As usual, Jennifer Rubin isn’t making sense:
Obama also has consistently taken despotic regimes’ propaganda as sincere expression of their national interest. We conclude that Russia’s Vladimir Putin wants to democratize and modernize.
It’s not clear that the administration assumed that Putin wants to “democratize and modernize,” and improved relations with Russia have not hinged on either of these things in any case. Then again, the two things aren’t necessarily related. Putin may be interested in greater economic modernization, and he has described Russian membership in the WTO in those terms, but it doesn’t follow that he has any interest in democratization. It would hardly be the first time that an authoritarian nationalist leader wished to modernize his country economically in the hopes of being able to avoid a more open and competitive political system.
Medvedev paid lip service to legal and political reform during his presidency, but the Russian political and legal systems deteriorated and became more closed and corrupt than they had been earlier. The “reset” wasn’t intended to improve Russia’s political and legal systems, and it’s not clear how it ever could have. Rubin’s real complaint about current Russia policy is that the administration sometimes treats another state as if it has legitimate national interests that occasionally overlap with ours, and seeks to cooperate with that state when it advances perceived U.S. interests.
To the extent that the “reset” has worked to improve U.S.-Russian relations, it is because Washington acknowledged and accommodated some of Russia’s perceived national interests. As Adomanis argues, the “reset” has reached its limits because there are some Russian interests that Washington cannot or will not accommodate:
The ‘reset’ is now at the limits of its effectiveness not because the arrogant and belligerent Russians, emboldened by Obama’s cowardice, have been making insane and outlandish demands, but because the United States has been persistent in promoting many of the same policies (e.g. ballistic missile defense) that the Russians have long rejected. The American government is, today, undoubtedly far more polite and considerate in pressing its interests vis-à-vis Russia than it was under George W. Bush, but the difference in tone is not nearly as important as the fact that the actual content of the policy is surprisingly similar: ballistic missile defense, NATO expansion, and democracy promotion.
The main flaw in current Russia policy is that the U.S. remains committed to all of these, and yet none of them serves any real American security interest. Greater democratization in Russia isn’t going to produce a more cooperative or “pro-Western” government, NATO expansion will add to America’s security liabilities and jeopardize peace in Europe rather than preserve it, and missile defense in Europe is a useless policy to guard against an over-hyped threat.