Posts Tagged ‘state of play’

August 2013

It’s Time to Call Out Russia

State of Play

President Obama decided to cancel a one-on-one meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin next month.He canceled for a host of reasons, not the least of which is Russia’s decision to grant Edward Snowden asylum. Nevertheless, there is a rising chorus of foreign policy realists in Washington who are alarmed by the decision. They’re wrong — Russia has taken a turn for the worse, and it’s time for the President to issue more gestures of contempt.

When Barack Obama came into office in 2009, American relations with Russia were at a low point. George W. Bush began his first term saying he saw into Putin’s soul, but ended his second with a bitter disagreement over Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia after Georgian troops killed Russian soldiers in South Ossetia. The “reset” policy, which Obama hoped would restore or, at the very least, de-escalate tensions, has not worked out as well as its authors hoped (though it is often unfairly maligned — relations with Russia are still not as bad as they were at the end of 2008).

Even so, Obama and President Medvedev seemed to have a polite, if not warm rapport at first. But when Putin came back into the presidency in May of 2012, that began to change.

Actually, the change happened earlier, in December of 2011. That was when Putin’s party, United Russia, lost its supermajority in Russia’s parliament. The protests that resulted sparked an outpouring of state violence against otherwise peaceful marchers, all for the crime of opposing a return of Putin to lead Russia.

In the U.S., the crackdown led to an odd congruence of commentary: Both human rights groups and conservatives condemned Russia in equally strong terms (culminating in Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney calling Russia “our biggest geopolitical foe” in March of 2012).

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