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Repairing his country’s tattered relationship with Russia has been a priority for U.S. President Barack Obama. That process got a symbolic start in March when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented her counterpart, Mr. Sergei Lavrov, with a “reset” button in Geneva. (The moment was embarrassing as the button was mislabeled “overcharge” in Russian.) It picked up in earnest this week as Mr. Obama made his first visit as president to Russia, where he vowed to work toward a new partnership with Moscow. Despite his earnest intentions, it will not be easy.

Relations between Washington and Moscow have deteriorated over the last decade. While there was hope that a shared sense of purpose would bring the two former adversaries together in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Russia has felt increasingly marginalized by subsequent U.S. moves. The expansion of NATO toward Russia’s borders, the U.S. decision to proceed with the installation of a missile defense system in former Soviet satellites, Western support for governments, most notably Georgia’s, that deliberately antagonized Russia, and the lack of progress on Moscow’s bid to join the World Trade Organization all contributed to a sense in Russia that the U.S. saw Moscow as a rival rather than a partner.

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