Earlier today, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev met for their first full-fledged summit in Moscow. They announced a strategic arms-control agreement that would cut the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals down to the level 1,500-1,600 warheads apiece, reduce the number of missiles held by each country, and establish verification mechanisms. It feels like the 1970s all over again.
The summit produced a new bureaucratic forum: the Medvedev-Obama Commission, which echoes the Gore-Chernomyrdin forum from the 1990s. However, Obama and Medvedev missed a real opportunity to re-launch the U.S.-Russian relationship, which has been set back by Moscow’s inflexible positions and its litany of demands.
Obama’s visit did not resolve fundamental disagreements over the sovereignty and territorial integrity of post-Soviet countries such as Georgia and Ukraine. Nor did it resolve the two thorniest issues in U.S.-Russian affairs: Iran and missile defense. As I suggested before the summit, Russia has no interest in working with Obama on Iran, and it will not budge on missile defense.
Regardless of what happens on those issues, the Obama administration should promote values we all hold dear: media freedom and the rule of law. In particular, Obama should request that Moscow resolve notorious cases of business discrimination and human-rights violations, such as the incarceration of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the assassination of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
The world would be a better place if the U.S. and Russia were able to cooperate on the key issues currently challenging the international community. So far, however, the Moscow summit has failed to produce major progress.
– Ariel Cohen is senior research fellow in Russian and Eurasian studies and international energy security at the Heritage Foundation’s Davis Institute for International Studies.