European Studies

Sneak Peek: Kristen Ghodsee, Red Hangover

We’re pleased to share the prelude, titled Freundschaft, of Kristen Ghodsee’s upcoming book Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism. In Red Hangover Ghodsee reflects on the lived experience of postsocialism and how many ordinary men and women across Eastern Europe suffered from the massive social and economic upheavals in their lives after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This text is not final, but we hope it gives you a taste of this impactful new book, to be published in late October.

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Two pairs of earrings, four bracelets, and a mixtape inspired me to write this book. I was in the Stadtmuseum in the German city of Jena, peering into the various display cases of an exhibit called Freundschaft! Mythos und Realität im Alltag der DDR (Friendship! Myth and reality in everyday life in the GDR [German Democratic Republic]). The exhibit ruminated on the official and unofficial uses of the word “friendship” in the context of communist East Germany between 1949 and 1989. In one case, the museum’s curators displayed the personal items of a teenage girl who had gone to a Freie Deutsche Jugend (Free German Youth) summer camp in 1985. There, accompanying some photos and a letter she sent home to her parents, sat a white cassette tape, some plastic bracelets, and two pairs of oversized, cheap earrings, the kind once fashionable in the mid-1980s when every girl’s hair was two stories too high.

Back in 1985, I spent several weeks of my summer at a camp in the Cuyamaca Mountains one hour east of San Diego. When I left home, I remember packing several pairs of the same horrible earrings, some plastic bangles, and a stack of mixtapes with my favorite songs recorded off the local Top 40 radio station. Standing in Jena thirty years later, I experienced one of those moments of radical empathy, and tried to imagine what my life would have been like if I’d gone to summer camp in communist East Germany rather than in capitalist California. This girl and I might have shared the same passion for similar material objects, but we would have been ideological enemies, surviving our adolescences on different sides of the Iron Curtain.

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A billboard for the Freundschaft exhibit in Jena. All photos by the author.

From the placard on the display case, I understood that this girl was born in 1971, one year after me. Somewhere out there, this girl was now a woman about my age, and I longed to talk to her, to ask her what she remembered about that summer of 1985, and how things had worked out for her since. This German girl would have been eighteen when the Berlin Wall fell, and nineteen when her country ceased to exist. She would have just graduated from secondary school, and probably listened to Madonna and Fine Young Cannibals as I did: “Express Yourself,” “Like a Prayer,” and “She Drives Me Crazy.” But where I had the luxury of geopolitical continuity in my personal life, this East German faced a young adulthood of dramatic social and economic upheaval.

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Items from the East German Freie Deutsche Jugend (Free German Youth).

When I left the museum, I wandered through the cobblestone alleyways leading off the main market square. I saw posters for two upcoming demonstrations in Jena. The right-wing, anti-immigrant political party Alternative for Germany (AfD) would organize a rally and a march in the Marktplatz while Germany’s left-wing party, Die Linke (The Left), in a coalition with other centrist and leftist parties, would organize a counterdemonstration in front of the church. The counterprotesters had plastered the small city with posters saying “FCK AFD” and “refugees welcome,” and I guessed that the center/left demonstrators would outnumber their right-wing counterparts.

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New Books in August

We hope you’re enjoying your summer! Our fall list is now in full swing with lots of new books to check out in August.

LazarreIn her memoir, The Communist and the Communist’s DaughterJane Lazarre tells the fascinating history of her father Bill, a radical activist who, as part of his tireless efforts to create a better world for his family, held leadership positions in the American Communist Party, fought in the Spanish Civil War, and organized labor unions.

In The Look of a Woman, Eric Plemons explores the ways in which facial feminization surgery is changing the ways in which trans- women are not only perceived of as women, but in the ways it is altering the project of surgical sex reassignment and the understandings of what sex means.

