Aleksei Pushkov, the chairman of the RF Gosduma International Affairs Committee, said in a statement that yesterday’s statement by Mitt Romney that Russia’s the main geopolitical enemy of the USA reflected the view of American circles that want their country to continue fighting to impose an absolute global hegemony. He pointed up that despite the American political defeat in Iraq and their impending defeat in Afghanistan, US Republicans have learnt no lessons, and they refuse to realise that the US isn’t omnipotent.
The frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination made his statements on a live interview with Wolf Blitzer broadcast on CNN on Monday; he said, “Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe. They… they fight every cause for the world’s worst actors. Russia continues to support Syria, supports Iran, it fought against the crippling sanctions we wanted to have the world put in place against Iran. Russia isn’t a friendly character on the world stage, and for this president to be looking for greater flexibility where he doesn’t have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia is very, very, troubling, very alarming. This is a president who’s telling us one thing and is doing something else”. Mitt Romney then went further, describing the nation as America’s number one foe. After Wolf Blitzer challenged his statement, Mr Romney went on to say, “The greatest threat the US faces is a nuclear Iran… but who is it who always stands up for the world’s worst actors? It’s always Russia, typically with China alongside”.
Recent developments in the Republican presidential race show that the contenders are eager to exploit the most aggressive line in foreign policy. Front-runner Mitt Romney set the pace by saying in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday, “Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe”. When asked by Mr Blitzer whether he considered Russia a bigger foe than Iran or China or North Korea, Romney reiterated his statement by saying that Russia is “a geopolitical opponent” that “fights every cause for the world’s worst actors. Of course, the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran, and nuclear North Korea is already troubling enough, but when these terrible actors pursue their course in the world and we go to the United Nations looking for ways to stop them, when Assad, for instance, is murdering its own people, we go to the United Nations… and it’s always Russia, typically with China alongside” who “always stand up for the world’s worst actors”.
One may argue that siding with terrible régimes is commonplace practise for the USA itself. One may recall their support for Bahrain, which launched a massive crackdown on Shiites last year in a manner typical of all Middle Eastern dictatorships; or, their siding with Saakashvili in Georgia, who launched an open attack on South Ossetia in 2008 and committed massive acts of genocide. However, citing such instances would be futile… the policy of siding with “our bad guys” and distinguishing between them and other “bad guys” is as old as politics itself. What the interview points to is probably a completely different problem. In fact, such anti-Russian statements by Romney are rather common. Some time ago, he called the new US–Russian START Treaty Obama’s “worst foreign policy mistake”. He’s also shown signs of discontent over what he’s calling Vladimir Putin’s dreams of “rebuilding the Russian empire”. Definitely, such statements may resonate with the sentiments of certain (possibly, rather wide) factions in American society. Moreover, that may help Romney mobilise a certain number of voters.
Now, imagine that… however unlikely it may seem at present… Mitt Romney wins on 6 November. What’s next? Whether he likes it or not, Russia will remain an important global player that one can’t treat in the same way as Iran or Syria or North Korea. What’s more, over the coming years… at least for the duration of Mitt Romney’s first presidential term… Putin will head Russia. Would his present stance help him much in building pragmatic relations with the Russian leadership? Or else, would he have to alter his stance and do exactly what he’s accusing President Obama of doing now… that is, “telling us one thing and doing something else, and planning on doing something else”.
In fact, foreign policy’s seldom an issue in a presidential race. However, the current momentum in the campaign makes two things obvious. Firstly, Republican contenders, including the front-runner, feel that their position’s growing weaker and weaker, so they resort to whatever tools that they can lay their hands on. Furthermore, the more bizarre the tools are, the better it is for the campaign. Nevertheless, on the other hand, resorting to such tools may backfire if there’s an ultimate victory. Therefore, it seems highly unlikely that Romney believes that he’ll win in November. Probably, he undertook this line of reasoning with the sole purpose of publicity. This seems to be the only plausible explanation for calling Russia what it isn’t.
Actually, Romney isn’t alone in following such a line. The “number two” in the race, Rick Santorum, also recently resorted to odd methods in his ad campaign. One of his recent ads actually links Barack Obama with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, thus producing an impression that there’s no difference between the two. Well, maybe, again, this might appeal to some factions of the American public. However, must a US presidential candidate appeal to freaks by behaving like a freak himself?
Senior Research Fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies
President Dmitri Medvedev commented on a statement made by US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who described Russia as “America’s Number One geopolitical enemy”, by advising all US presidential candidates to be reasonable and to be aware that times have changed, saying, “Russia’s interested in further dialogue with the US, no matter who wins the presidential elections there”. Medvedev described Obama as a “comfortable partner to work with, who’s able to analyse and accept arguments”.
