What Obama Should Do About Russia

Washington DC think tank Heritage Foundation has released a new report today containing “realistic policy proposals” for the administration of Barack Obama to address relations with Russia and strategy in Eurasia.  The report is edited by Ariel Cohen, and features chapters contributed by authors such as Janusz Bugajski, Svante Cornell, Stephen Blank, and Marshall Goldman.  Recommended reading – I hope to post some of my own comments this weekend.  Below is the conclusion from the executive summary:

The Obama Administration is trying to push the “reset” button on U.S. relations with Moscow. Yet in foreign affairs, haste is the enemy of wisdom.

According to The New York Times, in February 2009, President Obama sent a secret, hand-delivered letter to President Dmitry Medvedev. The letter reportedly suggested that, if Russia cooperated with the United States in pre­venting Iran from developing long-range nuclear-missile capabilities, the need for a new missile defense system in Europe would be eliminated–a quid pro quo that President Obama has denied. The letter proposed a “united front” to achieve this goal.[2]

Respondingto the letter, Medvedev appeared to reject the offer and stated thatthe Kremlin was “working very closely with our U.S. colleagues on theissue of Iran’s nuclear program,” but not in the context of the newmissile defense system in Europe. He stated that “no one links theseissues to any exchange, especially on the Iran issue.” Nevertheless,Medvedev welcomed the overture as a positive signal from the ObamaAdministration.[3] So far, Moscow is refusing to play ball–or is at least taking a hardball approach to negotiations.

Asthis report illustrates, Russia poses multiple challenges to the U.S.The Kremlin is calling for a new European security architecture and forreplacing the post-Bretton Woods economic architecture. It rejects thedominant role of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund andis calling for their replacement by regional institutions. It is alsoseeking to use energy, weapons sales, and investment opportunities inthe Russian market as tools to drive wedges between European capitalsand between Europe and the United States.

Russian PresidentMedvedev put this practice into stark relief when, the day after theU.S. presidential elections, he directly challenged President-electObama by threatening to deploy nuclear-capable missiles on the borderof a prominent NATO ally. Such threats underscore the importance ofdesigning a comprehensive U.S. foreign policy toward Russia.

The purpose of this project is to offer perspectives on the current challenges and to inform that policymak­ing process.