Will Putin Victory Affect US-Russia Relations?

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Feb. 27, 2012.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Feb. 27, 2012.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is expected to win the upcoming presidential elections.  We examine whether his return to the presidency will affect U.S.-Russia relations.

President Barack Obama has made better relations with Russia a cornerstone of his foreign policy . The so-called “reset” in relations with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev brought about a major arms-control agreement and increased cooperation on such issues as Afghanistan, Iran and Libya.

Analysts say there is currently a chill in relations between Washington and Moscow, due to Russia joining China in vetoing a U.N. resolution calling for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step aside.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote “a travesty.”

Russians go to the polls Sunday to elect a new president.  Current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is expected to win.  He is no stranger to the post, having been president from 2000 to 2008.

The presidential elections follow allegations of widespread fraud during December elections for parliament - the Duma.  Those charges sparked huge demonstrations in major Russian cities and have evolved into a direct challenge to Mr. Putin’s authority.

Georgetown University Russia expert Angela Stent says Vladimir Putin is employing a familiar tool during his campaign.

“He has really resorted to a tactic that, of course, has been used since he became president in 2000 - and that is to invoke the United States [as the] enemy, to blame the United States for a lot of Russian problems," said Stent. "And as you saw, in the Duma elections, he then blamed Hillary Clinton, Secretary Clinton for supporting the opposition and for trying to undermine Russian stability.”

Russia expert Robert Legvold cites another example.

“When the new [U.S.] ambassador, Michael McFaul, hosted opposition figures, even though it was a quiet meeting, the authorities knew about it, had camera people there to film it," said Legvold. "And then that led the media, certainly at Putin’s behest, or media knowing what Putin would want, to sharply attack McFaul for doing this kind of thing, interfering and then accusing the opposition party of, through that channel, receiving funding from the United States.”

U.S. government officials have denied those allegations.

Given this anti-American rhetoric, questions are being raised as to what impact a Putin presidency will have on U.S.-Russia relations.

Russia expert Sergei Glebov, of Smith College in Massachusetts, says Mr. Putin has a history of inflammatory, anti-American rhetoric.

“In many cases, this was probably rhetoric designed for domestic consumption, more than international politics," said Glebov. "But in any case, Putin appears as a politician who, at least in part, is driven by the desire to limit the power and the influence of the United States and appears as the obstacle on the path of American imaginary or real expansion, influence and power.”

Glebov believes, despite Putin’s views, relations between Washington and Moscow will not get worse.

Robert Legvold expects continuity in U.S.-Russia relations.

“It is not to say that Putin does not have a grimmer view, a more suspicious view of the U.S. then Medvedev did," he said. "But on most of the key issues - cooperation on Afghanistan, whatever kind of arms control we did or did not achieve with [the] New START [treaty], whatever progress we may or may not achieve on missile defense - I do not think that Putin is out of step with Medvedev.”

Analysts believe one thing is for sure: the U.S.-Russia relationship has grown over the years to such an extent that they say a return to the tension-filled Cold War days is virtually impossible.

Vladimir Putin's Public Image:


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Comment Sorting
by: Mikhail Zubkov
March 24, 2012 10:19 AM
Vincent, do you know that more than 1/3 of the USA electorate has no right to vote because of your voter registration rules, but more than 2 mln. have the registrations and do vote in two or even more states - and often are payed for their votes? Consult your elections experts, please, it's their judgment.

March 06, 2012 8:28 AM
Putin is obviously a good person. Why isn’t he doing anything to change the situation in Russia? Impunity, corruption are the consequences of his domestic policy of drift. He does nothing and sees what happens. He lets out undercover agents at gambling machines when heroin flows like water and traffic police is corrupted th and th. Maybe, he is spending all his energy for the ambitious foreign policy? Tidy home, national economy, that’s what made great powers, not the ridiculous presence in G8

by: michael
March 05, 2012 4:21 AM
There seems to be a current of justice in these remarks about other nations in that he seems to strongly believe in fair and independent exchange for each faction with whatever problem is being dealt with

by: Igor
March 04, 2012 6:29 PM
I am not sure how much all of you know about Putin. But to me Putin is a kind of person who has the capability of turning chaostic Russia into a democratic, orderly Russia. Let's see what he has done to Russia after the breaking of Soviet Union.

by: NVOd
March 04, 2012 3:10 PM
The fraudulent sham election will more so effect Israel as the Gog of Magog (more than likely Putin) will attack Israel 1/2 way through the tribulation. The king of the North will come against Israel as a cloud that covers the land. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem=Psalm 122.6

by: Jonathan Huang
March 03, 2012 8:32 PM
@Vincent, I doubt your vote can change anything in US, because all candidates are puppets and service only 1%. 99% just vote for the game called democracy, and surprisingly, you still feel good about that. Are you ignorant?

by: Sasha
March 01, 2012 9:24 PM
The Russian friends I have that were at the protest said no mention of Putin was ever made. They were protesting the current President for lack of action not Putin. He is against all the wars in the Middle East like many Americans here and the corrupt American government and media here. Putin is popular with Russians for a good reason.

by: Gennady
March 01, 2012 2:50 PM
The doubt expressed in the article looks rhetoric. Certainly the relations won’t be affected. The Russians never had any serious conflict with the USA and admire your great country. We are doomed to cooperation. Putin resided in anti-American rhetoric as long as he felt a threat to his Putin 3.0 ambition. In XXI century Russia isn’t that advanced & powerful to ignore & disrespect the USA in rough seas of the world politics under any president.

by: Vincent
March 01, 2012 10:54 AM
Putin is simply an ego maniac cast in the mode of former Russian rulers who doles out the rubles to the people that support his dictatorship, Russia will never know real freedom of choice till the people wisen up, I thank god we have the right to vote out our bums here in the US.

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