The administration seeks to avoid a rupture in its relationship with Moscow as it continues to pursue cooperation on Syria, Iran, and in Afghanistan, among other issues. The administration has been exploring options for arranging a summit meeting between Presidents Obama and Putin on the margins of the G-8 meeting in Sochi. The United States is even considering entering into negotiations on a bilateral trade and investment treaty with Moscow, as a way to keep relations on a pragmatic course, despite tensions over Ukraine and on a variety of human rights issues. The administration’s response to the surprise saber-rattling military exercises ordered by Putin on Russia’s western border, were firm, as they should be. Hagel affirmed America’s support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and urged Russia “not to take any steps that could be misinterpreted, or lead to miscalculation during a … time with great tension.”
Until events in the Crimea, Moscow seemed to be in a similar mood to contain East-West tensions. Last weekend, even as Prime Minister Medvedev was denouncing the ouster of Yanukovych as an illegitimate coup, Russia voted with the United States for a UN Security Council Resolution to increase humanitarian aid to Syria.
Lee Feinstein is a former principal deputy director of policy planning and former US ambassador to Poland. Richard Burt is a former assistant secretary for Europe and former US Ambassador to Germany.