The clock is ticking down to the much awaited first visit of President Barack Obama to Moscow on July 6-8, and the once high expectations of “reset diplomacy” are undergoing a sharp re-negotiation among the policy circles of Washington think tanks. Will this be a breakthrough in relations, and the landing of a new strategic arms agreement? Or just the exchange of symbolic political credits, allowing each leader to walk away with at least the perceptions they were hoping to achieve?
While there has always been rather sharp division between two different camps on Russia policy inside the beltway, this battle of rhetoric has particularly heated up in recent weeks. First we had an op/ed from Andrei Piontkovsky, alleging that several leading minds on Russia in the United States were motivated by their personal financial connection to the Kremlin. Then there was the dramatic rallying call against the realist mindset published in the Washington Post from Lev Gudkov, Igor Klyamkin, Georgy Satarov and Lilia Shevtsova. Not more than 24 hours after the publication of the Washington Post piece, an answer from the other side came from Anatol Lieven, published in The National Interest, entitled “Russia’s Limousine Liberals,” which specifically attacked several of the aforementioned authors.
My editor caught up with Piontkovsky in Washington for an interview shortly after this publication to get a reaction on video. The sound quality has so far not come out as we had hoped, but stay tuned for at least some excerpts or at least a partial transcript.
I can’t tell you how any of this will turn out, or who, if anyone, will feel vindicated in their views with the results of the July meetings, but I do imagine that this disaggregation of DC policy community on Russia appears set to deepen before we see convergence.