SHOWDOWN. Relations Between America And Russia Seriously Deteriorated

06 January 2014

By Markaz Kavkaz

The Washington Post reported on the serious deterioration of relations between America and Russia. In the article, "US relations with Russia face critical tests in 2014 as Putin, Obama fail to fulfill expectations", the newspaper in particular writes:

- With mutual trust all but gone, the United States and Russia enter a new year full of challenges that will test whether the world's nuclear giants can salvage their relationship.

The Winter Olympics, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the case of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, turmoil in Ukraine and Syria, and the uncharted consequences of the shale gas boom all threaten to bring new difficulties and irritants.

US officials were interviewed for this article on the condition of anonymity in order to speak frankly about the meager gains of the administration's approach to Russia. They acknowledged the difficulty of the relationship but argued that engaging with Moscow is better than the alternative.

When Obama entered the White House five years ago, relations with Moscow were rockier than at any time since the Soviet collapse.

But although no one knew it at the time, April 8, 2010, was the high point of the reset. Obama and Medvedev had just signed the New START treaty, a pact to cut nuclear arsenals, and it was a significant result of the change in direction. Hopes of more to come were high.

"Win-win," Medvedev called it. That was a phrase the Americans loved to use in describing the objectives of the reset. It's a thoroughly American notion just as the reset was a thoroughly American initiative. The phrase, and the concept it describes, are utterly lacking in Russia's political culture.

But the man who counted was Putin, at the time Russia's prime minister and Putin exemplifies the your-win-is-my-loss tradition of Russian, and Soviet, diplomacy.

But Putin, now in his third term, has introduced an ideological element into the relationship for the first time since the Soviet era. Russia is taking a sharply nationalistic turn and is claiming for itself a unique set of homegrown values.

The reset got off to a good start. Less than three months after his inauguration, Obama met Medvedev in London and they agreed on an agenda focused on nuclear arms reductions, nonproliferation and other security questions.

Before two years had passed, virtually all of those items had been addressed to the satisfaction of both sides. In the specifics, the reset succeeded in exactly what it had promised.

Trouble began with the Arab Spring. Putin was shocked at what he saw as a US betrayal of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Then came Libya. The protracted NATO bombing campaign began and the Russians objected that they had been deceived about the West's intentions.

Within the Pentagon, some officials warned that Russia would be highly unlikely to allow a similar resolution to get through the United Nations again and events in Syria proved that to be the case.

Putin's announcement, as the Libya campaign was still unfolding, that he intended to return to the presidency caught the White House flat-footed. Obama, disdainful of Putin, hadn't even met with him since July 2009. That, said Collins, wasn't very smart.

Deterioration of Relations between Moscow and Washington after the parliamentary elections in 2011 in Russia showed growth of anti-American rhetoric, the ban of USAID activity in Russia, Magnitsky Act in US and a law banning adoptions of Russian children by Americans.

The United States and Russia, in any case, are heading in separate directions or wish they could. The coming year brings a slew of challenges that will force the two nations to engage, even if at arm's length and with a palpable lack of enthusiasm, writes the newspaper.



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