than they were in the period following the annexation of crimea, when there was a real nationalist consensus, and you had 85% support for pruden, that is now in the 60s, which would be the
envy of most leaders, globally. nonetheless, different from where it was in the 2014 to 2015 period i'm not saying that there's unrest, but it's a little more dynamic than it has been in recent years. >> to follow up on that, from time to time, you read accounts of wellsprings of parts of russian society, how serious should we take that, is this a regime that is likely to be in any kind of trouble, even if the situation gets worse? >> you can tell how serious they are by what kind of resources they are allocating against the problem. we studied that this year in a project we are doing. the government thinks about it a lot. they have tasks multiple laws in the past few years, they've enacted, given authority to
security forces and right control police, they're doing all sorts of cyber policing, they are installing cameras everywhere with facial rick mission, it's not quite to the level of what china does in certain parts, but this is a real concern that one day the population is just going to have enough, they're going to have enough of pensions being cut, other social programs being cut, while the military isn't cut, and i think that the kremlin is good at taking that temperature, it's something to think about so often. if you look forward to what we know about their federal budget for the next three years, for example, the budget is stagnating, and they are pumping more money into domestic programs, because, for a while, for the last decade, the military is one that has benefited in times of scarcity, and other flipping that on its head. this is a serious problem for them, it's one that they think about. >> the theme of the question,
is that a situation that should start to worry us if things got worse? is that a situation in which putin does the classic nationalist outburst and tries to rally public support by taking the fight to the west somehow? >> it's hard to make a case for my perspective that any of the big acts of aggression as a might have it, or the military intervention beyond russia's borders, that have occurred in the last decade or so, in that wag the dog dynamic. each of them resulted from concrete situations in particular theaters that russia has felt the need to respond to and the way that it did. we haven't seen that kind of thing yet, and, generally speaking, questions of war and
peace, those domestic considerations have not played in the way that we should be worried about them happening in terms of instability causing some sort of international explosion. all cards are off the table, if things get really bad, it's true that there's an increased focus on direct -- domestic purity that make security and crowd control, the way russia conceives of what internal instability looks like, often involves a degree of external instigation, so they might not see the line between a popular uprising and u.s. efforts to undermine their government as a significant. therefore, i think there's a potential risk in that context. >> ma'am?
>> can we talk about the conflict between energy in the market and policy? russia caught europe's attention and the ukraine's attention by playing with threats of natural gas and withholding exports, and there are new natural gas sources in the mediterranean come of the u.s. has increased our supply, and whether europe has weaned itself in a way that allows that to have less influence. >> i don't follow this issue closely, i don't think they've weaned too much of their dependent so far. russia is trying to diversify its portfolio by engaging more with china, and removing some of the sanctioned activity and lessening the impact on their economy. russia is pretty fiscally conservative, so when oil
prices are where they are right now, they are stalking is much by the way as they can into the national savings fund, they don't do a lot of deficit spending, borrowing from abroad. they spend, but they don't borrow the money from abroad. in terms of, getting lost in my answering this question, replenishing that savings rate, their savings fund at a significant rate right now, which moderate their behavior. >> you imports of russian natural gas peaked as high as they ever were last year. we are not seeing a relative decline of russian natural gas imports into europe, and it also bears noting that piped russian gas is 30% cheaper than lng stock prices and liquid natural gas in the u.s. that we would be exporting.
