Russian-American Obstacles Overshadow Obama-Medvedev Meeting

The United States and Russia can’t build a sustainable relationship without addressing core problems.

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Russians are proud of their country and determined that it should have a role in great decisions and in shaping the institutions it joins. This means that for Russia truly to join the West and its institutions, Moscow would demand a voice in defining what the West is and what it does. This idea is deeply troubling to many in America and Europe, who are alarmed by Russia's undemocratic politics and do not yet trust its foreign policy aims.

The United States and Russia will not be able to build a close and sustainable relationship without addressing this core problem. Absent visible progress, Washington and Moscow are likely before too long to rediscover their long-standing mutual grievances and frustrations—with dire consequences for the Obama administration's reset policy.

It was never realistic to expect that Russia's "integration"—a goal of two decades of Western policy—would be a one-way street. Russia is just too big. Yet neither should Americans and Europeans be prepared to see a two-way street that accepts corrupt Russian business practices or ties NATO in knots.

The United States and Russia may eventually overcome the enormous challenges in their relationship, and would both benefit from doing so, but that day remains distant. Until then, trying to "reset" our relationship makes sense—but only with open eyes.

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