President Obama may believe that America’s “reset” policy with Russia is the correct move to cover important foreign policy bases, but the policy is deeply flawed. It puts the United States at a disadvantage we can’t afford and forces us to lay aside fundamental American principles of human liberty.

The “reset” concessions are simply not worth the exchange of empty promises from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is merely a talking head for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. As Heritage’s Ariel Cohen & Kim Holmes wrote recently in a memo on U.S.–Russia Relations, Putin would like nothing less than a “Soviet-like superpower prestige and status through forced nuclear equality with Washington.”

The large “reset” payoff requires America put it all on the line by cutting U.S. strategic nuclear forces and engaging in missile defense talks with Russia, in addition to abandoning missile defense deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic and keeping quiet about political freedom violations running rampant throughout Russia. America may never have won the Cold War 22 years ago with policies such as these.

It is imperative that America lead with the cause of freedom and justice when dealing with Russia, or any other nation for that matter. In Heritage’s Understanding America series, Matthew Spalding explains that the United States was founded and thrives on “universal principles that appeal to a higher standard.” Such universal principles of freedom should be the foundation of America’s foreign policy strategy—not an afterthought.

Yesterday at a Heritage Foundation conference focused on the “reset” policy, House Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) recalled the international leadership that prompted America to victory in the Cold War not so long ago. He applauded President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as two who “quite simply, loved freedom…[and] made their feelings well-known, contagious, as if no one or no force could stand in their way.”

Boehner urged America not forget what life was like for the Soviets before these two warriors of freedom refused to stand for it. As Boehner said, “freedom most inspires those who remember life without it.”

While the Obama Administration may believe the “reset” policy as it stands is necessary, the deal raises a lot of red flags. In his paper, Cohen urges that America must not tolerate Russian mischief or fail to make its priorities of freedom loud and clear.

As Boehner said, instead of negotiating with Russia, Washington should call its bluff—“Publicly, forcefully, frequently.” As the leader of the free world, America has a responsibility to remain in control and end the idea that it is “leading from behind” when it comes to Russia.

In a recent memo, Cohen explained why the Obama Administration must stop its policy of “please Moscow” and push Russia to “reset” its own policies. He writes:

Moscow has continuously promoted in word and deed the idea that there is or should be a multipolar world order that constrains U.S. foreign policies. A “reset” policy that ignores Russia’s global efforts to undermine the U.S. recalls the ill-fated détente of the 1970s.

As experts at yesterday’s conference attested, the risks involved in America’s “reset” relations with Russia are many. Foreign policy dealings with any nation—especially Russia—must be guided by America’s Founding values first and foremost. The consequences of doing otherwise will be great.

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