Global Insights: Assessing the U.S.-Russia Reset

Global Insights: Assessing the U.S.-Russia Reset

The first official visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Washington last week offers a convenient opportunity to assess the current Russian-U.S. relationship. Since assuming office, one of the priorities of U.S. President Barack Obama and his foreign policy team has been to improve ties with Russia and other foreign governments that had become alienated from the United States. Relations between Washington and Moscow became especially strained in 2007 and 2008 following the acute confrontations that arose over the planned U.S. missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia's August 2008 War with Georgia, and other issues.

Despite the administration's engagement efforts, Iran, North Korea, and other governments continue to remain hostile toward the United States. In contrast, although areas of bilateral tension persist and could worsen over time, relations between Russia and the United States have improved in important respects, a development that has benefited both countries.

The clearest improvement has been one of tone. Russian officials and media outlets no longer issue daily denunciations of the United States and its policies. Although critical comments persist, these have become more restrained and nuanced. Medvedev and Obama seem to get along well personally, while Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who many Americans blame for the downturn in bilateral ties, has wisely chosen to keep a low-profile on Russian-American relations. The less-confrontational public discourse has contributed to what opinion polls show to be a marked upturn in Russian attitudes toward the U.S. government and its policies.

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