The Realist Prism: Resetting the U.S.-Russia Reset

The Realist Prism: Resetting the U.S.-Russia Reset

After a period of healthier ties following the much-heralded reset, U.S.-Russia relations appear to be deteriorating. Whether it was the war of words between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin last December over the flaws in the Russian Duma elections, or the harsh language used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice after Russia vetoed a draft Security Council resolution last week calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, the optimism engendered by the Obama administration's reset with Russia has dissipated.

Nor does the immediate future bode well for "resetting the reset." Putin is expected to reclaim the Russian presidency after next month’s election, and he has not forgotten or forgiven the Obama team's public relations effort back in 2009 to categorize President Dmitry Medvedev as the wave of the future and America's preferred interlocutor. At the same time, Putin and members of his immediate circle, who consistently expressed concerns about the "reset," feel that their doubts have been justified. In their narrative, Russia made many compromises to American preferences over the past few years, including relegating concerns about missile defense to a nonbinding preamble in the New START agreement; agreeing to much stronger sanctions on Iran and suspending a lucrative contract to provide Tehran with an advanced air defense system; and acquiescing to the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a no-fly zone for Libya. But these produced no real quid pro quos for Russian interests. Given the skepticism with which Putin is viewed in the U.S., not only by President Barack Obama but also by all the Republican challengers, there is little chance that, after March, there will be particularly warm and strong personal relations between the U.S. and Russian presidents.

But does this mean that the U.S.-Russia relationship is doomed to fall back to a more confrontational posture, as occurred in 2007 and 2008, when analysts were warning of a "new Cold War"? That depends on several factors.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.