Jason Dittmer, in Diplomatic Material, applies new materialism to international relations and offers a counterintuitive reading of foreign policy by tracing the ways that complex interactions between people and things shape the decisions and actions of diplomats and policymakers.
Hough-Snee and Sotelo Eastman

Dexter Zavalza Hough-Snee and Alexander Sotelo Eastman’s collection, The Critical Surf Studies Reader, is an innovative exploration of the history and culture of surfing that recasts wave-riding as a complex cultural practice and reclaims the forgotten roles that women, indigenous peoples, and peoples of color have played in the its evolution.

In Disturbing Attachments, Kadji Amin challenges the idealization of Jean Genet as a paradigmatic figure within queer studies to illuminate the methodological dilemmas at the heart of queer theory, bringing the genealogy of Genet’s imaginaries of attachment to bear on pressing issues within contemporary queer politics and scholarship, including prison abolition, homonationalism, and pinkwashing.

art1Nicholas De Genova’s The Borders of “Europe” examines the perceptions of the staggering refuge and migration crisis in Europe, demonstrating how it stems from migrants exercising their right to the freedom of movement, leads states to create new technologies of regulating human movement, and prompts the questioning of the very idea of Europe.

In Vibrator Nation, Lynn Comella tells the fascinating history of how feminist sex-toy stores such as Eve’s Garden, Good Vibrations and Babeland raised sexual consciousness, redefined the adult industry, provided educational and community resources, and changed the way sex was talked about, had, and enjoyed.

Alexandra Chang’s catalog, Circles and Circuits—which examines Chinese Caribbean art in Cuba, Trinidad, Jamaica, and Panama—accompanies the exhibition, Circles and Circuits: Chinese Caribbean Art, presented in two parts: History and Art of the Chinese Caribbean Diaspora at the California African American Museum from September 15, 2017 through February 25, 2018, and Contemporary Chinese Caribbean Art at the Chinese American Museum from September 15, 2017 through March 11, 2018.

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Tatiana Flores and Michelle Ann Stephens’ Relational Undercurrents accompanies an exhibition by the same name that opens at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California in September, 2017. The exhibition and edited volume call attention to the artistic production of the Caribbean islands and their diasporas, challenging the conventional geographic and conceptual boundaries of Latin America.

Both exhibitions, Circles and Circuits and Relational Undercurrents, are part of the Pacific Standard Time Art Project. 

The largely unknown story of the FBI’s surveillance operations in Latin America during the 1940s is the topic of Marc Becker’s The FBI in Latin America. He provides new insights into leftist organizations and the nature of the U.S.’s imperial ambitions in the western hemisphere.

Ambassadors of the Working ClassIn Ambassadors of the Working Class, Ernesto Semán tells the story of Argentina’s diplomatic worker attachés dispatched to further Peronism, organized labor became a crucial aspect in defining democracy and perceptions of social justice, freedom, and sovereignty in the Americas.

Kojin Karatani’s Isomania and the Origins of Philosophy questions the canonical glorification of philosophy and democracy in ancient Athens by placing Western philosophy’s origins in Ionia, a set of Greek colonies located in present-day Turkey that practiced isonomia—a system based on non-rule and a lack of social divisions whereby equality is realized through individual freedom.

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Read to Respond: Migration Studies

R2R final logoOur “Read to Respond” series addresses the current climate of misinformation by highlighting articles and books that encourage thoughtful, educated debate on today’s most pressing issues. This post focuses on immigration in commemoration with World Refugee Day, an international movement that supports families forced to flee and honors the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. Read, reflect, and share these resources in and out of the classroom to keep these important conversations going.

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These articles are freely available until December 15, 2017. Follow along with the series over the next several months and share your thoughts with #ReadtoRespond.

