"So the West, with all its tech marvels, has to rely on the Russians? "
Ask George W. Bush - he spent so much money on wars that he couldn't finish, he killed the Shuttle program before anything was available to save money and avoid to raise the taxes to his rich frieds. But Cheney and Rumsfeld probably got the "gifts" the weapon industry promised them.
Russians meanwhile killed any advanced program (Energia, Buran) and falled back to their old designs - after all that's the country who kept making the Lada-Vaz Žiguli (a licensed copy of Fiat 124) from 1970 to 2012, and the same cameras with the same equipment looted from Germany in 1945 well into the 1980s... I wouldn't be surprise if pieces of the Sojuz are still made with equipment got that way...
If US kept the Saturn IB/Apollo combo alive for LEO, they would have had a proven design available as well. When work was shifted to the Shuttle, NASA kept on selling it as a "launcher" - while it was really an "orbital workshop", and should have been used only as such, keeping less expensive launchers around.