MOSCOW: There are few hopes in Russia for another “reset” in relations as US President Barack Obama enters his second term, with bilateral disputes growing every month and mutual distrust increasing, analysts say. More
Russia has welcomed the appointment of old hand John Kerry as US secretary of state while Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held an apparently cordial meeting with Vice President Joe Biden on the sidelines of a security conference at the weekend. But analysts caution that mistrust runs too deep and disputes are too numerous for Washington and Moscow to make any headway in bringing about the transformation in relations that Obama hoped for when he first came to power in 2009.
“The Kremlin is now turning Russia towards a strategic confrontation with the US,” said Lilia Shevtsova, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Centre. In its latest salvo in late January, Russia announced plans for bans on all US meat imports and the termination of a long-standing bilateral drug control agreement.
The US in turn pulled out of a joint working group on civil society. It also said it was “deeply concerned” by Russian draft legislation that would place a national ban on “homosexual propaganda among minors”.
The trigger for the standoff was the passing by the United States of a rights bill targeting Russian officials with sanctions over the prison death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Russia responded with a ban on US adoptions, widely regarded as the toughest piece of anti-US legislation during President Vladimir Putin’s 13 years in power.
The buzz of the “reset” that Obama launched in 2009 with Putin’s predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev after nearly a decade of distant ties now seems far off.
“This isn’t a reset but a full-on systems failure,” Vlast weekly cited a highly placed official in the Russian government as saying.
At the first high-level contact on Saturday between the countries since Obama’s second-term inauguration, Biden was conciliatory as he met Lavrov at the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
Biden told Lavrov he would like to take the countries’ relations “back on track”, a source in the Russian delegation told Kommersant business daily.