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No Avoiding Criticism of Obama’s Approach to Russia

Not a big surprise, but Paul Saunders from The Nixon Center has a new article published in The National Interest which argues that President Barack Obama is unlikely to escape criticism for his reset policy with Russia – so he should have accepted the invitation to attend the Victory Day parade.  There is some irony in this advice, in that Saunders’s piece is a criticism itself…  But there have been many articles published in this same conservative magazine by this same NGO arguing for precisely these policies (remember this one?).

The only conceivable costs to the president of a high-profile role in Moscow could have come in American domestic politics, where he would likely have been criticized from some for “cozying up” to Russia. And the administration has already appeared very sensitive to charges of being “soft” on Moscow, as was clear in its handling of missile-defense plans in Europe.

Yet what the president and his administration do not seem to realize is that he will face that criticism anyway. In fact, criticism for cooperating with Moscow cannot be avoided but only overcome by demonstrating results that justify the effort. Thus, ironically, giving up the enormous opportunity that Victory Day offered thus makes attacks on the “reset” more rather than less likely to succeed by sacrificing an important chance to symbolically shore up the relationship in a way that everyone in Russia would see and understand.