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Let’s Talk Carrots and Sticks

Jeffrey Mankoff of the Council on Foreign Relations has published an op/ed in the Boston Globe outlining how the United States can take advantage of the transition to Dmitri Medvedev to improve relations with Moscow – an argument that I expect to see echoed among many different influential sources, leading to an eventual upcoming change in Russia policy. Mankoff lists some of the available carrots: “Washington can send a signal that it is open to renewing the relationship by abandoning the outdated Jackson-Vanik Amendment, adopted in 1974 to pressure Moscow into allowing Soviet Jews to leave for Israel. It can announce that it is willing to open negotiations about its placement of missile interceptor stations in Poland and the Czech Republic. It can signal its long-term commitment to preserving the existing arms control regime, which includes extending the START-I agreement and negotiating new rounds of verifiable mutual reductions. Each of these developments would be desirable in any case; announcing them now would allow the United States to signal its interest in improved relations while putting the ball in Moscow’s court.” I largely agree with much of what Mankoff argues, however while it is important that Russia feels respected and treated normally without prejudice, the burden for improving relations cannot solely lie on the shoulders of Washington. Let’s not start the Medvedev era with yet another Russia-as-victim narrative. A discussion of some of the “sticks” must accompany all the talk of these carrots.