Dmitri Trenin is a long-time Soviet military officer who, in the post-Soviet era, has become one of the world’s most respected experts and commentators on Russian affairs. Dr. Trenin joined the Carnegie Moscow Center when it was formed in 1994 and today is its director, as well as a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and chair of the Moscow Center’s Foreign and Security Policy Program. He also has been senior research fellow at both the NATO Defense College in Rome and the Institute of Europe in Moscow. Trenin served in the Soviet and Russian armed forces from 1972 until 1993, and was a staff member of the delegation to the U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms talks in Geneva from 1985 to 1991. He writes widely on Russian affairs and has written numerous books, the most recent of which is Post-Imperium: A Eurasian Story, which calls on Russia to abandon its dream of post-Soviet greatness and power and instead strike relations of soft power and mutual trust with its neighbors, becoming more of a benevolent regional leader than a menace.
Trenin addressed The Chicago Council’s conference on “Smart Defense and the Future of NATO,” and then spoke with me about the meaning of Vladimir Putin’s recent election as Russian president, if enough trust exists to enable Russia and the United States to cooperate on missile defense, whether Russia can ever join NATO, and if not, what optimal relations would look like between that nation and its old foes in the West.
Richard Longworth: In one of his campaign speeches, Mitt Romney said that Russia is America’s number one geopolitical foe. I’d like your reaction, and I’m curious if Russia regards NATO the same way.
Dmitri Trenin: There are people who think of Russia that way in the United States. But I didn’t expect to hear it from experienced politicians, campaigning for the presidency.
In Russia it’s difficult and unnecessary to generalize, but yes, there is a fairly strong group of people—not very big but pretty ideological—who see the United States as their former foe and future adversary in Russia. To me, those people are the holdovers of the Cold War. I don’t think they can be reformed. ...