This is another version of the problem that the United States faced in the 1970s when the policy of detente with the Soviet Union led to what many people on both the left and the right considered an immoral tolerance for Soviet human rights abuses. For Carter, the struggle ended unhappily; he was unable to get another nuclear deal, the human rights situation in the Soviet Union and its satellites did not change, and the Cold War heated up when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.

Fortunately, Russia is a less important global player today from an American point of view and so the failure of a Russia policy isn’t as crippling as it was a generation ago. Nevertheless, the reset has failed, and we have lost the modest benefits that would come from a better relationship with Russia without being able to do anything effective about improving its policies on human rights.