February 10, 2015

A Not-So Happy Sixth Birthday, Russia Reset

  • The Obama administration Russia “reset” was announced six years ago. Recent actions by Russia demonstrate that the reset was never anything more than a series of capitulations: invasion and annexation of part of Ukraine; violation of the INF Treaty without any discernable consequence or punishment; and the continued support to Syrian dictator Assad

Six years ago this past weekend, Vice President Biden said it was “time to press the reset button” in the U.S. relationship with Russia. Secretary of State Clinton once said there is “a lot to show” in the Russia reset effort. Recent evidence demonstrates what should have been known all along, the reset was never anything more than a series of one-sided capitulations to Russia.


In spring 2014, Russia invaded and annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine. Despite being warned by President Obama that such actions placed it on “the wrong side of history,” Russia provided separatists in eastern and southern Ukraine with heavy armaments and even placed Russian troops in the area to support the separatists, all of which continues to this day. The almost inevitable result of this was Russia’s responsibility for the downing of Malaysian Air flight 17 on July 17, 2014, murdering all 298 people on board.

On September 5, 2014, Russia, Ukraine, and the Russian-backed separatists signed a cease-fire agreement known as the Minsk protocol. It was never really fully implemented and Russia has repeatedly violated it. It can now be considered effectively collapsed, with the separatists’ destruction and takeover of the Donestsk airport, along with their sophisticated and well-armed assault on the neighborhoods of Mariupol, a city 25 kilometers beyond the cease-fire line.

In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama claimed “Russia is isolated.” This is certainly not the same as “chastened” or “hindered,” as Russia has annexed part of Ukraine and continues its advance into eastern and southern Ukraine. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations recently summarized Russia’s “end goal”: “to seize more territory and move the line of Russian-controlled territory deeper and deeper into Ukraine.” Something beyond giving speeches about how President Putin is isolated and on the wrong side of history is probably required to thwart this goal.

INF Treaty Violation

The United States has determined Russia is violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. We have concluded Russia is developing an intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missile.

In his April 2009 speech in Prague promising to rid the world of nuclear weapons, President Obama said arms control “rules must be binding” and that “violations must be punished.” It does not appear Russia has been punished in any way for this violation. It is also unclear what steps President Obama is taking in response to provide assurances to our NATO allies as Russia continues to develop, and potentially deploy, a missile in violation of the treaty.

In his Prague speech, President Obama said “words must mean something.” The president must articulate how Russia is being punished for its INF treaty violation and what steps he is taking to support our NATO allies, who are directly threatened by the violation.


Russia continues to provide critical and meaningful support to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, who has slaughtered more than 200,000 of his own citizens. Russia has vetoed multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions on the matter.

It has been more than three years since President Obama called upon the Syrian dictator “to step aside.” It has been just about three years since Secretary of State Clinton said it was only “a matter of time” before the Assad regime fell. While the president was slow to take steps to bring those words into effect, Russia has aggressively acted to impede U.S. policy goals there.

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

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

The flexibility President Obama spoke of has manifest itself in a Russia that consistently undermines U.S. interests around the world.

Issue Tag: National Security