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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid