One of the themes of today's event is looking beyond the day's headlines to focus on longer-term trends. Along those lines, it was interesting to hear former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and former Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad give surprisingly optimistic takes on the future of U.S.-Russia relations. Here's Berger:
I think you have to separate Putin's posture from his interests. Clearly his posture after the election, and also before the election, was to stick his finger in our eye. That was a way to project strength.
But now he desperately wants the president to come to Moscow. He invited him and was very happy when the president said yes. Putting away the word reset, I don't think the U.S.-Russian relationship is moribund. I think it is in Putin's interest to maintain the relationship.
There are going to be sore spots. He doesn't want NGOs in the Russian political system. He doesn't want us mucking around in democracy and human rights. But I think we'll do business going down the road.
Khalilzad, who also served as ambassador to Afghanistan during the Bush administration, concurred:
The illustration has been the northern corridor into Afghanistan which has been very helpful in resupplying our troops. It's also not out of the question that we will be able to do business with Putin on Syria.