MOSCOW - Barack Obama’s re-election has allowed many people in Moscow to sigh with relief: The Cold War really is over. And that is the most important take-away from the Russian capital after the 2012 presidential election in the United States.
The Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, had surprised everyone during the campaign by citing Russia as America's No.1 geopolitical opponent. So his defeat means the Kremlin can stop worrying about such caveman-like announcements. Indeed, Russia can be assured that Romney, who is 65 years old, will not be running in the next U.S. elections.
Does Obama’s re-election mean that Moscow and Washington have a second chance at a reset? The answer is obvious: yes, of course. However, the fact that history is giving these two former foes a second chance does not necessarily mean that the opportunity won't be wasted.
In the wake of the U.S. election, there is a wave a new expectations that every new term ushers in. It is a good time for the governments in both countries to work past their previous mistakes. Both administrations should figure out the reason why towards the end of the presidential elections in the United States the ‘reset’ with Russia morphed from a promising foreign relations project into the subject of increasing criticism and open derision from hawks in both Moscow and Washington.
It’s not possible to build something with your right hand and destroy it with your left. Moscow cannot declare its commitment to a strategic partnership with the United States while at the same time fanning the flames of anti-Americanism, which has returned recently in the Russian media and to the lips of Russian officials after a brief historical respite.
That should be the lesson for Moscow from Obama’s first term. It is not possible to build a serious partnership with someone whom you don’t trust or whom you are constantly flipping off behind his back.
Let's fix it
But the Obama administration, which offered Moscow the reset button, should also avoid repeating the same mistakes. Moscow’s increasing annoyance with the White House is not without merit. Once again, the White House did not consult with Moscow about the European missile shield nor the conflict in Syria. At the same time, after Russia agreed not to use its veto power against the the United Nations Security Council vote on Libya, the U.S. went ahead and overthrew the Libyan regime.
It has to be said that in spite of Obama’s polite rhetoric regarding Moscow, his actions as President have often aggravated the anti-Americanism that we see in Russia today.
Most importantly, Washington has to understand that President Vladimir Putin will never agree to be a junior or subordinate partner to the United States. A real partnership built over the course of Obama’s second term must be a partnership between equals.
Lastly, it is important that both sides stop blaming each other for the turbulence in the relationship. Saying “You break it, you fix it” does not work in today’s world. The second chance at a reset will not be wasted only if both parties are able to sit down at the negotiating table and find the courage to say, “If we break it, we both fix it.”