At this week's G-20 summit in London, President Obama met with
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for the first time. The two men
share the burden of improving much-frayed relations between their
They agreed to launch negotiations for a Strategic Arms Reduction
Treaty (START) and reexamine Russia's accession to the World Trade
Organization. The two countries will explore cooperation on
Afghanistan and Iran, but agreed to disagree on ballistic missile
defense. And Mr. Obama announced he will visit Russia in July. All
Many Europeans, especially the Germans, are swooning over Obama-
Medvedev pictures that marked the event. The notion of pushing the
"reset" button to begin a new era of harmonious relations between
the two states is particularly lauded. To many, though, it's deja
In the 1970s, strategic arms talks between Leonid Brezhnev's
Soviet Union and a US reeling from the debacle in Vietnam were a
part of the era of detente and "peaceful coexistence." It ended
ingloriously, when Soviet tanks rolled into Afghanistan in 1979. And
all of Jimmy Carter's pining for peace or shuttle diplomacy couldn't
put the broken dream back together again.
Thirty years later, the Nixon Center and the Belfer Center of
Harvard University issued a report that tried to set an upbeat tone
for US-Russia rapprochement. This may have been guided by the
authors' formative experiences of another era. It's important to
remember that this is not your father's Russia - neither the
geriatric Brezhnev regime of the 1970s, nor the USSR in terminal
decline under Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s.
Today's Russian leadership is younger and tougher. It is
increasingly anti-American, and continues to aggressively challenge
its neighbors' sovereignty. It questions former vassals' sovereignty
by opposing ballistic missile defense in Poland and the Czech
Republic, or preventing Georgia and Ukraine from joining NATO.
Moscow also wants to neuter or dismantle the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO) and the post-Bretton Woods economic system.
Moscow's calls for a new pan-European security architecture
should give Obama pause. The concept would abolish NATO and weaken
the human rights jurisdiction of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Moscow proposes national armed forces
to be deployed on a "common perimeter" and a "demilitarized zone"
inside the perimeter. The scheme is a transparent effort to restrain
Beyond Europe, Russia's rulers are obsessed with "multipolarity."
They appear to want a world order in which Russia, China, Iran,
Syria, and Venezuela form a counter-weight to the United States.
This is a broad global agenda at odds with vital US interests.
Washington and NATO's desire to cooperate with Moscow is
understandable in view of the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan and
Iran's missile and nuclear programs. After the "Yankee Go Home"
announcement by Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev, Moscow offered
the US use of its cargo planes and air space to resupply
Afghanistan. It was Tony Soprano geopolitics: "Use my dumps and my
trucks - otherwise you can't do business in my neighborhood."
The Kremlin continues to call - as it has since the St.
Petersburg Economic Summit in 2007 - for revising the global
economic system. In the lead-up to the G-20, it proposed creating a
supranational reserve currency to replace the dollar as the global
While the two leaders have their hands full with economic and
security matters, rule of law should hold a prominent place on the
agenda for their next meeting. …