MOSCOW — The emergence of a Kremlin leader, President Dmitry Medvedev, without a KGB background, combined with the economic crisis, has inspired talk that when Barack Obama visits Moscow this week, America’s president will be seeing a country on the verge of a new political thaw, a revived perestroika. But pushing the “reset button” on U.S.-Russia relations may be harder than Obama and his team imagined.
Russian (or Soviet) leaders opt for perestroika or a thaw only when forced to do so by dire conditions that threaten the regime’s survival. An atmosphere of mortal fear, mutual suspicion and hatred among the Communist elite was the catalyst for Nikita Khrushchev’s post-Stalin thaw. For Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s, the catalyst for his perestroika was the Soviet Union’s growing economic paralysis.
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