Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Russia versus Europe: The Same Old Story

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According to a widely-held view, the election of Barack Obama is good news for Russia.  The new US president, runs the argument, will abandon the confrontational style of George W. Bush and adopt a more conciliatory line in foreign affairs, including in relations with Moscow. There is little doubt that the Bush presidency was disastrous for both America and the world. Any end to Republican control of the White House can therefore only seem welcome.  Unfortunately, however, there are in fact many grounds for pessimism about the future of East-West relations under President Obama.

The first is, of course, the likely foreign policy of President Obama himself.  Vice-President elect Joe Biden is notorious for his anti-Russian views.  In his speech accepting the Democratic nomination in August, Mr Biden specifically attacked the Bush administration for failing to face down Russia, i.e. for directing its attacks against the wrong enemy.  At a speech on foreign policy in Cincinnati on 25 September, Mr Biden said that Russia was as much of a threat as Iran, and he spoke warmly of his visit to “Misha” Saakashvili, the president of Georgia with whom he is evidently on first-name terms, and with whom he discussed how President Obama would make Russia “pay” for her “aggression” against his “democratic” country.

But, the main ground for pessimism lies in relations with Europe.  President Medvedev’s principal foreign policy initiative since his election has been to woo European leaders, especially at Evian last month.  His proposals for a new European security pact are an attempt to give Russia a foothold in military structures which currently exclude her, and thereby to reduce American dominance over them. As such, his proposals should be seen as the continuation of a long-standing geopolitical project for Moscow, which goes back at least to the signature of the Helsinki accords by the USSR in 1975.

However, the election of a Democrat as US president means that it is the US-EU relationship which will now be reinvigorated, not the relationship between Europe and Russia.  The Bush years have been exceptionally difficult for the pro-American élite which governs Europe. All the major players in European politics are viscerally pro-US (and concomitantly anti-Russian), but, their basic desire to like America, and to be like America, for instance by creating a United States of Europe, has been thwarted by the contempt in which George Bush is held around the world (and indeed in his own country) and by the evident stupidity of his foreign policy.

In contrast to a Mr Bush who revels in his reputation as a redneck, Barack Obama embodies all the values with which European leaders are themselves infatuated, left-liberalism, youth, dynamism, change, even ethnic diversity.  In the run-up to the poll, they have hardly been able to contain their excitement at the prospect of his election.  Why, Mr Obama even writes books.  Years of pent-up pro-Americanism will therefore now flood out as soon as the mood music of multilateralism starts to be played once more in the White House. EU leaders will again be able to identify “America” with “progress,” just as they did when they were young, and they will swoon with delight whenever President Obama proposes some new international (i.e. trans-Atlantic) plan to spread Western political values around the world (and to augment the power of the West over it).  By contrast, they see Russia as politically reactionary and as a threat to the most cherished ideals.

This much has been evident from recent statements by two leading EU politicians.  Last week, in his annual speech to the European Union’s Institute for Security Studies in Paris, the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, spoke with obvious warmth and enthusiasm of the trans-Atlantic alliance.  He said, “I have been and remain and firm believer in the power of the US and Europe to act as a force for good in the world”, and uttered not a single word of criticism of US foreign policy over the last dreadful eight years. When he came to speak of Russia, however, his tone of voice hardened and grew cold.  He spoke as if Russia were a country with which he was obliged, but, reluctant to do business.  He dropped a heavy hint that Russia was using energy exports as a strategic weapon, a severe accusation to make against a neighbouring country with which the EU is trying to negotiate a partnership agreement, and he dismissed President Medvedev’s proposal for a new European security pact (inasmuch as he mentioned it at all) as too “vague” to merit any consideration now.  He even said condescendingly that Russians have a special political mindset which Europeans had a duty to try to fathom, as if Russia were suffering from some strange collective psychosis.  Solana’s pro-US credentials, of course, have never been in doubt; he was Secretary-General of NATO during the Alliance’s three-month attack on Yugoslavia in 1999.

The same goes for the article in The Guardian on Tuesday by the president of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pottering.  Herr Pottering also enthused about the prospect of a “transatlantic fresh start” following the American elections, and he invited the new US president to address the European Parliament next year. By contrast, his reaction to the election of Dmitri Medvedev as Russian president in March, and to his inauguration in May, was complete silence on both occasions.  Herr Pottering’s only statements concerning Russia in recent months have been to support Georgia and to attack Belarus.