that being said, the good news is that the eu has, to a certain extent, gotten its act together on the internal market, which was ultimately the answer to the russia supply problem. by creating an increasingly integrated eu wide energy market, russia's ability to manipulate prices vis-@-vis one particular country basically goes away, and that's what we have been seeing happen, including with the diversification of, relatively speaking, imports and russia is incorporating the lng stock price into its contract for pipe gas. i would say, in this context, that what we are seeing, broadly speaking in this arena, that question about the u.s. sanctions on european companies, is that with the completion of the pipeline, which may fall under u.s. sanctions, which would be the pipeline from the peninsula to
germany, under the baltic sea, is that the russia's long-term project of building pipelines around ukraine, and is no longer being dependent on ukraine for gas transit to europe, will largely be complete. russia has embarked on a billion-dollar, multibillion- dollar endeavor to cut out ukraine as a transit country. this, ultimately, will, in one sense make europe more energy secure, because ukraine will no longer be able to hold you hostage in the context of price dispute with russia, have -- which have been sources of previous cutoffs, but it will deprive ukraine of significant budgetary revenues, which they charge russia for transit fees. there's a new dynamic that could be emerging in the next few years, which will be
significantly different from what we saw before. >> i would love to jump in on the question. [ indiscernible ] i have a question i think we should get to, we haven't really talked about china, it was mentioned once, but china is, if you will, probably the most clever assault in the room of powers today, are they going to be cooperative, or just keep loving the fight between russia and the u.s.? it seems like they are talking about it like it's just one on one. i'm not sure it is. >> the question is more than just china russia relations, it's, do you sense any strategy from china standpoint to strategize about u.s. russian relations? >> i think that inevitably,
both russia and china, there's an extent to which they respective relationships with the u.s. affect, particularly russia's eagerness to engage with china, and that they are united in opposition to u.s. on a number of levels, and that brings them closer. the position that we now find ourselves in, that their relationships with each other, are significant better than our relations with either of them. which is what kissinger said we should not be doing 40 years ago. there have been some significant develops, including the military, which we have talked about. >> up until recently, it seemed
like china was more willing to sit on the sidelines and that let the u.s. and russia do get their problems, while they continue to be active in other regions very quietly. however, there's a few new irritants in the u.s. russia china relationship, new military technology going into place in japan and other areas in asia have been major irritants. to china, and now with her sanctioned activity as well, china is driving them closer together. as a case in point, russia and china just had their 1st post- soviet large exercise together, china sent over several thousand of people to participate and exercise in siberia, that's fairly new, and a few days after that, we sanctioned china. i don't know, and i can't tell if that was a deliberate timing, or if it was complete accidental timing, i don't know which one is better or worse. it won't matter, because they're going to interpret it as a deliberate attempt to get in the way.
increasingly, we are going to see them in alignment, there is very specific things in the relationship that they can operate together on. >> is there a natural limit to that closeness? >> i think so, particularly when you talk about, the russians are angry right now at the chinese for how similar some of their designs are to russian aircraft. which is ironic, because russian aircraft are very similar to some of ours, but there are some irritants there, there's a bit of competition in the art market, and china is emerging and encouraging into the area that russia is in. the u.s. is at the peak, we have the best of, the most expensive, not everyone can afford it, but the russians offer an alternative that is pretty good, and it's a lot less expensive. as china starts to compete in that realm, that will be a problem. we aren't there yet, but it's
coming. >> i was just wondering, what are some of the lessons that we can learn from the cold war period? that we can implement today. >> it's funny that you ask. [ laughter ] we've been thinking about that recently,, maybe you're in a -- [ indiscernible - multiple speakers ] >> just at some context, mike and i are working on something that's relevant to that question. we had a number of case studies, including the cold war. one thing that strikes me, i guess there's a brother dynamic in the cold war that came to
fruition, which is at times when the potential for direct conflict got to be too real, and -- -- in the european security context, perhaps one lesson to take away from that is finding at least a sense of the rules of the road to be able to minimize the potential for direct conflict. that would be even between
admitted adversaries. >> i am going to play bad cop. in addition to crisis stability and improving that, there is also, from the cold war there are vicious stories about warfare that goes on in the shadows. i think one side is doing that today. it is not us. i think that there is -- what is done diplomatically and politically. there is what goes on between security purposes. to receive pushback it will be pushing. i don't want to recommend that but that is where we are. i think we need to be a little bit more realistic about what is happening. >> and interesting as to the cold war is one of the argument
about ditente is that it ditente fails. we needed to return we will hold the line until we change the nature of their regime. is there any echo of that same or do we have to not be able to get in that same mindset of thinking transformational he about the goal of all of that. part of the covert stuff is system that they want to change. it's dangerous to think that way though right? >> i'm still thinking about the transpersonal -- transformational relationship. >> not transformational but in the sense of regime change. right?
implicitly or explicitly, some concept of regime change is part of the cold war strategy. a very different russia today, not a communist system. but yet, a regime whose essence is very difficult to imagine living in a stable way with. make that comparison, that parallel from the cold war. should we have a sense of -- absolutely, we are pulling values. as ditente suggested. we will manage the tension. we should be moving toward a more -- a world in which russia is governed in a different way. our ability to affect that time and outcome, we have put -- looking historically even our rule in the context -- our role in the context of the cold war.
