Four years after President Obama promised to “reset” relations with Russia , he finds himself coping with a newly reelected President Putin who’s seen domestic opposition melt away and shown little interest in international cooperation. Recently, every time the U.S. tries to rally the global community to try to confront deteriorating situations, it’s been Moscow that stands in the way.
Putin’s government has repeatedly threatened to block additional U.N. sanctions against Tehran and warned the U.S. against imposing its own Iran sanctions, lest they hurt U.S.-Russian ties. Armed with veto power in the U.N. Security Council, Putin has also managed to prevent any meaningful international pressure against Syria’s Bashir Al-Assad, despite the civil war that has seen at least 60,000 killed—most at the hands of Assad’s own troops.
The year ended with a diplomatic tit-for-tat that seemed to unravel relations ever further.
In early December, the U.S. passed a law punishing Russians accused of human rights violations. Three weeks later, Moscow stunned the U.S. by banning the adoption of Russian children by American couples.
Looking ahead to his second term, President Obama’s challenge in dealing with Russia will be to focus on areas of common interest in an effort to obtain Putin’s cooperation, or at least his promise of neutrality, in areas of disagreement. If he can’t get that, we may look back four years from now and focus on this one badly frayed relationship as one of the determining factors in how President Obama’s second term foreign policy played out.