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What impact did US Ballistic Missile Defence have on post-Cold War US-Russian Relations?

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

While US ballistic missile defence (BMD) has been identified as a recurring stumbling block in post-Cold War US-Russian relations, its actual impact on the bilateral relationship has not been thoroughly assessed. Through an examination of the diplomatic factors that have underpinned US and Russian missile defence policies from 1999 to 2013, this thesis explains why US BMD was not as destabilising as feared by nuclear experts and scholars of US-Russian relations. Because US ballistic missile defence remained a diplomatic issue, it did not have a significant impact on other fields of cooperation and confrontation. US BMD did not go as far as turning into a central military irritant between the US and Russia.

At the same time, the process of US-Russian missile defence diplomacy fostered a zero-sum outlook in US-Russian relations. While American and Russian policymakers sought to detach US BMD from fields deemed to be more important, diplomatic exchanges on US BMD only perpetuated opaque policy manoeuvres and increased mutual mistrust. In addition, the US- Russian conflict over ballistic missile defence developed into a diplomatic struggle over the post- Cold War European security architecture. The analyses of the role of European NATO states in US-Russian BMD disputes reveal the dysfunctional mechanisms of the post-Cold War institutional settings. As such, European-US-Russian exchanges on US missile defence contributed to the persistence of the Cold War divisions of ‘Western’-Russian relations and ingrained a source of recurring conflict.
Original languageEnglish
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Award date2016

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