The U.S. has been working behind the scenes for months to forge a new working relationship with Russia, even enlisting Henry Kissinger.
December 31, 2014
President Barack Obama's administration has been working behind the scenes for months to forge a new working relationship with Russia, despite the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown little interest in repairing relations with Washington or halting his aggression in neighboring Ukraine.
This month, Obama's National Security Council finished an extensive and comprehensive review of U.S policy toward Russia that included dozens of meetings and input from the State Department, Defense Department and several other agencies, according to three senior administration officials. At the end of the sometimes-contentious process, Obama made a decision to continue to look for ways to work with Russia on a host of bilateral and international issues while also offering Putin a way out of the stalemate over the crisis in Ukraine.
Kerry has been the point man on dealing with Russia because his close relationship with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov represents the last remaining functional diplomatic channel between Washington and Moscow. They meet often, often without any staff members present, and talk on the phone regularly. Obama and Putin, on the other hand, are known to have an intense dislike for each other and very rarely speak.
The administration’s cautious engagement with Moscow is logical: Why not seek a balance in a complicated and important bilateral relationship? But by choosing a middle ground between conciliation and confrontation -- not being generous enough to entice Russia's cooperation yet not being tough enough to stop Putin’s aggression in Eastern Europe -- Obama’s policy risks failing on both fronts.