 

French Historical Studies Authors Win Two Prizes

The Society for French Historical Studies has awarded two prizes to articles featured in French Historical Studies!

ddfhs_39_4The 2016 William Koren, Jr. Prize is awarded by the Society for French Historical Studies to the most outstanding article on any period of French history published the previous year by a scholar appointed at a college or university in the United States or Canada. The prize committee seeks out contenders from American, Canadian, and European journals and may decide whether articles that have appeared as part of a book or in the published proceedings of a scholarly conference are eligible for consideration. This year’s award goes to Nguyễn Thị Điểu, author of “Ritual, Power, and Pageantry: French Ritual Politics in Monarchical Vietnam.” This article is featured in French Historical Studies, volume 39, issue 4 (October 2016).

ddfhs_39_2The runner up for the 2016 Malcolm Bowie Prize was Dónal Hassett, whose article, “Pupilles de l’Empire: Debating the Provision for Child Victims of the Great War in the French Empire,” was featured in French Historical Studies volume 39, issue 2 (April 2016). The Malcolm Bowie Prize, given by the Society for French Historical Studies, is awarded each year for the best article published in the preceding year by an early-career researcher in the broader discipline of French Studies.

Congratulations to both winners! Read these award-winning articles, made freely available.

Archives in French History

ddfhs_40_2In the most recent issue of French Historical Studies, “Archives in French History,” editors Sarah A. Curtis and Stephen L. Harp examine the role of the archive in the study of French history. “Archives are a subject as well as an object of study, not simple depots for boxes containing unambiguous evidence of the past waiting to be discovered by historians,” they write in the introduction. “This issue reveals not only the breadth of archives now used to write French history but also the depth of thinking about the relationship between archives and history and between archives and historians.”

Contributors to this issue question the nature, origin, or history of the archive in French history to examine its dynamic relationship to the history that is written, rather than treating the archive as static or inert. The archives, therefore, are the historical subjects themselves. They answer questions like what constitutes an archive, what is the role of the state in the archival collection, what is no longer in the archive, who controls access to the archive, and what historians owe to their sources.

From the introduction:

Despite these new questions, our contention is that historians of France, like historians in many other fields today, use a wider array of archives, and we use them more broadly, more deeply, and more self-consciously than ever before. One special issue cannot fully capture that depth or that breadth, but the essays here offer a taste of the richness that characterizes current work on France while also providing thoughtful understandings of the structure and context of archives. We hope they encourage you to reflect—critically or not—on your own archive stories.

Topics in this issue include the ownership of history, sex in the archives, discovering an accidental archive, and the destruction and salvation of the archive. Browse the full table-of-contents.

Read the introduction to the issue, made freely available.

Nazi-Looted Art and Its Legacies

ddngc_44_1_130This special issue of New German Critique, edited by Andreas Huyssen, Anson Rabinbach, and Avinoam Shalem, examines the legacy of Nazi-looted art in light of the 2012 discovery of the famous Hildebrand Gurlitt collection of stolen artwork in Germany. When the German government declassified the case almost two years later, the resulting scandal raised fundamental questions about the role of art dealers in the Third Reich, the mechanics of the Nazi black market for artwork, the shortcomings of postwar denazification, the failure of courts and governments to adjudicate stolen artwork claims, and the unwillingness of museums to determine the provenance of thousands of looted pieces of art.

The contributors to this issue explore the continuities of art dealerships and auction houses from the Nazi period to the Federal Republic and take stock of the present political and cultural debate over the handling of this artwork. Topics include Socialist cultural policy, Gurlitt and his dealings with German museums, German restitution politics since the Gurlitt case, and the political aspects of the “trophy art” problem.

Read the introduction to the issue, made freely available.

Recent Journal Issues on Gender, Violence, War, and Religion

The intersection between gender, violence, war, religion, and race are featured in several recent special issues of Radical History ReviewSocial Text, and the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies. Read more about the issues featured and sample several articles made freely available.

