WASHINGTON, November 3—After falling to historic lows in 2008, U.S.-Russia relations rebounded following last year’s "reset." In a new report, Matthew Rojansky assesses the first year of the Bilateral Presidential Commission, an initiative devised by Presidents Obama and Medvedev to encourage high-level interaction and produce concrete deliverables. While the commission has produced impressive accomplishments thus far—including joint efforts to combat terrorism and new binding arms control and nonproliferation agreements—it will require continued attention and flexibility from officials to permanently change relations.
- Devote political capital. Despite competing priorities, officials at the presidential, cabinet, and staff levels must devote the necessary resources to the commission’s work to overcome bureaucratic inertia, political distractions, and outdated prejudices.
- Engage the public. By making more of the working groups’ activities public and utilizing social media and the Internet, the commission can be held more accountable. This will also create opportunities for nongovernmental organizations and individuals in both countries to engage directly with each other.
- Leverage support from local government and private sectors. Local and state governments should share best practices for implementing the commission’s goals, while the private sector can help officials handle an expected increase in economic cooperation.
"The history of U.S.-Russia bilateral engagement shows that managing the relationship successfully requires sound institutions to advance the interests of both sides and to sustain global peace and security," Rojansky writes. "Without continuing high-level attention and follow-through on concrete, achievable goals, even this latest success story could quickly lose momentum, setting relations between Moscow and Washington once again adrift."
Matthew Rojansky is the deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment. An expert on U.S. and Russian national security and nuclear weapons policies, his work focuses on relations among the United States, NATO, and the states of the former Soviet Union. He previously served as executive director of the Partnership for a Secure America, which seeks to rebuild bipartisan dialogue and productive debate on U.S. national security and foreign policy challenges.
The Carnegie Russia and Eurasia Program has, since the end of the Cold War, led the field on Eurasian security, including strategic nuclear weapons and nonproliferation, development, economic and social issues, governance, and the rule of law.
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