USA – Russia relations during Sochi Olympics

USA - Russia relations during Sochi Olympics

This photo taken by Kevin LaMarque demonstrates the strained relations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and American President Barack Obama. President Obama has chosen not to attend the Sochi Olympics, with many analysts pointing to Syria as a main reason why.

Are US-Russian relations as strained right now as they were during the Cold War? Are there any ways to resolve our issues?

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7 thoughts on “USA – Russia relations during Sochi Olympics”

  1. I think that the relations between the U.S. and Russia are not as strained as during the Cold War, but I believe that it wouldn’t take much for that to change. At least right now, there is some kind of transparency–the U.S. knows what Russia is doing and vice versa. However, both countries have reasons to keep secret from one another–both do, and will continue to keep secrets. But the illusion of transparency is key right now. If that falls away, and the secrets become apparent, a Cold War becomes possible in that both sides are going to try to “figure out” and destroy the other (because we don’t know what kind of threats they have), before the other one can, which leads back to a very Cold War-like atmosphere–a lot of closed door meetings and espionage.

  2. Can one photo accurately capture actual ongoing relations? Think about how the photo of the Obamas at Mandela’s funeral was talked about: notice that the photographer acknowledged that context was everything–that the photo just happned to catch Michele with that look momentarily, that she was not angry or unhappy w/ the President’s behavior, that she was enjoying the company of the group as well, that this was a celebratory event, not a dour one. So, in that sense, photos lie. Right?

  3. @trout The context of photos is as important as anything, but I think images can also capture moods and attitudes. Whether or not this photo was taken in between questions in some other context, it can still be symbolic of both leaders’ attitudes towards each other.

  4. While this photograph may not be directly indicative of US-Russia relations, depending on the context, it definitely carries with it an irony given the extended history of US-Russia relations, as well as recent events that have negatively impacted the way each country behaves towards the other. In a way, this photo makes Obama and Putin look like two children who have been disciplined for misbehaving, and in a sense that is how relations are at the moment. Both leaders refuse to compromise (in some cases rightly so, and in some cases not so much) on a multitude of topics, and have endured endless criticism (from each other, and from the general public) over the way they conduct their foreign affairs. Because of this, I would argue that the photograph does not necessarily lie (not to say it doesn’t happen though) if taken out of immediate context, if the greater context still falls within the implications of said photograph.

  5. US-Russian relations, in my opinion, are much more peaceful then during the Cold War. Their ideologies are no longer dividing the world into ideological camps and neither country is looking to change the current world order. Russia, nevertheless, is plagued by a corrupt democratic system and reform, for the better or worse, is inevitable. The picture might catch the current mood between the two countries. While they might not agree on many things, I think it is a safe bet that neither wants to go back to the Cold War period.

  6. What strikes me about this image is how similar Obama and Putin look. Both have pouty expressions, interlocked hands, and both project boredom/frustration. I think relations are not as strained as they were during the cold war but only because the United States is now the world’s sole super power and it is overwhelmingly more powerful than Russia both economically and militarily. The men in charge seem to reflect the geopolitical situation. In this photo Putin’s eyes are calculating and down cast. He gives the impression of a man who wants more influence but is constrained by the limits of his power. Obama on the other hand looks thoughtful yet uncomfortable as if all the power of modern day America is a burden on his shoulders. Neither seem to know what do with the new relationship that has emerged from the cold war.

  7. To begin, I’ll say that I do not believe that US-Russian relations are as strained right now as they were during the Cold War. The Cold War was not only a power struggle for realms of supremacy but also a contest of nuclear capabilities. As we have entered an age of nuclear disarmament, apparent power is now more of the issue. While US-Russian relations may be tense and appear weak, I argue that they are far more complex and benign. Putin and Obama meet with intermediate frequency, which is far more than can be said about any American/Soviet leaders in the years 1950-1981 (Reagan’s election). Additionally, Russia is far weaker now after the Soviet Union satellite states were officially disbanded. While appearing grim and menacing at times, Russian infrastructure, morale, and economic standing are all dismal at best, with safety a concern for all of its citizens. Concerning Sochi, it would have been a catastrophe for President Obama to attend due to issues surrounding Russian policies on LGBT rights, support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and genuine safety concerns. Additionally, President Obama has always outspokenly praised Vladimir Putin on his directness, humor, and skill as a charismatic leader. Whether these are truthful or not, they ease tension and should further reassure concerned Americans. While these issues will likely only change with time and with strong leaders reminiscent of the Mikhail Gorbachev era, I believe it is clear that Russian political issues are of no grand concern to the American people.

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