ddrhr_126In bringing together a geographically and temporally broad range of interdisciplinary historical scholarship, “Reconsidering Gender, Violence, and the State,” a special issue of Radical History Review, offers an expansive examination of gender, violence, and the state. Through analyses of New York penitentiaries, anarchists in early twentieth-century Japan, and militarism in the 1990s, contributors reconsider how historical conceptions of masculinity and femininity inform the persistence of and punishments for gendered violence. The contributors to a section on violence and activism challenge the efficacy of state solutions to gendered violence in a contemporary US context, highlighting alternatives posited by radical feminist and queer activists. In five case studies drawn from South Africa, India, Ireland, East Asia, and Nigeria, contributors analyze the archive’s role in shaping current attitudes toward gender, violence, and the state, as well as its lasting imprint on future quests for restitution or reconciliation. This issue also features a visual essay on the “false positives” killings in Colombia and an exploration of Zanale Muholi’s postapartheid activist photographyRead the introduction, made freely available.

stx129covprintIn “Race/Religion/War,” a special issue of Social Text edited by Keith P. Feldman and Leerom Medovoi, contributors query long-standing entanglements among the respective epistemologies of race, religion, and war as they organize modern strategies of knowledge and power. They investigate how a logic of permanent warfare underwrites both the international intensification of Islamophobia and the emergence and deployment of an expanding set of security apparatuses whose categorical, geographic, and historical permeability define warfare as radically open-ended. At the same time, the issue seeks to draw attention to long genealogies of race, religion, and war that both contextualize their contemporary braiding and offer political countermemories against which we can make sense of our baleful present.

Drawing on diverse critical traditions, its contributors raise questions such as: What is the relationship of the race/religion/war triad to the modern history of the militarized state? How have certain forms of war-making produced some kinds of race-making or religion-formation, while perhaps unmaking others? Does racial modernity emerge out of the secularization of religious war? How are the religious and racial dimensions of modern colonialism and settler colonialism co-articulated? Read the introduction to the issue, made freely available.

ddmew_12_3In the most recent issue of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, “The Gender and Sexuality of Militarization and War,” contributors focus on the gender and sexuality of militarization, war, and violence. Topics include the gendered representations of violence during and after the 2011 revolutions in Syria and Egypt and how they have impacted men and women, reading Israeli, Iraqi, and Yemeni literature to understand fraught and often violent relationships between Jews and Israelis and Muslims and Arabs, and examining the meanings attached to women’s performance of identity, citizenship, and political agency in Turkey in the early twenty-first century.

From the preface by feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe:

These researchers reveal the diversity of women’s experiences, imaginations, images, and political analyses both within a single country, such as Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, or Syria, and also across the region.Women are not “just women.” These articles also underscore the interactions of diverse women, historically and socially situated women, with the diverse men of their communities, men who have been both perpetrators and targets of sexualized and unsexualized violence and who are trying to make their own sense of their roles in that violence. Reading these articles together helps us all, I think, understand how crucial it is to absorb complexities when plunging into the gendered lives of women and men making their lives in militarized societies. This is what the Syrian women civil society activists are calling on the men in Geneva to do. This is what they, together with the authors of these provocative articles, are calling on each of us to do.

Read Edith Szanto’s article from the issue, “Depicting Victims, Heroines, and Pawns in the Syrian Uprising,” made freely available.

 

Governor Jerry Brown, City Lights Bookstore, and a Bulgarian Adventure

Left Side of HistoryWelcome to the University Press Week blog tour! Today we offer a guest post on the power of indie bookstores by Kristen Ghodsee, author of The Left Side of History: World War II and the Unfulfilled Promise of Communism in Eastern Europe (2015).

On May 23, 2016, I woke up in Helsinki to an email containing a voice to text transcript of a message from someone called “Kathy,” claiming to be based in the office of the governor of California.  I deleted the message.  It was election season and they were probably asking for money, I thought.  No one uses land lines unless they’re asking for money.

But the next message in my inbox was from my administrative coordinator back at Bowdoin College.  She forwarded me a message left on her voice mail from the same Kathy who stated that Jerry Brown “would like to speak with Professor Kristen Ghodsee.”  I did a quick Google search of Kathy’s full name, and found that she indeed worked in Sacramento for the governor’s office.

