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Fifth Anniversary of the Russia Reset

March 5, 2014

Five years ago, in February 2009, Vice President Biden announced a “reset” in relations with Russia. A few weeks later, on March 6, Secretary of State Clinton presented to her Russian counterpart a button marked “reset.” When the Senate was considering President Obama’s arms control capitulation to Russia in the form of New START, Secretary Clinton promised that ratifying the treaty “would also continue our progress toward broader U.S.-Russian cooperation.”


This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”

President Obama, to Russian President Medvedev, 3/26/2012


Events this year alone should make clear just how much of a failure President Obama’s foreign policy is with respect to Russia.

  • Russia has invaded Ukraine.
  • Russia has increased its military support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
  • Reports surfaced of Russia’s putative violation of a substantial arms control treaty commitment.

In light of this behavior, the United States should take the following steps to realign relations with Russia and jettison the Obama reset once and for all:

  • Propose a U.N. Security Council Resolution condemning Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter requires all states to refrain from the “use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence” of any other state.
    • In the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances attending Ukraine’s forsaking of Soviet legacy nuclear weapons, Russia promised “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.”
  • Take steps to support Ukraine’s interim government and its military, namely through financial and technical assistance.
  • Reverse President Obama’s capitulation to Russia on missile defense by supporting programs providing increased missile defense capabilities protecting the U.S homeland and European allies.
  • Announce the intention to move this summer’s G8 summit out of Sochi, Russia.
  • Announce the intention to return the G8 to its rightful construct as the G7. The G8 is described as a meeting of major industrial democracies. The recently released State Department human rights report on Russia catalogs the continued regression of democratic values in Russia under President Putin.
  • Revoke travel visas and freeze assets of senior Russian officials and of Ukrainian officials supporting the Russian invasion.
  • As early as today, the U.S. Senate may vote on the nomination of Rose Gottemoeller to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, which would be a promotion for the chief negotiator of New START. The Senate should hold off on that vote and determine what the Obama Administration has known about recently reported Russian arms control violations, and if such information was shared with the Senate during its consideration of New START. Furthermore, the United States should halt all arms control negotiations with Russia until this matter is resolved.

The U.S. Senate has a role to play in this matter. At a minimum it should pass a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and supporting these policy initiatives in response. It should further work with the Obama Administration to determine what additional sanctions authority may be necessary to punish President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine -- and legislatively provide such authority. Hopefully, recent events will finally disabuse President Obama of what the Washington Post has described as his “starry-eyed” view of President Putin. Once the United States has a more realistic view of Russia, it can take appropriate foreign policy actions.