According to the Wall Street Journal, the Russian decision to take off the Medvedev mask and put Prime Minister Putin back into the top spot is causing headaches in Washington. There seems to be some concern that when President Good Cop switches places with Prime Minister Bad Cop, something important could change in Russian foreign policy. Some feel that Prime Minister Putin’s decision to take off the Medvedev mask and assume direct personal responsibility for the policies that all along he has controlled undercut the case for the reset in US-Russia relations.Via Meadia is somewhat at a loss. We, like a great many members of the American public, have our doubts about the wisdom of some of our government officials. But we are genuinely pained if not greatly surprised to find that there are policymakers and legislators who were truly taken in by Kremlin sock puppetry during the Medvedev years.There is a good case for a businesslike US-Russian relationship no matter who runs Russia. There are many areas of vital strategic interest to both sides where our interests are aligned. Neither country wants China to dominate Eurasia, for example. Neither country wants Islamic radicals to destabilize Central Asia or get control of weapons of mass destruction.There are also a number of areas in which our interests come into conflict. The US does not want the Russians to rebuild something like the Soviet Union by incorporating former Soviet republics into a tightly centralized sphere of influence. Nor do we like the idea that Russia could use its energy resources to detach Europe and especially Germany from the Atlantic alliance. Americans by and large remain convinced that governments like the Putin system in Russia are ugly, unreliable and in the long run justly doomed. Prime Minister Putin disagrees.More broadly, Russians see international relations as a zero sum game and believe that the US has too many chips and Russia too few. They are ceaselessly looking for ways to redress this imbalance — and they don’t believe it can be done by making more chips. When Russia sees a chance to take some of our chips, it will act.This was all true when the smiling Medvedev face was posted on the front gate of the Kremlin, and it will be true when the frowning Putin face goes back up.American officials should stop sentimentalizing our relationship with Russia. Russia is what it is, the logic of international politics is what it is, and Washington’s job is to manage the situation in the light of American interests no matter what soundtrack the Kremlin is playing in any given month. We should cooperate with them where this makes sense — and keep a close eye on our chips.The GOP tends to go too far in the direction of exaggerating US-Russian tensions and some in Congress are addicted to anti-Russian gestures which gain little or nothing but make cooperation on common interests more difficult than necessary, while the administration, where disarmament advocates are busy pursuing the Holy Grail of nuclear disarmament, can sometimes get too caught up in the effort to reach concrete agreements with the Russians to keep an eye on the broader strategic picture.A firm, balanced and businesslike posture offers the greatest prospects of achieving our national interests in dealings with the Russians. Some in Washington are too soft and others are too hard; at Via Meadia we are looking for the Goldilocks approach to the bear.