Hitting the Reset Button on U.S.-Russia Cooperation

Reset Button Peregruzka

Stephan M. Minikes, U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE from June 2001 to 2005 and current Eurasia Task Force member, argues how improved U.S.-Russia relations can enable a more active OSCE in “Hitting the Reset Button on U.S.-Russia Cooperation.”

Download the PDF


For many years, I have been engaged in debate with other foreign policy practitioners over the question of whether the United States and Russia should work together. An improved
U.S.-Russian relationship offers the prospect not only of improved cooperation on areas of mutual bilateral interest, but also enhanced cooperation within multilateral institutions
such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) where I was the U.S. Ambassador between 2001 and 2005.

Vice President Joe Biden’s initial announcement on February 7, 2009, followed by Secretary of State Clinton’s statement on March 7, 2009, that the United States and Russia should push the “reset” button in their relationship brought the issue into sharp focus, again. Should we be pushing the reset button? What does a resetting of relations with Moscow mean for democracy, human rights, Russia’s “support” of the United States in the United Nations Security Council on North Korea and Iran, for example, Russia’s continued occupation of Georgian territory and other contentious issues in U.S.-Russian relations? The extent of partnership with Russia has vexed U.S. foreign policy since the breakup of the former Soviet Union in 1991.

The U.S.-Russia relationship has been inhibited by four primary factors. First, many of us bring some historical baggage to the table as we discuss this question. I am among them. Two other factors significantly stand in the way: lack of shared values and lack of trust. All three factors are, in my opinion, trumped by a fourth consideration: both of our governments’ obligation to provide for the national security of each citizen.

About the Eurasia Task Force:

‘Eurasia as Part of Transatlantic Security’ is a joint effort of the International Security Program and Patriciu Eurasia Center which seeks to shape the transatlantic debate on security in Eurasia and the future of the OSCE by publishing policy-relevant issue briefs, organizing strategy sessions with senior officials and issuing a task force report. In the context of Kazakhstan’s current chairmanship-in-office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the project intends to develop proposals for modernizing the OSCE to ensure it becomes a key institution linking Central Asia to the transatlantic community.

Chaired by Atlantic Council Chairman Senator Chuck Hagel, who as a U.S. Senator visited all five Central Asian republics, the project draws on experts from the Atlantic Council network with deep experience in Eurasia, transatlantic security and OSCE matters. To inform the task force’s policy recommendations, Atlantic Council President and CEO Fred Kempe led a delegation consisting of Ambassador Ross Wilson, Damon Wilson, Boyko Nitzov and Jeff Lightfoot to Vienna, Austria, Astana, Kazakhstan and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in Jun 2010 to meet with government representatives, OSCE officials and members of civil society.

Related Eurasia Task Force Documents:

  • Modernizing the OSCE: An Agenda Item for Astana
  • Astana on the Atlantic: Transatlantic Strategy in Central Asia and the OSCE
  • Triple Crown 2010: Can the Transatlantic Alliance be Strategic?
  • Uncertain Kyrgyzstan: Rebalancing U.S. Policy
  • Deciding on an OSCE Summit

Image: reset-peregruzka.warsawbiopic.jpg