At a briefing on Tuesday, Aleksandr Lukashevich, an official spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MID), said that electoral considerations drove Romney’s speech about Russia; therefore, Russia would evaluate the Russian-US partnership not by speeches, but by actions. He emphasised, “We’re going to evaluate the USA’s sincerity and commitment to our announced and developing partnership not by speeches, but by real actions”. Romney, ex-governor of Massachusetts, and, most likely, the Republican opponent of Obama at the 6 November election, in an interview on CNN, said that the geopolitical enemy of US today is Russia, not Iran, or China. He explained that Moscow “always stands up for the world’s worst actors”. Lukashevich noted that it’s hard for him to comment on an obviously emotional statement of a candidate in an election race, saying, “It’s understandable that those kinds of statements could’ve been made in certain circumstances, due to the dynamics of the political race that’s going on right now in the USA because of the upcoming presidential election”. The White House distanced itself from the words of the Republican candidate, it called his words about Russia, “not prudent”. White House spokesman Jay Carney noted that the talk about Russia as the main enemy of the United States doesn’t match the achievements in recent years between the two countries.
On Tuesday, Mitt Romney hit back at president Medvedev and said that US President Barack Obama was trying to “ingratiate himself with the Kremlin” after Medvedev suggested that the Republican presidential front-runner was living in a bygone era and that all the candidates should “use their heads”. In an opinion piece on the website of the magazine Foreign Policy, Romney wrote, “The Russians clearly prefer to do business with the current incumbent of the White House”. The article represented an escalation of Romney’s attacks on Obama after a recording caught Obama’s private remark to President Dmitri Medvedev. Obama told Medvedev that he needed “space” to deal with missile defence because he’d have more “flexibility” after the November elections.
Romney drew criticism from Medvedev and House Speaker John Boehner, the country’s top-ranking Republican, after he said on Monday in a CNN interview that Russia is America’s “Number One geopolitical enemy”. Mr Medvedev said Mr Romney’s comments on CNN “smacked of Hollywood”. He advised the White House hopefuls, including Mr Romney, to “rely on reason, to use their heads”, adding, “That’s not harmful for a presidential candidate. It’s 2012, not the mid-1970s, and whatever party he belongs to, he must take existing realities into account”.
Aleksei Pushkov, Chairman of the RF Gosduma International Relations Committee stated that Russia opposes the European missile defence project in its current form and continues to insist on legal guarantees that NATO isn’t directing it against Russia, irrespective of the outcome of presidential elections in the USA. As became clear after the meeting of Presidents Dmitri Medvedev and Barack Obama in Seoul, missile defence consultations will continue over the next six months at the specialist level. Both sides believe that even though the talks have deadlocked, there’s always a way out.
Pushkov commented on this, saying, “As the USA’s going through an election year, there’s little chance that we can do something about missile defence. Therefore, the only way to keep it on the agenda is to refer it to the technical experts. Diplomatic manoeuvring requires treating even an unsolvable problem as solvable. At present, the issue has no solution, but, in fact, the two presidents agreed to seek a way out of the crisis in the future. In the meantime, technical experts will look into the options to secure a higher level of trust in the future”.
The missile defence dispute hinges on trust, or rather, mistrust. The West sees Iran as the number one foe. Moscow thinks differently. However, the main difference that divides the two sides on missile defence is that Moscow sees the planned missile defence shield as a form of protection by Europe and the US against a threat from Russia. Candidates could very well use relations with Russia could to serve election campaign interests in the USA. Republican candidate Mitt Romney said that Russia, not Iran or North Korea, poses the main geopolitical threat to the USA. Romney benefits from presenting Obama’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Russia as false.
The Republicans represent a sizable number of Americans, according to Pushkov, and he said, “Romney’s statements, even though related to the election race, reflect the mood of right-wing Republicans. Romney advocates certain ideas, and these ideas have a particular niche in US politics. Senator McCain called for shelling Libya, then Syria, and is currently urging a change of government in Russia. When he ran for president against Obama four years ago, McCain adhered to the same points of view as Romney”.
At present, Obama has the support of more than 50 percent of Americans. Whoever wins the 6 November presidential election in the USA would have to continue the missile defence dialogue with Russia. Moreover, Russia will stick to its oft-repeated position, and it’s sticking to it now.
27/28 March 2012
Voice of Russia World Service
A Note for Orthodox Christians:
Orthodox people should be aware that Jonas Paffhausen’s attempting to throw the support of the Church behind the extreme rightwing of the Republican Party. Paffhausen supports the Russophobic maunderings of the Extreme Right, and he speaks in their venues (American Enterprise Institute, for instance). His konvertsy fans echo his extremist POV fanatically and without diminution. In short, they don’t reflect the Mind of the Church, and that’s that.
The Church stands for Social Justice and Cooperation, and His Holiness’ statements and actions reflect that. Paffhausen and his pals stand for the noxious programme of the oligarch backers of the GOP… Greed, Profits, and Perpetual Warfare… and the Ordinary People be damned. I seem to notice a difference…