I was just reading Mikhail Gorbachev’s latest op/ed in the New York Times, and I was struck by how he focuses on the mere fact that just wanting relations to improve is still a problem. Gorbachev praised Barack Obama’s keynote speech, in that it “showed an ability to listen and sought to persuade his listeners that our two nations have shared interests and compatible values.” That’s great, but it is pretty hard to persuade the Russian public that there are mutual interests when the speech isn’t even broadcasted on any of the main channels, and the media coverage fo the visit so tightly managed. Nevertheless, it is good to see that Gorbachev recognizes that we first have to make a case of the simple political will, before we can argue about who should do what.
So now comes the hard part: consolidating the new atmosphere by following up in all areas of mutual relations. Success must be the work of both sides. It is encouraging that the two presidents will head a joint commission to guide and oversee this work.
The new course in U.S.-Russian relations will meet with resistance from various quarters. There is also the danger that the new relationship could be mired in inertia and routine.
The two presidents must exercise political will to preventnegotiations on important issues from degenerating into an endlesstug-of-war.
The results that could be achieved if they truly invest in a new relationship are well worth the effort.
In a world where daunting unpredictable risks are mounting on adaily basis, Russia with its natural and intellectual resources andAmerica with its power and influence must cooperate. The benefits willaccrue to them and to the rest of the world as well.