U.S.-Russia ‘Reset’ Stalled, Nominee For NATO Commander Says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -

President Barack Obama’s nominee to become NATO’s supreme allied commander said on Thursday the so-called “reset” in U.S. ties with Russia was now on pause and predicted that Moscow would be the “primary actor of regional concern” through 2020.

Relations between the former Cold War foes had improved during Obama’s first term. Obama signed a nuclear arms treaty with then-President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010.

But ties have soured since Vladimir Putin returned to Russia’s presidency in May, and Washington and Moscow have been at odds over issues ranging from Syria to human rights.

Eight former U.S. and Russian ambassadors urged swift action to improve relations in a joint statement released on April 2, noting a growing trend toward issues that divide the two nations.

U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, in written testimony, said Russia remained an aspirational superpower but noted that it remained hindered by what he called “endemic deficiencies.”

“Russia will remain the primary actor of regional concern through 2020 by virtue of its geographic position, natural resource wealth, military forces, and desire for regional influence,” Breedlove said. “The U.S. and NATO will need to continue to assure our allies and partners, who live in the Russian self-declared sphere of privileged influence, of our resolve.”

Disagreements between the two veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council over the conflict in Syria have been a factor frustrating hopes for a solution there.

Breedlove was testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He needs Senate approval to replace Admiral James Stavridis, who is stepping down after nearly four years as NATO’s supreme allied commander, Europe, and head of the U.S. military’s European Command.

Putin was angered by a U.S. law adopted in December to punish Russians deemed rights abusers by barring them from the United States and freezing their assets there. Russia responded with similar measures and also banned U.S. couples from adopting Russian-born children. Moscow ejected the U.S. Agency for International Development ast October and has clamped down on foreign-funded advocacy groups.