But why would the governor want to speak with me?  As a Californian and a product of two public universities in the Golden State, I wondered if this had something to do with projected changes to the UC system.  I grew up under Jerry Brown.  I was four years old in San Diego when he was first elected governor at the age of 36 in 1974.  He served as “Governor Moonbeam” until I was 13.  Many years later I was a doctoral student at Berkeley when he became the mayor of neighboring Oakland, but I had already relocated to Maine when he was sworn in for his third term as California governor in 2011, succeeding the “Governator,” Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He was serving his fourth term 2016.

Soon after, I received a direct email from Kathy.  I told her I was on leave in Finland, (ten hours ahead of Pacific Standard time), and asked what this was about.  She wrote: “Hello and thank you for your reply. I believe he was hoping to chat with you about “To the Left of History.” Would a phone call be possible? And if yes, could you please provide some possible times when you might be available?”

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It turns out that Governor Brown hangs around the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco and stumbled upon a copy of my book, The Left Side of History on a shelf there.  Intrigued by the title, he bought and read it and wanted to discuss the book with me.  Thus ensued a series of conversations that lasted for the next six weeks as Governor Brown and I corresponded by phone and email.  Once on a intercity train between Tampere and Helsinki, my mobile phone rang and I ended up having to sit in a cramped sound proof booth for an hour while the Governor and I discussed East European politics and his upcoming trip to Bulgaria.

Governor Brown would be traveling to the small Balkan country in early July with his wife and two friends.  He asked me to help arrange meetings for him in Sofia, but also if it would be possible for he and his wife to meet Elena Lagadinova, the 86-year-old protagonist of my book.  Lagadinova had been the youngest female partisan fighting against the Nazi-allied monarchy in Bulgaria during World War II.  My book was an attempt to recuperate the heroism of those who fought on the “left side of history:” mostly communist idealists who risked their lives to defeat fascism.

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And so it was on July 8th, that the sitting governor of California shared tea and cakes with Elena Lagadinova in Sofia, a meeting made possible through a healthy does of serendipity and the astounding power of university press books and independent bookstores to bring stories and people together despite the decades and oceans between them.

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Now that you’ve read this post, please continue on the University Press Week blog tour. Head to University of Texas Press for Q&A with their sales manager about visiting indie bookstores along the West Coast  this fall. The University of Chicago Press blog features a day in the life of sales rep Mical Moser. Cornell University Press spotlights Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca’s cooperatively owned community bookstore. University Press of Colorado looks back on the past year’s author events at their two local indies, Tattered Cover and Boulder Bookstore. NYU Press features a re-cap of the Brooklyn Book Festival. McGill Queens University Press offers an appreciation of Canada’s independent bookstores. University Press of Kentucky will be featuring fun, revealing Q&As with indie booksellers across the state. University Press of Kansas showcases  The Raven Bookstore and KU Bookstore, two local, independent shops that carry and promote their titles. And don’t miss a post from one of the U.S.’s best indie bookstores, the Seminary Co-op, where they’ll highlight what’s on their front table right now.

TV Socialism by Anikó Imre

imreToday’s guest post is by  Anikó Imre, author of TV Socialism, which provides an innovative history of television in socialist Europe during and after the Cold War, finding a variety of programming and economic practices that exceed state propaganda and challenge conventional understandings of culture and politics under socialism. Imre is Associate Professor and Chair of the Division of Cinema and Media Studies in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California.

tv-socialismSocialism gets a bad rap. It’s true that Bernie Sanders recently resurrected the term to mobilize a large base of youngish people fed up with the futures that neoliberal capitalism has to offer. But Sanders’s version of socialism cautiously evoked only select features of Western European social democracies, which, in the popular imagination, remain fairly distinct from that other socialism, the actually existing, Soviet type. That other kind, more commonly referenced outside of the post-Soviet region as communism, is assumed to have died along with the Cold War. Only it hasn’t. In the frenzied rearrangement of ideas that marked the end of the bipolar world order in the early 1990s, much of the information about really existing socialism became frozen in simplistic or distorted images inherited from the Cold War. Under pressure to shore up the legitimacy of the winning and only remaining political-economic system, these images quickly became fossilized into stereotypes of a joyless, oppressed bloc uniformly yearning for freedom, democracy and consumer goods, whose only hope were brave, West-looking intellectual heroes resisting the regime.