gorbachev's decision in the system but that is a whole other story. in any case, today i think we have to think about whether in fact we can affect that kind of outcome. we have not put a lot of effort into democracy assistance, with money, and little societies for it. all the things that reflect our values in russia and look where we are today. if we had -- we have been hiding it pretty well. >> we are very good at that. >> i don't know if we know how to affect the kind of change you're talking about. i would also question the premise that the essence of this regime makes it impossible for us to have stability. going back to what i said early, i not sure if the essence of the regime is changed fundamentally and -- since 2014. in the pre-2014 aero we had a
very different kind of really -- in the pre-2014 aero we had a different kind of relationship. it is suggested that at least in theory it's possible. it would be lovely if there were a more warm and cuddly russian resume for us to interact with but we don't get to choose our partners in public -- particularly not in this world. we've seen authoritarian great powers such as russia in the context in which they are increasingly integrated into this economy. and also which their own systems are not as rigid as the soviet union. we are saying the same kind of faultlines along the international republican boundaries is a soviet union.
they are likely to be more durable. if another miracle occurs and we end up in a situation where a very different kind of government we are dealing with than that would be great but we have to plan for the status quo. >> i think we have time for one more question. mamma on the end. >> i would like to know -- the man that -- the woman on the end. i would like to know -- washington with unforgiving politics like you said, and inflexible sanctions legislation hurting the future of us russia regulations and relationship. >> several years ago i thought about
who have a dim recollection of the soviet union or have no memory. it would be an opportunity to -- for both sides to reach that. what i am worried about is that we will lose -- both sides will lose an entire generation. i don't see how we can comprehensively move forward with russia while they attack our elections. if there is no admission of that, how do we move forward from there? in terms of how they view us, i think they feel equally, i don't want to say hopeless but pretty much, who is in control here? who is driving the policy? is it the state department? is it the senate? is it the white house? they don't know who they should be engaging with for answers.
i think what they are doing and this is where it gets dangerous as they are coming back and trying to keep it together in their own agency processes it trying to figure out what we mean. >> as far as the kids -- teacher is concerned, we have the history -- we just point to the role of legislated foreign- policy and congress being intimately involved in the relationship like this, and look back to the amendment which was a set of sanctions in the soviet union then post in 1973. they were on the books for 38 years. we not only had a piece of legislation in august 2017 but there are now being contemplated further legislative slings -- sanctions. in the future one of my worries is that we are locking ourselves in by creating these legal frameworks that are
sticky in the context of he was policy. it's much easier to pass section legislation than it is to repeal it. that could be constraining and potentially creating long-term problems in the future. in a second i will turn it over to andy. obviously we have not solved these issues tonight but if nothing else, to approach these things, we need these tremendously -- tremendous expertise. these join me in thanking our friends. andy, over to you. >> thank you for a really terrific and informative session . thanks as well to our audience or your terrific questions. i think you helped us focus on the issue -- issues that we will be wrestling with. this is the kind of thing we did -- things we do here at ranch. we think about these things.
it's your support that allows this to happen. it's your contribution, your willingness to come spend an evening with us, that is all critical to how we function at rand. if you have questions about this activity or any future events, if you have questions about support, we have samantha, all of these would be willing to take on any of your questions . the panel will be here afterwards and myself. i think we really want to thank you for the time you spent with us. we will think our panel for the really interesting contributions. we look forward to having you join us again for another event.
brett kavanaugh joined his fellow judges on the high court today. his family was in the courtroom for his first day. the court heard cases dealing with whether state laws on what is called slight force robberies, require enhanced sentencing under federal law and whether burglaries of mobile -- mobile home should be vehicle robberies. justice cavanaugh asked several questions of the litigants. he sits next to elena kagan on the bench. protest continue outside the court.
wednesday morning, we are live in hartford connecticut for the 44th stop. connecticut's secretary of state will be our guest on the bus during washington journals starting at 9 am eastern. on friday we are live in providence rhode island for the 45th stop of the 50 capital tour. rhode island education commissioner ken wagner at 8:30 am eastern will be our guest next on american history tv, a look at the his tree and evolution of the us supreme court. and this is with judge douglas ginsburg. he decided several landmark cases on the debate whether the u.s. constitution should be interpreted based on the intent of the founders. his lecture -- this lecture was part of the series hosted by the society