Unfortunately, even the most enthusiastic supporters of Obama's "reset" policy now admit that it is losing steam. This policy scored a few important and undeniable achievements, but the list was pretty short and, most regrettably, no new, significant breakthroughs are visible or expected on the horizon.
Considering the mood on Capitol Hill, where less than a dozen members out of 535 can be expected to say anything good or at least neutral about Russia, any progress in the development of a mutually advantageous strategic partnership envisioned by the "reset" can hardly be hoped for.
While White House statements on Russia are, as often as not, businesslike and pragmatic, the language at Congressional hearings or resolutions on Russia is getting strikingly similar to that of the Soviet or George W. Bush's times. Why that is so remains something of a mystery, seeing that Russia, with all its shortcomings, is still very supportive of America in many ways, most importantly on Afghanistan or Iran.
One explanation could be the desire of the Republicans to deny any foreign policy achievements to Obama. Whatever his political enemies may say, the "reset" is definitely one of his very few successes. On the other hand, the rhetoric of the Democrats may not be as harsh as that of the Republicans, but it is still far from that used in talking to real or potential partners.
Besides, even the administration's nice rhetoric is not often matched with real deeds. The proposals for a joint European security architecture or missile defence presented by Moscow are rejected out of hand, while the so-called pipeline policy is not losing momentum at all.
What kind of partnership are we talking about, when the State Department has a special high-level position called Envoy for Eurasian Energy, whose job is to ensure that oil and gas flows from the post-Soviet space reach their final destination in Europe or elsewhere bypassing Russia, thus diminishing this country's most important budget revenue? Europe is under constant pressure from Washington to reduce its dependence on Russian energy supplies, the pretext being that it is absolutely necessary to curb Russia's political influence. Every unbiased observer agrees that the brief interruptions of Russian gas flows to Europe were caused by Ukraine or Belarus' refusal to pay the market price as stipulated by signed and sealed commercial contracts. Still, when Russia proposed to avoid such crises in the future by building the North or South Stream gas pipelines, some "impartial" politicians called it a return of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. What would be the U.S. reaction if the Kremlin appointed a high-level official whose job would be going around the world and lobbying for the reduction of the import of U.S. cars or any other best-selling product in order to bring down America's revenues?
The promotion of democracy and human rights in Russia is not as straightforward as it is presented by the U.S. side, either. Granted, Russia's record on these matters is far from perfect. However, criticism coming from Washington is losing any credibility when countries with much less impressive records on the same issues are getting an easy passing grade - as long as they cooperate on the above-mentioned pipeline policy.
I do not recall recent hearings on Capitol Hill or strong condemnation from the White House on democracy and human rights abuses in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan or - inconceivably - Georgia. Are we to assume that these countries are doing exceptionally well - or are they exempt from criticism because of their importance for diminishing Russia's clout in the post-Soviet space?
While the debate on the "reset" continues, a dangerous economic and financial tsunami is rising. Whatever the future holds in store, America can no longer claim total, unchallenged supremacy in the world. It therefore needs friends and partners more than ever before to weather the new global upheavals.
Looking around, I do not see a stronger or richer country than Russia that may qualify for a mutually beneficial partnership with America. For this reason, if for no other, we had better search for new ideas to sustain and expand the "reset" - instead of burying it.
Edward Lozansky is president of American University in Moscow.