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United States-Russia Trade Policy Essay

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Updated: Jun 23rd, 2020


The trade policy between the United States and Russia has been strained since 1991 after the fall of the former Soviet Union. Although the Cold War ended with the fall of the Soviet Union, the tension and suspicion between the United States and Russia remained very high. Russia always felt that the United States was encroaching into its sphere in East Europe. On the other hand, the United States always felt that Russia was planning a nuclear war against NATO members. These political tensions affected trade relations between them. It even denied Russia an opportunity to become a member of World Trade Organization (Eckes 29). Until 2013, there were positive signs that suggested a cordial relationship and improved trade between the two countries. However, the annexation of Crimea by Russia and subsequent invasion in East Ukraine has worsened trade relations between the two countries. The recent economic sanctions given by the United States against Russia have paralyzed trade. This study will look at the trade policies between these two countries.

Clinton-Boris Era

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Boris Yeltsin came to power in Russia. He was largely seen as a reformist who was determined to mend the broken relationship between his country and the United States. At this time, there were numerous laws sanctioning trade between the United States and Russia. However, Yeltsin was concerned about the economic condition of his country, and accepted the Economic Shock Therapy policy that was suggested by the United States’ Bill Clinton. The trade relation between these two countries was at a record high in the late 1990s, since the end of the Second World War (Chang 42). However, the two leaders left power almost at the same time when they were still trying to find an appropriate working formula on how to improve trade between the two nations.

Bush-Putin Era

The era of George Bush of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia saw a new strained relationship between these two countries. These two leaders were both very assertive in their approach to various issues in foreign policy. For instance, Bush installed missiles in Poland as a way of protecting US allies in East and West Europe. In retaliation, Putin ordered his forced to rebuild Russian surveillance in the United States (Broadman 73). This brought serious suspicion that affected trade. The Russian traders in the United States were viewed as spies who wanted to gather intelligence from this country. On the other hand, the US exports to Russia were also viewed with suspicion. The United States enacted laws that restricted trade between the two countries. In fact, Chorev (58) says that the United States unilaterally thwarted attempts by Russia to join World Trade Organization. This further limited the capacity of the two countries to have a thriving unilateral trade relationship.

Obama-Medvedev Era

When President Obama took over power in the United States, and Medvedev took control of Russia, the two leaders were seen to be interested in defusing the tension and improving trade relations. In 2009, the Obama administration reached out to the Russian authorities in order to find a working relationship between the two countries. The two leaders promised to drop their political differences and develop a working relationship between the two countries. A new policy was developed in the late 2009 that eliminated most of the politically instigated trade restrictions (Pillar 34). Medvedev and Obama reached an agreement that would see the two countries engage in disarmament programs and improved trade relations. However, Medvedev’s term in office ended before further trade policies between the two countries could be finalized.

Obama-Putin Era

When Putin came back to power, the United Sates became suspicious of his foreign policies. The gains that had been made between President Obama and Medvedev went down the drain in 2013 when Putin introduced an aggressive foreign policy in the name of protecting Russian speakers in the ex-Soviet nations. When Russia annexed Crimea, the political tension between the United States and Russia was intensified. According to Aslund and Hufbauer (56), there was a drop of US export to Russia by a massive 61%. Similarly, the Russian exports to the United States dropped by 65% following the introduction of economic sanctions against Russia. The Magnitsky Act, which the United States’ lawmakers were planning to repeal during the Medvedev era, became relevant as the United States sought for measures to counter Russian aggression. The United States had a commitment to protect its NATO allies in East Europe, and Russia had just invaded one of them, Ukraine. This time the United States influenced its NATO members and many other states in Europe to use economic sanctions against Russia.


Currently, the Russian economy is facing serious challenges due to the new policies that are spearheaded by the United States. The price of oil has been on a consistent decline over the past nine months following the annexation of Crimea. The current trend shows that the trade policies between these two countries are less likely to improve in the near future.

Works Cited

Aslund, Anders, and Gary Hufbauer. The United States Should Establish Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russia. Washington: Peterson Institute, 2014. Print.

Broadman, Harry. Russian Trade Policy Reform for WTO Accession. Washington: World Bank, 2009. Print.

Chang, Chih-Hann. Ethical Foreign Policy? Us Humanitarian Interventions. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010. Print.

Chorev, Nitsan. Remaking U.S. Trade Policy: From Protectionism to Globalization. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007. Print.

Eckes, Alfred. U.S. Trade Issues: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2009. Print.

Pillar, Paul. Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform. Columbia University Press, 2011. Print.

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