Voices from Russia

Thursday, 22 January 2009

The Fanfares Are Over, Mr Obama Gets Down To Work

barack-obama2

US President Barack Obama (1961- )

The inaugural fanfares are now over, so, Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, is getting down to work on the foreign policy issues expected to feature prominently during the first months of his presidency. Naturally, what worries Americans most is the worsening impact of the global crisis on their own well-being. But, they are not the only ones in trouble. The fact that the crisis has global proportions proves that everything in our world is interconnected. The same is true of international politics and how it influences the life of people across the globe. Few doubt the importance of Russian-American relations in international affairs. What are they going to be like under President Obama? Up to now, his statements about Russia were rather vague, although he did say that relations should improve.

The new US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was more specific. In a speech at the Congress following her nomination for the post, she dwelt at length on the prospects of Russian-US relations. A bit earlier, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did the same at a press conference in Moscow. To make it more descriptive, let’s compare the two countries’ positions on key points. Here are some “general remarks” first. In Mr Lavrov’s words, “Russia hopes that there will be a drastic improvement in US policy and that there will be honest cooperation”. Mrs Clinton said much the same thing, pointing up that the Obama Administration was ready for constructive cooperation, above all on strategic stability and security, but, would stand up for American values. Well, who is against that as long as these values aren’t imposed on others?

In the sphere of disarmament, Russia wants “more specific and constructive talks about a new regime to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction treaty, or START, which expires at the end of this year, whilst Washington intends to discuss further weapons cuts within the START framework. Speaking about current regional conflicts, Mr Lavrov said they should be handled through the joint efforts of Russia, the United States, and Europe, something Mrs Clinton didn’t deny. In regards to anti-missile defence, Moscow firmly opposed plans by the Bush Administration to deploy missile defence components in Europe. Mr Obama does not seem, however, to share Mr Bush’s enthusiasm on the issue. Moreover, one of his military advisers has made it clear that Russian interests would have to be taken into account. So far, the foreign policy approaches outlined by the Obama Administration give rise to cautious optimism. How long this optimism will last remains to be seen.

21 January 2009

andrei-ptashnikovAndrei Ptashnikov

Voice of Russia World Service

http://www.ruvr.ru/main.php?lng=eng&q=39155&cid=56&p=21.01.2009

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