Resetting U.S. Russian Relations: It Takes Two
President Barack Obama deserves credit for his initial efforts to reverse the deterioration in relations between the United States and Russia. The downward spiral in bilateral ties accelerated by Russia's invasion of Georgia last year has ended for now, but relations are not likely to improve appreciably because of fundamental differences in values, interests, and outlook between the two countries' leaderships. In fact, Russian leaders' actions and rhetoric continue to raise serious doubts about their interest in really resetting relations. The Obama administration, much like the Bush administration before it, is likely to find Moscow the source of endless frustrations and headaches and few solutions. After meeting with President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia in April 2009 in London, Obama went to Moscow in July where he and Medvedev issued a number of joint statements and understandings. The most notable ones were on the transit of U.S. equipment across Russian territory for forces needed in Afghanistan and a framework for an arms control treaty. Obama also sat down with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for the first time, met with leading opposition figures and civil society activists, and delivered a solid speech at the New Economic School. Dismissing the notion that Russia and the United States were destined to be enemies, he demonstrated a desire to develop a new tone in the bilateral dialogue and ‘‘reset'' relations with Russia. At the same time, in his speech and meetings, Obama also indicated that the United States will not abandon certain fundamental positions that have been the source of disagreement with the Russian leadership in the past, such as recognizing no Russian sphere of influence, maintaining an open-door policy for aspiring members of NATO, and prioritizing human rights and democracy.
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