The most audacious point I am making in my book TV Socialism is that real-life socialism is well worth uncovering from under the rubble of the Cold War.  It is worth doing not just to correct the historical record sealed by the victorious world order but also to imagine more hopeful correctives to the increasingly dire perspectives afforded by global capitalism. To get to the hidden layers of socialism, however, we need to bypass the usual sources that shape common perceptions of socialism, such as Hollywood films about the Cold War and memoirs of (self-)exiled Soviet intellectuals. A very different, varied, and often surprising story of socialism has been emerging recently from multidisciplinary research across history, anthropology, sociology and cultural studies on the everyday cultures of socialism.

My own contribution to this research concerns the cultures around television, the true mass media of the (late) socialism of the 1960s-80s. Rather than serving as an effective instrument of propaganda, television was always slipping out of party control. It lived an ambivalent and contradictory life in the intersection of the public and domestic spheres, between top-down attempts at influencing viewers and bottom-up demands for entertainment. Rather than being confined by the Iron Curtain or national borders, it encompassed a variety of contradictory and hybrid aesthetic, political and economic practices that included frequent exchanges and collaborations within the socialist region and with Western media institutions, a programming flow across borders, a steady production of genre entertainment, borrowings from European public service broadcasting, a semi-official, constantly expanding commercial infrastructure, and transcultural, multi-lingual reception experiences along borders that shared broadcast signals.

These practices around television show us a socialist mass medium well integrated within European and global media cultures. Socialist TV developed in synchronicity with European television from interwar experimental broadcasts through a postwar relaunch in the 1950s, to adopting the principles of educational-nationalistic broadcasting from European public service media and gradually shifting to an entertainment-focused model by the 1970s of the political thaw. In the book I use the structuring grid of genre to demonstrate this integration, understanding genre loosely as a transcultural form of expression and currency of conversion rather than a set of specific television genres defined by Anglo-American TV studies. The generic grid does not only make socialist television accessible to readers unfamiliar with local cultures and TV programs; it also helps track socialist media cultures’ roots into presocialist eras and their afterlife in postsocialist times.

For instance, contemporary reality programs inevitably dialogue with the docu-fictional, educational programming that dominated socialist TV schedules, which foregrounds both the latter’s relative strengths (its non-exploitative, democratizing, educational intention) and omissions (its motivated neglect of minorities on the margins of the normatively white, masculine nation).  For another example, genres of late socialist TV satire not only resonated with but also anticipated the satirical mode that has taken over news reporting worldwide since the end of the Cold War. In a similar vein, socialist superwomen characters who “did it all” as the anchors of 1970s-80s “socialist soaps” both prepared the ground for and issued an early critique of the postfeminist politics often associated with contemporary global quality drama. In a chapter on socialist commercials, I discuss how the most liberalized socialist televisions of Yugoslavia and Hungary inherited advertising structures from the pre-war era and sustained their own marketing activities throughout the socialist period. In fact, socialist commercials – an oxymoron if there ever was one — remain testimonies to the surprising complexities of socialist television and, for that reason, have attracted great deal of nostalgic affection in the postsocialist region. As I also elaborate in the book, nostalgia itself is a vastly more layered structure of feeling than the stereotyped, pathetic longing for a world system that cannot be recovered. Postsocialist nostalgia’s origins reach back to the beginning of European nationalisms; and its contemporary manifestations yield clues to the surprising and growing political and economic divides between East and West. Rather than scarcity, homogeneity and brainwashing, TV Socialism conveys a mixture of recognition and strangeness, which should defamiliarize some of the fundamental assumptions of media studies as well as our ingrained notions of socialism.

Save 30% on TV Socialism with coupon code E16IMRE.

