After the Missile Shield: It's Time for Kremlin to Bring Itself to Reciprocate
Americans are distancing themselves from the messianic worldview instilled by
Bush Jr., concluding that this is a sheep not worth skinning. … We should answer
with reciprocity. Particularly if it can be done in a way
that will benefit ourselves. … It would be quite appropriate to at least
soften the anti-American rhetoric."
Russian President Medvedev has acknowledged recieving a letter from President Obama last March, but said there was no offer of a 'quid pro quo' on the U.S. missile shield and on how to deal with Iran's nuclear program.
If in the case of Washington giving up
its missile defense project in Europe we are truly dealing
with a "new pragmatism," then Russia should respond to America with
reciprocity - at least on the Iran issue. And it should also build its own
foreign policy on rational rather than emotional or ideological grounds.
rejection of plans to deploy elements of its defense missile system in Poland
and the Czech Republic is naturally regarded by Russia as a major foreign
policy victory. On one pro-Kremlin Web site, material on the topic is appropriately
titled: "The Evil Has Receded."
In accordance with this
logic, President Medvedev, who is headed for the G20 summit in Pittsburgh,
should don the white uniform of a generalissimo from the movie The Fall of Berlin - Stalin
being the generalissimo).
The victory, however, was won
not primarily over the American military, but over pro-American politicians in Eastern
Europe. The deputy head of the Polish National Security Bureau, Witold
Waszczykowski, in his interview with Reuters,
already stated that American decision indicates that Poland would be "de factolosing a strategic alliance with Washington." But, presumably, the
Obama Administration will find words of comfort and measures to compensate its
is tempting to explain Washington’s decision as a desire to make concessions to
the Kremlin on an issue that creates the greatest agitation in Russia, and
receive in return at least more consistent support on the Iranian question.
By the way, the Foreign Ministry
has already sent an appropriate signal, having expressed displeasure with the
lack of transparency in Tehran’s nuclear program. But it's unlikely that we're
dealing with a quid pro quo.
Rather, it's more
likely that Pavel Zolatarev, the deputy director of the Institute for
U.S. and Canada Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, is right to say
that the step taken by the Obama Administration is, "aimed at a sober assessment
of the situation and a reduction of spending on programs that were dictated
more by political factors than pragmatic ones." In other words, the Americans
are distancing themselves from the messianic worldview instilled by Bush Jr., concluding
that this is a sheep not worth skinning [the game isn't worth the candle]. And
if we are truly dealing with a "new pragmatism," it's worthwhile not to
necessarily follow the example of a power that holds a place in the world radically
different from our own - but to answer with reciprocity. Particularly
if it can be done in a way that will benefit ourselves.
It would be quite appropriate
to at least soften the anti-American rhetoric (for the authorities to abandon
it altogether now, after years of brainwashing, is probably too much to expect
from government officials). We can politely support Western pressure on Iran,
which, setting aside abstract theories of a "clash of civilizations,"
presents a real headache along Russia's Southern borders. We can think over
whether this kind of pressure might help maintain the CIS "sphere of influence,"
within which satellite states continue to backstab and hoodwink the Kremlin;
Tajikistan, which regularly demands more money for the lease of military bases;
Kyrgyzstan, which manages to maintain a U.S. military presence and acquire additional
capital from us, and so on.
It wouldn’t be half bad,
having been inspired by fresh thinking about the dangers of messianism
and considering purse and reputation, to seize the moment and show a little more
The question, of
course, doesn’t rest on whether such a turn will inject confusion into the
orderly study of sovereign democracy by the Kremlin, which protects our national
identity from surrounding villains. But our government has at its disposal many
well-paid professionals responsible for getting the base to conform to the
party line. It’s possible with some effort to accomplish this.