How Putin Can Retaliate Against Obama
Image Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

How Putin Can Retaliate Against Obama


Over the last several months, U.S.-Russian relations have arguably sunk to a new low in the post- Cold War era– which could bring trouble for Washington in the Asia-Pacific and the Persian Gulf.

While the saga over NSA leaker Edward Snowden was the final straw that led Washington to cancel a leadership summit with Moscow scheduled for this September, ongoing tensions over a number of issues have been simmering for some time.  From Russian concerns over U.S. missile defenses to Moscow's support of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and multiple other challenges, have helped foster an atmosphere of strained relations.

President Obama went so far in his Friday press conference to call for a "pause" in relations to "reassess where it is that Russia is going."

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

Such a "pause" clearly spells the final chapter for the much vaunted "reset" of relations with Moscow.

As the president noted Friday, from the New START treaty, cooperation on Iran sanctions, and Russian assistance in supplying U.S. troops in Afghanistan, to American assistance in helping Russia join the WTO, both sides clearly benefited from a positive working relationship.

For its part, Russia's reaction to the cancellation of the summit seemed rather muted — for now.

Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov explained that “considering the discussion in the press and the political environment created in the U.S. over Snowden, we were ready for the visit to either take place or be canceled.”

Yet, Russia does have a number of options if it did wish to exact a price over Washington's change in tone.

Over the last several years, Sino-Russian ties have warmed considerably. Moscow could decide that a stronger relationship with Beijing might suit its national interests more than repairing relations with Washington.

Considering Russia has already sold China a number of advanced weapon systems over the years, and has played a large role in fuelling Beijing's growing military capabilities, it could seek to do more on this front. Already multiple reports suggest possible Russian sales of advanced SU-35 fighters, Amur-class submarines and possibly even the advanced S-400 air defense system to China.

Moscow could also increase its cooperation with Beijing in the area of energy sales. Over the last decade, China has been on a quest to secure large and stable supplies of natural resources to power its growing economy. With many of these resources travelling through various narrow straits and seas, Beijing has become increasingly concerned that such supplies could stop in times of international crisis or war. China could increase energy security by securing stable and abundant supplies from neighbors where overland pipelines could deliver them to China. Russian oil and natural gas supplies to the north in Siberia could help solve such challenges.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief