Reset Reloaded: The Second Phase of Obama’s Russia Policy Should Now Have a Major European Component


The Obama administration’s “reset” policy with Russia has been a diplomatic success. It has eased tensions with Moscow and helped the U.S. gain Russia’s cooperation on key priorities outside Europe, such as Afghanistan, Iran and nuclear non-proliferation. It is now time, however, for the reset to also have a major European component. After all, tensions stemming from developments in the European post-Soviet space — most notably the Russian-Georgian conflict of August 2008 — convinced the Obama administration that a reset with Moscow was needed in the first place to avoid a new era of confrontation. More broadly, Moscow’s dissatisfaction with the evolving post-Cold War European order is at the root of recent Western-Russian disagreements.

Phase II of the reset should involve European countries more fully in the West’s engagement of Russia. In fact, Washington should signal to its allies that closer substantive cooperation between Europe and Russia would lessen the U.S. imprint in the post-Soviet space and on European developments more broadly.

A new transatlantic agreement for Europe could define NATO’s remaining responsibilities while empowering leading European countries to engage Russia directly on the issues where the EU currently seems better positioned to attain progress. Moscow’s cooperation in such a second phase of the reset is far from assured, but the potential payoff would be nothing less than a new European order — a large part of the reset’s very rationale and arguably its best possible legacy.