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America is Neither Friend Nor Foe (Gazeta, Russia)


“Although Obama hasn’t change America’s course, he understands better than most U.S. politicians how the world has changed and how much more flexibility and sensitivity is now required of America if it want to maintain its leadership position. … When it comes to complex, multilayered relations between countries that were recently mortal enemies, one cannot expect cloudless skies.”


By Fyodor Lukyanov*



Translated By Anastassia Tapsieva


June 14, 2012


Gazeta - Russia - Original Article (Russian)

The latest Pew poll of global public attitudes toward the United States reflects a marked dissappointment in President Obama.


RUSSIA TODAY VIDEO: Is America the 'exceptional empire'? June 18, 00:24:06RealVideo

Sociological service, the Pew Research Center, has published the results of a new global survey of public attitudes on American politics. Among the most notable results is a marked decline in approval for Barack Obama's foreign policy. Compared with 2009, the number of those who approve of his foreign policy in China has dropped 30 percent, Japan and Muslim countries by 19 percent and in Europe by 15 percent. In Russia, the decline was 18 percent.


In general, the causes of this decline are clear. It would have been impossible for anyone to live up to the level of expectation associated with Barack Obama's election victory. Especially as the first Black president of the United States was so generous with his promises, pledging to forge a new strategy for American leadership. As it turned out, little of this was achieved, as Obama had to spend most of his time responding to chaotic change in different parts of the world rather than working toward achieving his stated goals.


Russia’s drop of confidence in Obama is more surprising than in other countries, because Russians were less affected by Obama-mania in 2008 than was the rest of humanity.


More than anywhere else, the prevalent conviction among Russians has been that the name and personality of the president matter little: the U.S. maintains an attitude (hostile to Russia, naturally) which does not change. That sentiment should have prevented any disappointment, particularly in light of the catastrophic legacy left by Bush. Any successor of his was doomed to attempt to remedy the situation, because in the fall of 2008, the circumstances that had evolved were the most dire since the early Reagan years.


But there is another factor at play. Most Russians simply didn’t believe that Americans would elect a non-White president. The notion of an inescapable American racism had been absorbed by our society, not so much through Soviet propaganda as through Uncle Tom's Cabin, which was required reading for many generations of children. And when, to everyone's surprise, it was found that the race factor didn’t play a decisive role after all, it was tempting to believe that this very unusual president would implement very different policies. But that doesn't happen in established political systems, and in the absence of revolution, many were disappointed.


Looking at things realistically and not expecting the impossible, Russia has no reason to feel disappointed in Obama. He remains the most comfortable conversation partner for Moscow - and not just because of the "reset" (accomplished successfully, as this is an agenda that was achieved a year and a half ago).


Although Obama hasn’t change America’s course, he understands better than most U.S. politicians how the world has changed and how much more flexibility and sensitivity (qualities not common in Washington) are now required of the United States if it wants to maintain its leadership role. Pressure and attempts to consolidate dominance are increasingly producing the opposite. His opponents regard Obama's attempts to rely more on agreements and cooperation as a sign of weakness, a betrayal of American interests and a blow to American prestige.



U.S.-Russia relations today are clearly strained, and it seems that the results of the reset have all but evaporated. There have been a series of jabs in just the last few days. The "exchange of pleasantries" between Hillary Clinton and Sergei Lavrov on Syria is a case in point: the secretary of state declared that that she had information on the impending delivery of Russian combat helicopters to the Assad regime, while the foreign minister accused the U.S. of supplying arms to the rebels. A group of senators demanded that the Pentagon sever commercial ties with Rosoboronexport and not purchase helicopters and other equipment from the company for the Afghan military and police, a deal that had been agreed to over two years ago. The reason: the Russian company is allegedly aiding Iran in its missile program. The Congress is expected to pass new legislation on trade with Russia: the legendary Jackson-Vanik amendment is no more, giving way to a new instrument allowing the imposition of sanctions against those implicated in the Magnitsky case and similar crimes. Add to that, the criticism of Russia for its laws on public rallies and raids on the opposition, the stalemate on missile defense, the demonstrative absence of Vladimir Putin from the Camp David Summit in response to Obama's refusal to come to Vladivostok this fall, and what has become the familiar escapades of U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul. All of this paints a grim picture. Are things really that bad? The sky may not be sunny, but it is too early to declare the relationship dead.

Posted by Worldmeets.US


First, let us not forget that America is in the midst of an election campaign. Russia, of course, is not at its epicenter, but even being on the sidelines is enough. We survived a similar [campaign] period in Russia six months ago, which was rife with unpleasant rhetoric toward the U.S.


Second, it is important to distinguish hard line negotiation from elements of a propaganda war that are meant to lead one’s opponent toward compromise. So disagreements over Syria and Iran are of fundamental importance right now, since in both cases, the chips are on the table.


In Syria, Annan's plan is on the verge of total collapse, and what will follow is a fork in the road: either all parties will cooperate to ensure regime change with foreign participation and oversight, or there will be an increase in the pumping up of the Syrian opposition with money and weapons to improve its chances of winning the civil war. In both scenarios, accusations against Russia are always handy. Remind everyone that Moscow's interest in Syria is money – and nothing else. At the same time, throw in arguments in favor of equipping the opposition: if Russia is arming Damascus, the free world must ensure balance.


