This Is What U.S.-Russian Relations Could Have Been

Illustration for article titled This Is What U.S.-Russian Relations Could Have Been

This amazing photo shows fighting machines that were built as enemies, the B-52 Stratofortress and the Tu-95 Bear, along with the later Cold War era KC-10 Extender and An-124 Condor, all sitting together peacefully on the same ramp. Clearly it was shot at a time when both sides were trying to make the best of the post-Cold War era by fostering their burgeoning new friendship.


This picture, like a similar naval version we posted last October, is a sad reminder of what could have been when it comes to U.S.-Russian relations following the end of the Cold War.

Although the exact date and location of the photo remains a mystery, I would guess it was taken in the 1990s or early 2000s. The image provides a stark contrast with how these incredible flying machines, especially the B-52 and the Tu-95, are being used today.

A seemingly never-ending tit-for-tat saber rattling exercise has been underway since Putin’s reawakened Russian Bear stretched its claws into Crimea and Ukraine shortly after the 2014 Winter Olympics, with the U.S. scrambling to reassure its allies in Europe that it would stand against further Russian western expansion.

The recent upheaval in relations between “East and West” is especially saddening as both parties could be potent partners in tackling key global issues, such as the spread of Islamic Extremism, energy exploration and the environment, and other key challenges. Instead, Putin seems to have very different plans, and is largely playing to a domestic audience that seems to have an insatiable appetite for nationalistic intrigue.


Meanwhile, Washington seems like it doesn’t know what to do with this new Russia, or how to deal with its wily leader in an effective manner. The whole thing just seems like a dangerous mix of missed opportunity and amazingly reckless leadership, as there can be no doubt that the world would be a better place if the Tu-95s and B-52s depicted in the photo above were flying alongside each other in unity instead flying against each other in defiance and aggression all over again.


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To get along better with Russia we would need to really recalibrate our foreign policy. I swear I am no Putinbot, I am a red meat eatin’ Murican who served in the military and values American military strength.

That said, we have an extremely aggressive foreign policy viewpoint in the US, one that largely chooses to ignore geography and spheres of influence. This stance frequently puts us at odds with stronger states. I don’t agree with Russia’s meddling in Ukraine, but to the Russians this is their backyard and it has nothing to do with the US, yet there we are insisting that Russia stand down.

It would be like if Russia started buzzing the US with bombers because of some policy we enacted in Puerto Rico. Or when the USSR tried to use Cuba as a missile base. That got us pretty damned fired up because it was in our backyard. The US is such a global power that it doesn't view any country as having a backyard except for the US. We are everywhere and we can project force almost anywhere, so out interests everywhere are at least equal to those of the people who actually live there. Regional powers like Russia/China find this maddening.