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Putinís Anti-U.S. Measures More Spiteful than Strategic

Author: Charles A. Kupchan, Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow
August 19, 2013
Global Times

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Relations between Russia and the US were on a roller coaster ride recently.

On August 7, the White House cancelled the planned September summit between President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin, citing Russia's decision to grant asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden and the "lack of progress" on missile defense and a range of other issues.

Two days later, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hosted their Russian counterparts in Washington, smoothing over relations between Washington and Moscow and vowing to deepen ties between the US and Russian militaries.

Despite the mixed messages, it was a decidedly bad week for US-Russian relations. The "reset" with Russia that Obama successfully pursued during his first term is now on ice.

With the White House and the Kremlin now openly estranged, cooperation on Syria, Iran, arms control, and other pressing matters will be harder to come by.

To be sure, officials in Washington and Moscow have built up durable networks of communication at the working level, and the two countries have compatible interests on many fronts, insuring against a return to the entrenched hostility of the past. But the prospects for a lasting rapprochement between the former Cold War adversaries have nonetheless been dealt a serious setback.

Obama was right to cancel his summit with Putin. Indeed, the White House has shown impressive patience with a Kremlin that has grown increasingly confrontational of late.

Since returning to the Russian presidency, Putin has been on a collision course with Obama, taking issues with Washington on one front after the other. Asylum for Snowden was the last straw, giving the White House good reason to express its exasperation and to view the scheduled summit as an exercise in futility.

What is most troubling about Putin's combative behavior is that it seems to have become purely obstructionist and gratuitous.

If his persistent readiness to take on Washington was in the pursuit of clear Russian interests, it would be easier to justify. But at least for now, picking fights with Washington seems to have become an end in itself.

It used to be that Moscow's protestations toward the US were not without reason.

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