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Politics & Government

Are US-Russian Relations Dependent on Those in Power?

Pete Souza
Whitehouse Photography

What does President Obama's refusal to meet with President Putin during his recent European trip say about U.S.-Russian relations?

Angela Stent is a former adviser on Russia under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Her new book,The Limits of Partnership: US-Russia Relations in the 21st Century, explores the evolution of U.S. - Russian relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Stent says the last straw in the relations between the two countries was when President Putin granted whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum in Russia. 

Last week, when the presidents crossed paths during a trip to Normandy, French president Francois Hollande had to arrange separate dinners for them both. Stent said right now, relations between the US and Russia are the worst since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the US-Soviet relationship under Mikhail Gorbachev was better than relations between the countries now.

She went on to say it remains on both countries’ leaders to resolve the strains in relations.

“The leaders are disproportionately important in this relationship because we don’t have a lot of other people who are really involved in it." said Stent "Unlike China, we don’t do a lot of business with Russia, we don’t have a lot of business contacts there. So when the relationship works, then things are much better. Part of the problem is the personal relationship. Obviously, there are also big differences in terms of what U.S. interests and Russia interests are. Even if someone else were in the Kremlin, we would clearly have differences and disagreements.”

Stent also commented on the conflict in Ukraine and how Russia has been so publicly involved. She does not believe Putin and Russia to be the entire problem in the conflict.  

For if Putin were to tell everyone involved to "stand down," Stent does not believe anything would be resolved. She says it will be important to be on the lookout of how Russia will continue to change under Putin’s leadership.