Relations with Russia remain central to U.S. strategic interests. Russia 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. The improvement in bilateral ties in recent years is welcome but, in and of itself, has not fundamentally changed the structure of the relationship or sufficiently advanced U.S. interests. Indeed, Russian leaders recently continued their habit of manipulating elections to hold onto power and blaming America for any internal dissent.
With Vladimir Putin expected to return to the presidency in March 2012 and the possibility of his continuing dominance of Russian politics to 2018 or beyond despite his party’s electoral rebuke in December and growing political opposition, U.S.-Russia relations could only become more challenging in the years ahead despite the mutual benefits that could come from deeper collaboration. Cooperation could also be slowed in the near-term during the U.S. presidential election in 2012. The goal of U.S. policy towards Russia should be to find ways that our two nations can work together as closely as possible on common objectives, while also working to resolve the issues that divide us. Our purpose is to advance U.S. economic and security interests, and to promote our values – in the case of Russia, these go hand-in-hand.