The Obama administration has been working under the radar to heal relations with Vladimir Putin’s government in Russia for months, according to a Bloomberg report. Those initiatives included sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with Putin and to have former Secretary of State and Cold War pointman Henry Kissinger call Putin to discuss an end to the violence in Ukraine. Kerry offered a path toward lifting the sanctions that have helped cripple the Russian economy, but so far there’s been no indication that Putin or his colleagues are willing to play ball with their American counterparts.
With an economy in shambles, experts predict that Putin will likely continue to resist any sort of concessions to the West over Ukraine as doing so could risk the enormous popularity his hard line has gained him. In a New Year's Eve address, Putin praised Wednesday his country’s annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian territory with a largely Russian-speaking population, calling it a “landmark” in the country’s history and a “return home” for the contested peninsula. The U.S. and European Union put economic sanctions in place over Crimea’s annexation and are firm over keeping them until the conflict is resolved.
The Bloomberg report found that part of the Obama administration’s strategy was to co-operate with Russia outside of the context of Ukraine, according to three unnamed U.S. officials. In one instance, Kerry proposed cooperation on Iraq, Syria and North Korea, among other global conflicts, but public disagreements between Obama and Putin were too much to keep those offers viable.
All the while, the U.S. and its allies have increased sanctions on Russia, which has all but destroyed any opportunity for Russia and the U.S. to work together elsewhere in the world, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry itself, which said the Kremlin “will not leave… such unfriendly gestures without a response.”
Putin has made it clear he wants more respect from the United States. Putin’s annual New Year’s greeting suggests he seeks to firmly plant Russia back on the top of the world stage with the U.S. in 2015. He said he wanted to establish “equality and mutual respect” between the powers. Putin also reminded Obama of the Soviet-American alliance in World War II and said the two countries have a responsibility “for maintaining peace and international stability.”