The American Interest

Russian Reset in Peril

For all its many faults, the Obama administration has scored one notable success: It has done significantly better than its recent Republican and Democratic predecessors in normalizing relations with Russia.  Washington’s visceral antagonism toward Moscow needed to be replaced by a more pragmatic, mutually beneficial relationship.  The “Reset” has been imperfectly applied, but its conceptual basis is sound.

For almost two decades following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, U.S. policy had three focal points: a steady eastward expansion of NATO, support for the Russophobic political options in the “near abroad” (notably in Ukraine and Georgia), and an oblique yet clear encouragement of centrifugal tendencies within Russia herself, as manifested in the White House’s ambivalent attitude regarding the conflict in Chechnya.  The implicit strategic assumption was clear: Russia’s loss was America’s gain.

In practice, this meant that Moscow was deemed to have no legitimate interests in any neighboring countries, while its domestic policies were subjected to relentless scrutiny.  In the meantime, Washington pretended not to notice Latvian SS veterans parading through the streets of Riga, or Estonia’s blatantly discriminatory treatment of the large Russian minority, while Mikheil Saakashvili was not discouraged from plotting a military attack on South Ossetia using U.S. and...

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