The Realist Prism: For Russia, Obama’s Reset Not Such a Sweet Deal

The Realist Prism: For Russia, Obama’s Reset Not Such a Sweet Deal

It is an article of faith among American conservatives that Russian President Vladimir Putin is rooting for U.S. President Barack Obama to win the U.S. presidential election next month, and that if Republican nominee Mitt Romney were to take up residence in the White House in January 2013, it would be a major setback for the Kremlin. This is based, in part, on the assessment that Obama has been too willing to compromise with Moscow, but it also fits into a larger narrative of “weakness” supposedly displayed by the current administration, beginning with the whole notion that U.S.-Russia relations could be reset.

In reality, the view from Moscow is that Obama and his team have zealously defended and advanced U.S. interests, and in many cases have “gotten the better” of Russia in the bargain:

- The main centerpiece of improved bilateral relations, the Northern Distribution Network, was created, not as a giveaway program to direct business to Russian transport firms, but rather as a strategic necessity to bring vital supplies to sustain the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan.
- The U.S. got Russia to support stronger sanctions against Iran that, even now, are exacting a heavy economic price on Tehran, and which came at the cost for Moscow of losing valuable weapons contracts for a Russian defense industry that needs every bit of business it can find.
- The New START treaty clears the way for a modernization of the U.S. strategic arsenal, while Russia’s nuclear deterrent continues to erode from a combination of aging warheads and continued technical failures crippling the next generation of Russian delivery systems.
- Obama, it is true, abandoned the George W. Bush administration’s plan to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, but the Obama administration has replaced it with a no less troubling sea-based system relying on Aegis-equipped cruisers that can be deployed anywhere along the Russian periphery.
- The U.S. pushed through a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing military action in Libya with Russia’s tacit approval, and though Russian is now blocking passage of more forceful resolutions addressing the Syrian civil war, many in Moscow feel that the current Russian position actually plays right into the Obama administration’s hands -- that the Obama team is using Russia’s obstructionism as an excuse for its own unwillingness to become involved, while letting Moscow take the blame.

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