Under these circumstances, it is highly unlikely that President Medvedev’s attempts to direct the attention and affection of the EU élites towards their fellow Europeans East of Ukraine will ever get off the ground.  The division of the European continent between East and West, so useful for American geopolitical strategy, is likely to continue.

5 November 2008

john-laughlandJohn Laughland

British historian and political scientist

Director of Studies at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris

http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20081105/118126872.html

Editor’s Note:

I agree with Mr Laughland’s scepticism concerning the US. Joseph Biden is violently anti-Russian and anti-Orthodox due to his being mentored by a fanatic Croatian Catholic priest who supported the murder of 600,000 innocent Serbian Orthodox civilians by the Ustashi in World War II. Note well that Jackson-Vanick is still in force, even though the government it was targeted against fell some 17 years ago. I shall not believe that any good can come of an Obama administration (I admit that a McCain administration would have been worse) in foreign policy unless the neocon trash is taken out and Joseph Biden is kept out of high councils. I doubt that such shall happen. Pray that these lunatics do not take us into a war with Russia, for that would be the logical result of their vapourings. God help us all.

BMD

Medvedev Talks Tough

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President Dmitri Medvedev (1965- )

Like US President-elect Barack Obama, President Dmitri Medvedev is facing a number of very difficult problems. Both presidents will have to take a tough stance more than once, and we see Mr Medvedev’s intention to do so in his first State of the Nation address. Devoted to international issues, the first part of the address relates not to Mr Obama, but, to George W. Bush, his predecessor, and the inheritance he left to the international financial system, Russian-US relations, and Euro-Atlantic security. In a way, it is good that Mr Obama has received this address from Moscow on his best day in the next four years. But, will he hear and understand it, and will he find common ground with Russia?

Mr Medvedev mentioned old problems, such as the deployment of the US missile shield in Europe, but, this is the first time a Russian president put two different problems side by side. “We will not give up in the Caucasus. We will overcome the global economic crisis and emerge from it stronger”, Mr Medvedev said. He also made statements showing he views these two problems as comparable and even interrelated. “It is no use denying that the Tskhinvali tragedy was a consequence, amongst other things, of policies conducted by the US administration that were over-confident and intolerant of criticism, preferring unilateral decisions”, he said. President Medvedev called for mechanisms to be established to block “misguided, selfish and sometimes dangerous decisions” by some members of the international community. The latter could be part of the economic context, but, then, it may be not.

Barack Obama will have to watch as the Group of 20, representing the world’s largest economies, meets in Washington on 14-15 November when his predecessor will still be the boss in the Oval Office, to discuss medicines for the ailing global economy. It seemed that French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the most radically-minded leader on the issue, but, look at what Mr Medvedev said in his address to the parliament. “The lessons of the mistakes and crises of 2008 proved to all responsible nations that it is time to act and radically reform political and economic systems”. He added that Russia would cooperate on this issue with the US, the EU, and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) colleagues, and with all interested countries. He was likely referring not to one but to two crises, including the one in the Caucasus, or why the word “political?”

Russia and, probably, other countries fear that the US may be contemplating not a financial, but, a military solution for the current crisis. Will it attempt this in the Caucasus? Bush’s 19 guests will definitely try to dissuade such a move. A currency attack on the financial systems of other countries was attempted during the Asian crisis in 1997-1999. This was a kind of aggression, which we cannot rule out now. It is not clear from Mr Medvedev’s State of the Nation address what he will say in Washington on 15 November. However, he mentioned a “self-sufficient financial system capable of rebuffing any external challenges”, which could mean anything.

So, Russia will not “give up” in the Caucasus. It will not withdraw its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and it will not tolerate possible new Georgian aggressions. But, did Mr Medvedev mean only that when he said, “We must know firmly that there are some things you must not give up?” Moscow apparently thinks that the two crises, the financial crisis and the conflict in the Caucasus, must be used to improve the economic and other elements of the international system. Mr Obama is likely to take part in the process, especially since it was not Russia who initiated it. Russia only joined other countries wishing to solve this problem. Russia also expects the US to “renew its approaches” to all complicated problems, including foreign policy, as First Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said. If this beneficial process begins, Moscow will soften its tone.

