Stephen Cohen, a professor of Russian History at New York University, sees two pivotal moments that have undermined US/Russia relations in the last two decades. The first was a promise made by George H. W. Bush that after Germany’s unification, NATO would not move further east. That promise was broken and today NATO knocks on Russia’s doorstep with only a few post-Soviet states–Ukraine, Georgia, and Belarus–remaining beyond its orbit (excluding Central Asia). Then there was the aid, intelligence, and air bases Russia gave to the United States following 9/11. They thought they’d get something in return but instead the United States withdrew from the anti-ballistic missile treaty and helped prop up Georgia’s Army and its leader Mikheil Saakashvili.

Today, among Russia’s political class, there is a great deal of mistrust. Cohen’s new book, Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War, is a reflection on the recent past and on opportunities missed. Under Obama, will US/Russia relations change in any fundamental way? And are Obama’s Russia advisors capable of changing course?

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