Deputy Secretary William J. Burns today stressed that interactions between Russia and America are often an uneasy mix of competition and cooperation.
At the U.S.-Russia Business Council, Mr. Burns said he has learned that few things come quickly or easily in U.S.-Russia relationship.
“These few things are navigating past the mistrust and misapprehensions of the past takes considerable time and effort, from both of us. But I have also learned to deeply respect Russians and their history, culture and language; to realize how much we have to gain by working together on the main challenges of a new century; and to understand that the opportunities unfolding before us far outweigh our differences.” -Mr. Burns
He highlighted that rarely has there been a moment when getting relations right between the two countries, and between the two societies, mattered more than it does today.
“By the end of 2008, in the wake of the Russia-Georgia war, relations between the United States and Russia were as sour as they have been in more than twenty years. Mutual frustration obscured mutual interest. Americans believed that Russians were too quick to assume the worst about American motives, and prone to bully their neighbors.” -Mr. Burns
According to Mr. Burns, Russians believed that Americans were too quick to lecture and preach, and prone to double standards. While U.S. and Russian officials rightly noted that there was no ideological basis for a “new Cold War”, the U.S. lacked the diplomatic architecture, the political and economic ballast, and most of all the basic trust, that might have helped manage differences and preserve perspective.
“It was, all in all, an unhappy mix.” -Mr. Burns
He stressed that both countries have come a long way since then. When President Obama and President Medvedev first met in London two and a half years ago, they agreed to make a fresh start, to “reset” their relations. That effort has brought practical benefits for both of the countries, and for the rest of the world.