Opinion

3 ways the US can start an economic 'reset' with Russia

After Russian President Vladimir Putin canceled his trip to Camp David for the G8 Summit this weekend, tensions between Russia and the US are running high. The United States must design a new relationship with this often difficult leader and his country. Washington needs a new reset that includes these three key components:

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3. Firm support for human rights and media freedom

The US and Europe must also stand together if the Russian government abuses its people or its neighbors. They should remind all that the 2008 occupation of the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be neither permanent nor a precedent.

They should speak out together when Russian citizens are subject to faulty trials or illegal confiscation of property, not to mention mistreatment and worse at the hands of the authorities. The US and Europe should also make clear their support for Russia’s remaining free media, which is the best safeguard against government abuse or corruption.

When necessary, US and European governments may have to go beyond criticism. But these responses should be carefully aimed at punishing responsible individuals through visa restrictions and other means, as in the proposed “Magnitsky law,” rather than the broad sweep of Jackson Vanik.

In either case, Mr. Putin is likely to lash out in response, threatening to spoil the “reset.” But one lesson of the first reset is that, despite the rhetoric, Russia will move forward when in its interest.

Criticism of Russian human rights policy is unlikely to stop Russia from seeking to expand its exports. Instead, Russia’s need to modernize its economy, including through expanded exports, could make it possible for the US and Europe, working together, to create incentives for greater rule of law in the economy and elsewhere in Russia.

Frances G. Burwell is vice president and director of Transatlantic Relations at the Atlantic Council. Svante Cornell is director of the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm.

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