In the Iranian plot, what could be the deciding round of negotiations in Moscow on the future Tehran’s nuclear program is looming. The previous meeting in Baghdad was next to fruitless, but moderates have high hopes for the next round. Again, a psychological attack to raise the stakes does no harm. Of course in both cases, the context of negotiations is far from amicable, although neither is it extraordinarily hostile. This is nothing personal. It is just the normal game of diplomacy played by great unallied powers exerting themselves to achieve a desired result.



Kommersant, Russia: Iran Twice Threatens to Walk Out of ‘Complicated’ Talks
Kommersant, Russia: U.S. Magnitsky Act Likely to Trigger 'Harsh Backlash'
MK, Russia: Obama's ‘Hope’ Keeps Putin from ‘Window on Paradise’
Ma’ariv, Israel: Russia’s ‘Sadomasochistic’ Foreign Policy Success
Ma'ariv, Israel: Why Syria is Lebanon All Over Again
Debka, Israel: Russia, China, Iran Plan 'Biggest-Ever' Middle East Maneuvers
Debka, Israel: U.S. and Russia Deploy to Syria; 'Double Prey' for al-Qaeda
NZZ, Switzerland: Houla Massacre is No ‘Turning Point’ for Syria
An Nahar, Lebanon: Syria is Another Iraq, with Israel Thrown In
FARS News Agency, Iran: U.S. and Allies ‘Revive’ al-Qaeda for Use in Syria
NZZ, Switzerland: Houla Massacre is No ‘Turning Point’ for Syria
Al-Baath, Syria: America and the ‘Global War Against Syria’
Global Times, China: U.S., West ‘Morally Accountable’ for Syria Massacre
Daily Star, Lebanon: Daylight Massacre in Syria
Telegraph, U.K.: The Real Dilemma on Syria: Can the West Go it Alone?
BBC, U.K.: Scars of Iraq War Haunt American Policy in Syria
Global Times, China: Syria Crisis China's Moment to Show it Can't Be Hemmed In
Global Times, China: Beijing Shows 'Courage' By Vetoing Syria Resolution at U.N.
Guardian, U.K.: Before Syria Crisis Expands, Obama and NATO Should Act
The Independent, U.K. : West will Soon Forget Horror Over Childrens' Slaughter
Daily Mail, U.K.: Yes, Syria is Tragic, British Intervention Would be Madness
The Daily Star, Lebanon: Daylight Massacre in Syria
The Daily Star, Lebanon: Tide Turning Against the Syria Regime
Le Quotidien d’Oran, Algeria: The 'Brutality of the World', According to Putin
Moskovskiye Novosti, Russia: 'Russia's in a Changing World,' By Vladimir Putin
Al-Seyassah, Kuwait: Russia 'Bloodthirsty', China 'Misguided', for Syria Veto
Kochi Shimbun, Japan: In Syria, the U.N. Security Council Fails the World
Hoy, Ecuador: 'Cynical Imperialists' of East and West Clash Over Syria
Estadao, Brazil: Moscow Rescues Assad: Not a 'Travesty,' a 'Humiliation'
People's Daily, China: Give 'Peace a Chance' in Syria
Mehr News Agency, Iran: Supreme Leader Says U.S. Takes Revenge on Syria
Jerusalem Post, Israel: Obama's 'Rhetorical Storm'
Debka File, Israel: First Foreign Troops in Syria Back the Rebels
Zaman, Turkey: U.S. May Be Hiding Behind Russia's U.N. Veto


Third, one shouldn't ignore the way some members of the U.S. executive branch, operating under less than favorable conditions, are trying to reduce the impact of political impulses. The State Department and White House, while siding with the pathos of Republican supporters of the “Magnitsky List,” have tried hard to limit its negative effects. As a preventative measure, the State Department drew up its own list (not made public and rumored to be short) in an effort to prevent the Magnitsky tragedy from being used by Congress as a pretext for adding anyone it sees fit to the "banned" list. The trick of bundling the list with the repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment not only eliminates an absurd act from 1974, but it introduces visa restrictions based on an isolated case into a relatively routine legislative framework. In any case, Russia's reaction will be quite negative, but of all the ways the list could be implemented, this is the least traumatic.


Finally, the Pentagon, to which appeals are being made in regard to Syria and Iran, is in no hurry to meet demands to punish Russia, and has officially distanced itself from the charges Clinton alleged. It is more important for the Defense Department to maintain stable relations with Russia on Afghanistan (for equipment, cargo, transit routes, etc.) than to become mired in political gamesmanship.


When it comes to complex, multilayered relations between countries that were recently mortal enemies, one cannot expect cloudless skies. The question is whether there is a conscious inclination toward conflict, or if tensions are simply a consequence of objective and structural factors. There is no atmosphere of inevitable conflict in Russian-American relations today, at least in the upper echelons of power. This doesn't guarantee that new crises won’t arise, but at least it offers hope that they will be resolved.


*Fyodor Lukyanov is Chief Editor for Russia in Global Affairs




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[Posted by Worldmeets.US June 22, 6:49pm]


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