The United States cannot afford to write off the U.S.-Russia relationship. There is truth to the argument that the world’s most pressing problems, including Islamic extremism, cannot be solved without some Russian involvement. But Washington cannot ignore Russia’s increasingly horrendous behavior. Russia’s dangerous military maneuvers near U.S. ships are now regular occurrences. Russian harassment and intimidation of U.S. diplomats across Europe is at an all-time high. Russian government cyberespionage and propaganda campaigns have run amok.
“The fact is, they are engaged in a new global Cold War against the U.S.,” said Samuel Charap, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “There’s absolutely no question about that. We have this festering wound on the relationship that nobody on the U.S. side is spending much time trying to fix.”
The United States has complicated relationships with lots of problematic countries. China, for example, is internally repressive and externally aggressive, but there’s no thought of cutting off relations with Beijing. Similarly, the policy of isolating Russia as punishment for its invasion of Ukraine has limits. Russia was determined not to cave to sanctions, and if the recent vote in the French senate is any indication, the sanctions regime will not last forever.
“Putin is a very smart, sophisticated political animal,” said [former Ukranian PM Arseniy] Yatsenyuk. “He can wait and wait for a quite long and extensive period of time. He knows how the Western powers act.”
The United States must establish a new relationship with Russia that is intellectually honest about Moscow’s actions and intentions while preserving whatever cooperation is possible. That may mean finding an endgame to the Ukraine sanctions before they crumble under their own weight. But it also means pushing back more against Russian provocations and raising the cost for Putin when he acts out on other fronts.
And again, that's a great idea on paper, but "raising the cost" for Putin is kind of hard to do when you need him more than he needs you. He's perfectly fine walking away from coopoeration in Syria, continuing to hit Ukraine, and conducting a cyberspace Cold War, and frankly there's not a hell of a lot we can do to stop him without friends to back us up.
Ol' Vlad has already made most of our friends offers that they can't refuse either. He's a smart guy and as smart as Obama is, he's outmanuvered Obama in the President's second term time and time again.
Hopefully Clinton can do a bit better, but I doubt it. I do know that Trump will do Putin's heavy lifting for him, and Sanders would be too busy muttering about class warfare to realize Putin was taking him to the cleaners on a daily basis.
It's not looking good to "reset" the Russian relationship anytime soon, guys. He's holding most of the cards and more importantly he's willing to play them without constraint.