Dec. 18, 2012
Though the country is focused on partisan gridlock over the fiscal cliff, bipartisanship still exists in Washington. President Obama has signed into law the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal Act of 2012, a bill that demonstrates that the national interest is served when members of both parties work together. With this measure – which promotes freer trade with Russia while holding accountable Russian officials that violate human rights – both parties have found common ground on the need to encourage a strong, vibrant, and more open Russia.
Relations with Russia remain central to U.S. strategic interests. Moscow plays a pivotal role – positively and negatively – in our policy toward Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, China, terrorism, energy security and other pressing national security issues. Indeed, as demonstrated by its continued support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Russia not only retains the ability to frustrate U.S. objectives abroad, but has few qualms about doing so. Improved bilateral ties could help advanced U.S. interests, but have proven elusive.
Russia’s intransigence abroad has been matched by increasingly authoritarian tendencies at home. During recent elections, which returned Vladimir Putin to the presidency, millions of Russians demanded a freer political process. The government’s reaction was to blame the United States for any protests and initiate a widespread crackdown against independent media, opposition groups and non-governmental organizations, expelling the U.S. Agency for International Development and jailing irreverent punk rockers.
Policymakers have thus been faced with a recurrent dilemma: whether to ignore Russia’s treatment of its own citizens and focus on building better ties with the government; or to promote freedom and human rights and risk alienating Russia’s rulers. Russia’s recent accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) has provided an opportunity to pursue both America’s values and interests – as recommended by our Bipartisan Policy Center task force on Russia – while creating more jobs at home.
Read the full op-ed here
Foreign Policy Project, Russia Initiative