[Культура] Robert Legvold, Marshall D. Shulman Professor, Department of Political Science, Columbia University
After nearly a decade’s deterioration, U.S.-Russian relations stand at the edge of a major turnaround. But at this point the prospect is only potential, not yet real, and decidedly fragile. For this reason how the July 6-8 presidential summit turns out will be of utmost importance. Given the ambitious agenda Presidents Medvedev and Obama agreed upon during the London G-20 meeting in April, the progress the two leaders can (or, alternatively, fail to) report in Moscow week after next will heavily, perhaps fatefully shape the outcome over the remaining three years of their presidential terms.
President Obama has set very ambitious goals for U.S. policy toward Russia—far more ambitious than many in Russia and, for that matter, in the United States as well appreciate. He is deeply invested in the relationship, spends a good deal of time thinking about it, and has assigned it a priority exceeded only by the urgent challenges posed by Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. He is surrounded by a team of policy advisors, who believe as he does that Russia matters to U.S. foreign policy—indeed, as William Burns, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs has said, no country matters more across a broader range of issues; that more unites the two countries than divides them; and that the two countries can and should be able to forge a cooperative approach to everything from nuclear arms control and nuclear non-proliferation to climate change, from energy security to mitigating regional conflicts.
But time is not on his side. It is not, as many of his well-wishers in Europe and North America fear, that if he has little to show for his effort to re-engage Russia coming out the summit, the opposition in the United States will be able to claim his policy has failed. Rather, given the scale of the problems that he faces at home and abroad, the president will himself inevitably divert his attention from Russia to other areas where he hopes to make more progress. Hence, how fully Russian leaders and policymakers grasp the opportunity that lies before them has a significance that extends much beyond the coming summit.
Russian hopes for better U.S.-Russian relations are not questioned by most on the U.S. side, including key members of the policymaking community. But a sense exists that too many on the Russian side fail to see the importance of this moment and the need to move quickly to make the most of it. Russian counterparts, both in government and the expert community, are viewed as too skeptical about the prospects for real change, too fearful their expectations will again be disappointed, and too convinced the United States must make most of the concessions permitting real progress on the issues that divide the two countries. Thus, when American experts soon meet with their Russian counterparts, the task is not only to explore where, at some basic level, the two countries’ interests overlap and diverge and how the relationship might be recast to maximize cooperation. They must also help put the crucial event about to occur—Medvedev and Obama’s first full-scale summit--in proper perspective.