Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is poised to win the Russian presidential election this Sunday despite the rise of an unprecedented protest movement against him. The prospect of Putin’s return to the post he occupied from 2000 to 2008 has already exacerbated emerging strains in the U.S.-Russia relationship.
A Putin victory will not necessarily spell an end to the reset in U.S.-Russia relations that began under Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev. Besides strategic benefits, the case for maintaining the reset is bolstered by the rise of a new constituency for democratic change in Russia that also stands to benefit from sustained U.S.-Russia cooperation. The real challenge to the reset will be if Putin himself brings about its end either by violently cracking down on dissent or by rejecting cooperation with the West as threatening to Russian national interests or his own rule. Such an outcome is not inevitable. But if it does come to pass it can be expected to reframe U.S. policy on Russia.
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