5 November 2008

Dmitri Kosyrev

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20081105/118148398.html

Obama’s Victory Important For Russia

Filed under: Barack Obama,diplomacy,John McCain,politics,Russian,USA — 01varvara @ 00.00

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US President-elect Barack Obama (1961- )

The results of the presidential elections in the United States, which brought Barack Obama to the White House, are extremely important for Russia. The elections were compounded by heavy anti-Russian rhetoric predominating amongst the US political élite. Yevgeni Minchenko, the Director of the International Institute of Political Analysis, said, “Any new US president will be difficult for Russia, above all, because the US establishment is now saying the enemy is Russia, not the Islamic world, as during Bush’s presidency”.

Analysts say Mr Obama’s policy regarding Russia will focus on Russia’s domestic problems, such as political plurality and the freedom of speech. They also say it was easier to deal with Republicans who are pragmatic by nature, while Obama, although he has no personal reasons to hate Russia, is an unknown entity. “Russia will have problems with Obama because he is an idealist and often thinks in generalised terms”, Mr Minchenko said. “However, it will be easier for President Dmitri Medvedev, for age reasons, to establish contact with Obama than with John McCain, who is a senior citizen”.

Andrei Kokoshin, a member of parliament and the Russian Academy of Sciences, who has attended talks with members of several US administrations, said the financial crisis would weigh heavily on Russian-US relations for some time after the new team comes to the White House. “The agenda of Russian-American relations under the new administration will have a large economic and financial component this time”, Mr Kokoshin said.

5 November 2008

Rossiiskaya Gazeta (The Russian Newspaper)

As quoted in RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20081105/118145242.html

Editor’s Note:

If the neocons retain Obama’s ear, and that seems very likely, taking his vice-presidential choice into account, the world shall pray for Bush’s return, I fear. Obama’s foreign policy advisors are insanely anti-Russian and violently anti-Orthodox; one of the main reasons being that Russia refuses to buy into the secular nihilism regnant in the USA. That is mislabelled “democracy” on this side of the pond, and this policy is predicated on keeping the American public ignorant of the real situation in Russia. If Americans knew about the religious and patriotic revival in Russia, along with an improving situation in births, abortions, and death-rates, they would not be so quick to follow the neocons. However, Brzeziński is bent on a war with Russia, for reasons of Polish pride (the Poles have never lived down the defeat of their ethnic-cleansing campaign and anti-Orthodox war in 1612 by Minin and Pozharsky), and he does not care tuppence for the suffering it would cause ordinary Americans.

Pray for our country. Pray for the defeat of the neocons. May God preserve us all from such evil.

BMD

Lame Ducks Are Planting Mines

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US President-elect Barack Obama (1961- ), shall he lead America away from the neocon hell? One can hope, but I’m not holding my breath…

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The United States elected its first Afro-American president, Barack Obama. President-elect Obama will have little time to celebrate as he prepares to select his cabinet and further lay out the country’s policies for the next four years. Meanwhile, the current administration is leaving quite a legacy for Mr Obama to deal with. One such “legacy” is a two-year sanction imposed last week by the US Department of State on several countries and organisations accused of violating the 2000 Iran Non-Proliferation Act. The act bans cooperation with Tehran on weapons of mass destruction. The sanctions were again applied to Rosoboronexport, Russia’s only state arms exporter, which was charged, without proof, of such cooperation. American companies, organisations, and even individuals are prohibited from dealing with it, its subsidiaries, or partners. In response, Rosoboronexport said the sanctions won’t affect its work, because it does no business with American partners. Last Tuesday, President Dmitri Medvedev, speaking at a military technical cooperation commission meeting, said Russia “considers such sanctions unwise. These are unfair practices, an attempt to push aside other suppliers, but these sanctions won’t hurt us, so, those who impose them should bear this in mind”, he said. Medvedev said Russia’s defence order total had “increased markedly” and now stood at more than 30 billion dollars (803.49 billion roubles. 23.083 billion euros. 18.774 billion UK pounds).

