American and Russian leaders cannot agree on much these days. At the same time, pressing problems like Syria’s civil war, Iran’s nuclear program and post-withdrawal Afghanistan demand U.S.-Russia cooperation. But both President Vladimir Putin’s liberal critics in the West as well as those who argue for a pragmatic “reset” in U.S.-Russia relations are ignoring a much more complicated struggle within Russia itself that bears directly on the fate of the reset.

Russia’s Domestic Politics, Not Geopolitics, Driving Tensions With U.S.

By , , Briefing

American and Russian leaders cannot agree on much these days. Yet pressing problems such as Syria’s civil war, Iran’s nuclear program and post-withdrawal Afghanistan demand U.S.-Russia cooperation.

Liberals in both countries attribute the relationship’s difficulties to the erosion of democracy in Russia, their logic being that a convergence on basic political values would enable greater cooperation. Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama’s “reset” policy toward Moscow proceeds from a different premise, namely that America and Russia can find areas for cooperation despite disagreements on democracy and human rights because, on some issues, self-interest unites them. Thus the reset involves better communication, constructive high-level meetings and a change in tone -- in short, the standard diplomatic fixes. ...

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