Moving US-Russia Relations beyond Confrontation

Former Foreign Service officer Louis Sell reflects on the past and future of US-Russian relations in this op-ed inspired by the anniversary of 1991’s failed coup that ultimately led to the end of the USSR. Sell’s new book is From Washington to Moscow: US-Soviet Relations and the Collapse of the USSR. You can also read a Q&A with him.

From Washington to MoscowTwenty-five years ago this month retrograde Communists failed to overthrow Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, hastening the disappearance of the USSR four months later and the onset of Russia’s tragically brief experiment with democracy under Boris Yeltsin. It was a heady time in Moscow. The former Soviet media exploded with exuberant freedom. People assumed that with Communism gone it would be easy to graft democratic institutions onto the Russian body politic. An outpouring of positive feeling toward the US accompanied the post-coup euphoria. Russia and the United States would remain the world’s two leading nations but now as friends, not rivals. To walk into a Russian office as an American was to be greeted by smiles and often a warm embrace.

A quarter century later Vladimir Putin rests his appeal on a narrative of Western perfidy. Many Russians believe that the US objective was to humiliate their proud country and keep it weak. In reality, Russians and foreigners alike underestimated the difficulties that needed to be overcome to usher in democracy. Institutions were created and elections were held but a genuine democratic culture, founded on toleration, transparency, and rule of law could not be created overnight. Russian reformers and their Western supporters over promised and under performed. Russians received a lot of well-meaning advice but too much of it amounted to applying formulaic outside models to stubborn Russian reality.

Now, when hopes for US-Russian global partnership have been replaced by almost equally unrealistic fears of a new Cold War, it is important to keep in proper perspective the scope of the Russian challenge and the scale of the US response. Russia remains far behind the US in almost every measure of global power. Its declining population is less than half the US while its economy is roughly one-quarter the size of the American. Putin’s impressive modernization revitalized the Russian military after decades of post-Cold War neglect but Russia lags the US in almost every category of armed might. On the other hand, aided by disarray in Washington and Europe, Putin is moving against the US on many fronts — in Ukraine and Syria, through disinformation and cyber subversion, and encouraging a global coalition of authoritarian, anti-Western regimes.

The US needs to protect its genuine interests while also seeking to understand Russia’s legitimate concerns. We should provide Ukraine aid to rebuild its economy and the real military assistance it needs to defeat pro-Russian rebels in the east — as long as it demonstrates it can use the aid effectively and according to democratic standards. A long-visible deal involving autonomy for eastern Ukraine will not become possible until Moscow is convinced it cannot achieve its aims through force. Similarly, in the murky world of cyber conflict, we need to be prepared to inflict equivalent damage on Moscow, as a first step toward regulating actions in this area.

The historical record provides no support for the claim, widely believed in Russia, that NATO expansion violated pledges made at the end of the Cold War. NATO membership helped integrate Eastern Europe into the West but it is time to acknowledge that expanding NATO into former Soviet republics was a bridge too far. NATO cannot honorably step away from the commitment it made to the Baltics. But NATO should acknowledge the obvious truth that no additional former Soviet republic, including Ukraine, will become NATO members even as we make clear that we will hold Moscow to its obligations to respect their independence.

Moving beyond confrontation would allow the US and Russia to cooperate in areas where they have common interests. Russia faces a far greater threat from radical Islam than does the US and both wish to minimize regional instability when the US finally withdraws from Afghanistan. Cooperation with Russia in Syria is pointless as long as Putin views the conflict there as a way to humiliate the US, but over the longer term a more effective US policy there could help Moscow understand the broader dangers it faces from violence across the Middle East.

It is unlikely that the US and Russia will ever return to the partnership that many in both countries desired after the end of the Cold War, at least as long as Putin and his cronies remain in power, but a measured US stance combining firm resistance to Russian offensive moves with a willingness to talk in areas where cooperation may be possible offers hope of eventually ending pointless antagonism.

You can order From Washington to Moscow from your favorite local or online bookstore (print and e-editions available) or order directly from Duke University Press. Use coupon code E16LSELLto save 30%!