President Medvedev’s words were echoed in the US Congress. Russia’s still the world’s second-largest arms exporter, according to a report prepared by American experts for the Congress. In 2007, according to the report, Moscow sold arms worth 10.4 billion dollars (278.543 billion roubles. 8.005 billion euros. 6.515 billion UK pounds) and accounted for 17.4 percent of all weapons supplied in the world. A similar report published a year ago estimated Russia’s supplies at that time at 8.1 billion dollars (216.942 billion roubles. 6.236 billion euros. 5.078 billion UK pounds). The main buyers of Russian weapons are India and China. Of late, the report said, Russia’s set its sights on North Africa, the Middle East, and South East Asia. Not so long ago, for the first time since the Cold War, it tried to enter the Latin American market. Moscow now has a large client-base there, having concluded arms contracts with Venezuela. Due to their low price, Russian weapons will be in steady demand in developing countries for a long time to come. The US, however, is still the leader. In 2007, it concluded arms supply contracts worth 24.8 billion dollars (664.218 billion roubles. 19.095 billion euros. 15.551 billion UK pounds), or almost twice as much as the previous year, when US exports were estimated at 16.7 billion dollars (447.263 billion roubles. 12.857 billion euros. 10.465 billion UK pounds). America exports 41.5 percent of all legal arms.

American weapons manufacturers aren’t enthusiastic about competition with the Russian defence sector and are doing everything possible to prevent them from increasing supplies abroad. The sanctions won’t harm Rosoboronexport’s efforts, however. The main purpose of this demonstrative move, some analysts say, isn’t so much to complicate life for Russian exporters as to saddle a new administration with new irritants between the White House and the Kremlin, irritants that’ll be difficult for Mr Obama to remove. It’s like anti-personnel mines planted on the path toward better relations between Moscow and Washington. One such “mine” has overshadowed Russian-American relations for more than thirty years, the notorious Jackson-Vanick amendment. Few now remember that it was introduced by the US Congress to punish the Soviet leadership for preventing Jews from reuniting with their relatives in Israel or for trying to leave their “historical homeland”. The amendment forbade countries and companies cooperating with American firms to sell high-tech equipment and machine tools to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union’s no more. Jews and other ethnicities are free to travel anywhere, settle outside Russia, or return to it at will… but, Jackson-Vanick’s still there. Neither Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush was able to repeal it. Obama’s unlikely to do so either, although he’s promised to do just that.

Last summer, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her counterparts from Poland and the Czech Republic signed an agreement on deploying elements of an American strategic missile shield, ten interceptor missile silos at Wicko Morskie between the towns of Ustka and Darlowo on the Baltic coast in Poland and an X-radar in Brdy, not far from Prague. These moves are also casting a shadow on relations between Moscow and Washington, although the US insists that the missiles in Eastern Europe are targeted against rogue nations, amongst which it includes Iran. Russia’s nonetheless convinced that the missiles are intended to reduce the counter-force potential of Russia’s strategic forces in the European part of the country. One more legacy being left by George W Bush is concerned with the extension of START-1, a strategic arms reduction treaty, which expires in December 2009. For the eight years that the thirty-third US president was in office, his team never found time to sit down with their Russian counterparts to decide what to do with the treaty. Was it to be continued, or forgotten like yesterday’s dream? Moreover, although US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who will keep his post under the new president, said that a team of negotiators should be created in the remaining time to discuss START-1, no interest can be seen in the current administration. If and when a new team will do so is anybody’s guess, and in the meantime, control over offensive arms is being derailed. The Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT), signed by George W Bush and Vladimir Putin in 2002, is an example. No mechanism currently exists for its fulfilment and verification. A commission that was to have been established for this purpose isn’t in existence.

So, the new Obama administration will have its work cut out for it. Many mines are planted on the path to cooperation with Russia that must be defused, assuming, of course, that Obama shows an interest in defusing them. The departing team, aside from a declared wish to establish a strategic partnership with Moscow, has done practically nothing to promote cooperation; perhaps, it only created additional complications for the relief crew.

5 November 2008

Nikita Petrov

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20081105/118138612.html

Editor’s Note:

I’m not overly sanguine over US-Russian relations. Staunch neocons such as Strobe Talbott, Zbigniew Brzeziński, and Joseph Biden surround Obama. These people aren’t only stridently anti-Russian; they’re rabidly anti-Orthodox, especially Brzeziński. For the past 17 years, the USA has followed the interwar Polish fascist policy of Prometheanism (the division and fomenting of conflict with Russia… introduced by Brzeziński, who else?), to its detriment. It’s time to throw out the neocons, especially its fascist high-priest Brzeziński. There’ll be no sane policy towards Russia and the entire Orthodox world until we do so. If we don’t, we’ll be tossing matches into a pool of petrol. Don’t blame me if a fire ensues.

BMD

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