News / USA

Washington-Moscow Ties on Downward Slide

FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama (R) listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin after their bilateral meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico on June 18, 2012, on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama (R) listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin after their bilateral meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico on June 18, 2012, on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
From the first day he entered the White House, President Barack Obama has tried to make better relations with Russia a cornerstone of his foreign policy. That worked for a while, but relations with Moscow have been on a downward spiral lately and sharp disagreements over Syria could make matters even worse.
 
Foreign policy in Obama’s first administration was dominated by what his advisers called the “reset” – a program designed to improve relations between the Washington and Moscow that had reached a low point during the last few years of George W. Bush’s administration.
 
The “reset” did bring some concrete results, however, such as a major strategic arms control treaty. Moscow also allowed U.S. forces to transit through Russia to get in and out of Afghanistan. And Russia even voted along with Washington at the United Nations to impose tougher sanctions on Iran over its suspected nuclear weapons program. In addition, Washington played a key role in getting Russia admitted to the World Trade Organization.
 
But now, according to foreign policy analysts, relations between the two countries are deteriorating – again.
 
Tense times nothing new
 
One of those analysts is Robert Legvold, professor emeritus at Columbia University. He says ups and downs in Washington-Moscow relations are nothing new.
 
“It happened in the Clinton administration after the enlargement of NATO,” Legvold said. “And through the Kosovo war in 1999, things were at a low point at the end of the Clinton administration – we weren’t getting anything done.
 
“We were pretty much where we are now,” Legvold said. “It happened again after the progress in the Bush administration following 9/11, in the years from 2003, the Iraq war to the Georgian war in 2008.”
 
Legvold says the first Obama administration managed to improve Washington-Moscow relations while Dmitry Medvedev was the Russian president.  
 
“Now we are back there and we haven’t figured out a way to move beyond this cycle,” he said.
 
The latest reason for pessimism, the analysts say, is a major disagreement between the United States and Russia over Syria. Washington wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad out of power while Moscow continues to support him both on the international political scene and with continued deliveries of modern weaponry.
 
But Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C., says Russia’s opposition goes beyond the issue of regime change and arms supplies.
 
“There is a secondary issue here, which is what does the day after Assad look like?” Rojansky says. “So let’s say, Assad goes. Let’s say the Alawite regime goes. What then?
 
“They [the Russians] look at Egypt. They look at Libya,” Rojansky continues. “They look at Iraq, Afghanistan – and they don’t see a single case in which they are comfortable that there’s a bulwark against Islamism, weapons trafficking, the endless spread of jihadi terrorists – many of which, I think, they rightly assume, would end up killing Russians, would end up in the North Caucasus, maybe even around the Sochi [2014 Winter Olympic] games.”
 
Putin crackdown also cited
 
Many experts say Russian President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on civil society is also having a negative effect on U.S.-Russian relations. Other areas of disagreement include missile defense and Russia’s granting temporary asylum to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, wanted by the United States on espionage charges.

Relations with Washington chillier since Vladimir Putin replaced Dmitry Medvedev as president.Relations with Washington chillier since Vladimir Putin replaced Dmitry Medvedev as president.
x
Relations with Washington chillier since Vladimir Putin replaced Dmitry Medvedev as president.
Relations with Washington chillier since Vladimir Putin replaced Dmitry Medvedev as president.
Partly as a result of that move, Obama cancelled a one-on-one meeting with Putin in Moscow in advance of the G-20 economic summit in St. Petersburg in early September.
 
Rojansky says Obama’s decision was a mistake.
 
“But to him [President Obama], it makes sense to say look, ‘I am going to the G-20 which is in Russia. I’ll have my handshake with Putin. But why should I go to Moscow and spend half a day with a guy who has not sent any signals that he is willing or interested to make progress on any of the issues that are important to me.’
 
“It makes good sense to Obama, even makes maybe objective political sense,” Rojansky said. “The only context in which it doesn’t make sense is the history of U.S.-Russian relations, where if you close doors and you close channels of communication, especially at the highest levels, you pretty much guarantee failure and ultimately crisis.”
 
Robert Legvold agrees, adding that in times of crisis open doors and good communications are especially important.
 
“The risk is that in this circumstance, when the national leaders are not invested in improving the relationship and building on the relationship, when things come along, were you to have another event that in any way resembled the Russian-Georgian war, presumably an event that would be within the post-Soviet space, it has the risk of very serious deterioration.”

(To see more of Andre de Nesnera's columns, click on the link below)

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs