Russia and America Beyond the Missile Shield

When President Obama scrapped plans to base parts of a missile shield in former Soviet satellite states, the simplified story line suggested America had given Russia what it wanted. Anyone who imagines that's all Russia wants should listen to the frustration in Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov's voice when he talks about the World Trade Organization.

Links to audio and video from Shuvalov's appearance in Washington last week are here. To my ear, Shuvalov's fine command of English degrades a bit and a slight verbal tic -- an occasional "myeh" in the middle of sentences -- emerges about 30 minutes into the event when he discusses Russia's longstanding ambition to join the WTO.

"We have been discussing WTO accession for 16 years," Shuvalov lamented.

He portrayed WTO negotiations as a shell game.

"We believe it was the previous (American) administration's position -- whether it is Georgia or war, whatever -- something always happens which then changes the American position. And for many years now, I have received different reports from people who are the negotiating team that we have maybe four or six months left in order to finalize everything and by the end of the year we will be within WTO. And it doesn't happen."

A June 18 article in The Economist noted that Russia seemed "fed up with endless new demands and delays." That article also indicated Russia seemed to be abandoning its WTO ambitions, shocking "trade negotiators on both sides, who only weeks ago were trying to iron out the last wrinkles in a deal."

So if the U.S. has played games over WTO membership, Russia may have played some as well.

Speaking with Big Think about Russia last year, author James Traub highlighted a crucial question: "how do we manage what appears to be a very self-confident and very belligerent and perhaps somewhat paranoid regime which really sees the West as having ganged up against it?"

The politics of WTO membership seems to be one version of that riddle.

Big Think
Sponsored by Lumina Foundation

Upvote/downvote each of the videos below!

As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Keep reading Show less

7 fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Here are 7 often-overlooked World Heritage Sites, each with its own history.

Photo by Raunaq Patel on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites are locations of high value to humanity, either for their cultural, historical, or natural significance.
  • Some are even designated as World Heritage Sites because humans don't go there at all, while others have felt the effects of too much human influence.
  • These 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites each represent an overlooked or at-risk facet of humanity's collective cultural heritage.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists discover how to trap mysterious dark matter

A new method promises to capture an elusive dark world particle.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) devised a method for trapping dark matter particles.
  • Dark matter is estimated to take up 26.8% of all matter in the Universe.
  • The researchers will be able to try their approach in 2021, when the LHC goes back online.
Keep reading Show less