The arrests of 11 members of a suspected spy ring in the U.S. have pundits worrying how the F.B.I's allegations will affect U.S.-Russia relations. Both President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have talked recently of a "reset" in relations between the two countries, but the spying charges initially angered Russian authorities and security analysts, some of whom have labeled it a plot by right-wing American hawks to destabilize the working relationship between Obama and Medvedev. The Obama administration maintains it is confident in its relationship with Russia. Could these arrests return us to the detente of the Cold War? (Watch a Russia Today report about "spygate" and Russian relations)
The impact will be "minimal": This "graduate-school-level operation" was enlisted to carry out "sophisticated research" on U.S. policymaking rather than nefarious espionage of our military secrets," say Leon Aron and Kevin Rothrock at The Journal of the American Enterprise Institute. "Countries, even friendly ones, engage in this sort of thing all the time." The only mystery is why Russia sent spies, and not diplomats to do it.
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It's not in the White House's interest to make a big deal out of it: The president has "invested heavily" in getting on with Moscow, says Howard LaFranchi at the Christian Science Monitor, and the White House touts U.S.-Russia relations as one of its largest "foreign-policy accomplishments." Why would Obama throw that away over an "essentially rinky-dink spy operation"?
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But Russia could see this as evidence of Medvedev's weakness: This could spell bad news for Medvedev-style diplomacy, says Andrew Osborn in The Daily Telegraph. The Russian president has embraced Obama and the West, and these arrests might make it look as if his "new friends" have "stabbed [him] in the back." If Medvedev's "flirtation with the West" is perceived to be a failure, it might encourage the "tough, anti-Western" Putin to retake the presidency and change the country's direction.
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The ball's in Russia's court: Moscow's reaction in the weeks to come is the big question, says Darrell West of the Brookings Institution, quoted in Politics Daily. "Do they continue to deny the allegations or do they retaliate or do they cooperate?" The pressure will be on Medvedev to cooperate, if they are truly interested in resetting our countries' relationship.
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