Enjoying ad-free content?
Since July 1, 2024, we have disabled all ads to improve your reading experience.
This commitment costs us $10,000 a month. Your support can help us fill the gap.
Support us
Our journalism is banned in Russia. We need your help to keep providing you with the truth.

Putin and Obama Will Be Friends — for Now

Despite a seemingly lethal overdose of anti-American vitriol during Vladimir Putin's presidential campaign, the stage is being set for a short-term improvement in U.S.-Russia relations. The Kremlin and Barack Obama's White House are anxious to get down to business as usual and have tacitly agreed to ignore the rhetorical excesses of presidential politics.

The upside for Obama of having to deal with Putin in the Kremlin is that Putin can afford to act more boldly than outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev. This will come in handy in May when Putin and Obama discuss missile defense at Camp David.

The contours of the deal are in place. Putin may accept Obama's written statement that U.S. missile defense in Europe will not target Russia's strategic nukes, accompanied by U.S. assurances that the velocity of U.S. interceptors will not allow for a boost-phase intercept of Russian missiles. Obama may embrace Putin's new proposals for data sharing and joint threat assessment, which build on Putin's 2007 offer to then-President George W. Bush at Kennebunkport.

On Syria, the risk of United States and Russia sliding toward a war by proxy is gone. Washington has concluded that an armed intervention is untenable because President Bashar Assad's regime retains a significant war-fighting capability. Moscow is relieved that the United Nations Security Council will not vote again to sanction regime change in a sovereign country. UN mediation efforts in Syria look promising.

Obama has opened the door for U.S. military action to take out the Iranian nuclear program. Ironically, this could allow closer U.S.-Russia cooperation on Iran, pushing Moscow to seize the opportunity to enhance its standing as a peacemaker of last resort. But if Obama is maneuvered into war with Iran, Putin would not mind seeing the United States bogged down in another conflict, leaving it with less appetite for mischief in countries neighboring Russia.

On the democracy front, the Kremlin is glad to discover that Ambassador Michael McFaul's mission in Moscow may not be to stage an Orange Revolution but to discredit Putin's opponents by tightening the U.S. Embassy's embrace of them.

In the short term, Putin and Obama could make for good bedfellows. But in the long term, the relationship lacks a common strategic purpose, making it perilously unstable.

Vladimir Frolov is president of LEFF Group, a government-relations and PR company.

The views expressed in opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the position of The Moscow Times.

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more