“We recognize that the United States and Russia have many common interests, and we remain guided by the belief that we can engage effectively with Russia’s government and civil society ... without checking our values at the door,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon said recently in his testimony to the U.S. Congress. “Our aim now is to deepen . . . and widen the arc of our cooperation. At the same time, the United States will continue to be outspoken about areas where we disagree with Russia, such as human rights and democracy concerns.”
The benefits of engagement are particularly evident in the foreign policy arena. “We signed the New START Treaty. We brought into force a 123 Agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation, and agreed to dispose of enough weapons-grade plutonium for 17,000 nuclear warheads,” Assistant Secretary Gordon said. “We are both key participants in the Six Party talks ... to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We are working together to hold Iran to its international non-proliferation obligations ... Russia remains an important partner ... working to implement the vision for Middle East peace outlined by President Obama in his May 2011 remarks.
The United States and Russia still need to expand their economic ties. While two-way trade grew last year, they still reached just $31 billion – less than one percent of total U.S. trade. Russia received its invitation to accede to the World Trade Organization in December and is expected to join the organization this year. “For American companies to take advantage of [Russia’s] market opening, Congress must terminate the application of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and extend permanent normal trading relations to Russia,” Assistant Secretary Gordon said. President Obama is committed to working with the U.S. Congress to achieve this goal.
Along with these successes, we have welcomed the Russian authorities’ acceptance of peaceful political protests, but also emphasized Secretary Clinton’s message that “Russian voters deserve a full investigation of electoral fraud and manipulation,” and urged authorities to act on the election reforms proposed by the OSCE observer mission.
Assistant Secretary Gordon concluded his testimony noting, “We expect to continue our successful approach of cooperating with Russia when it is in our interests, addressing our disagreements honestly, building links to Russian society and government, and maintaining the United States’ long-held commitment to keep our values at the center of our foreign policy.”