Before and after Obama’s second inauguration, a slew of articles in both Russia and the United States explored the outlook for U.S.-Russian relations in the next four years. Although these articles touched on many topics, a few are particularly relevant to providing an understanding of the character of bilateral relations. Embedded in them are a few myths and plenty of wishful thinking about prospects for improvements in the U.S.-Russian relationship.
I shall begin with what I consider the most interesting viewpoint professed for many years by one of the best experts on Russian relations, Tom Graham. Back in December, he and Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, published an article in The International Herald-Tribune exploring the multiple problems bedeviling the U.S.-Russian relationship, such as the U.S. Congress’s Magnitsky Act, the Russian decision to cease cooperation on the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, and the Russian ban on adoptions by American citizens. The authors argued that these problems stemmed from a lack of strategic dialogue and the two countries’ inadequate understanding of each other’s strategic interests. Placing such problems in a strategic context would improve Russian-American relations, they argued, citing as areas for potential strategic dialogue such strategic topics as China, cooperation on Arctic development and the fight against Islamist terrorism.