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Obama vs. Putin: How will their inevitable first meeting go?

 

 

Le Monde, France

Putin Had Best Not Underestimate Obama

 

"Russia has once again sought a rivalry that would give it the feeling of being a great power. Mr. Putin shouldn't be under any illusions about an American president who is considered inexperienced in foreign affairs. In 1961, Nikita Khrushchev sought to impress John Kennedy by telling him: 'What's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable.' The following year, the young president fended off the USSR in Cuba."

 

By Daniel Vernet

 

Translated By Kate Davis

 

December 9, 2008

 

France - Le Monde - Original Article (France)

Nikita Khrushchev, secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1961: His effort to intimidate John Kennedy failed - but the exercise resulted in the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the above photo, Khrushchev is rapping his shoe at the podium, accusing the Philippine ambassador to the U.N. of being 'a jerk, a stooge and a lackey of imperialism.'

 

BBC NEWS VIDEO: British news report on the 1961 Cuban Missile Crisis - and the role Britain played, Sept. 25, 2008, 00:04:46. RealVideo

Barack Obama is right. "I think that it's going to be important for us to reset U.S.-Russian relations," he said during an interview on Sunday, December 7, on NBC . These relations are now in a state of ruin. Even though the channels of communication haven't been cut, specialists are remarking that the areas subject to negotiation are less broad and contact less intense between the governments than they were during the Cold War.

 

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, everything seemed to be going well. With his pranks that weren't always in the best taste, Boris Yeltsin had a gift for being able to make Bill Clinton laugh. More seriously, the United States and the new Russia succeeded in creating bonds and putting in place common institutions - such as the commission co-chaired by Vice President Al Gore and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin - despite disagreements that would culminate with the war in Kosovo but that, in spite of everything, led to the creation of the NATO-Russia Council .

 

Between George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin, too, the initial contacts were good. During their first meeting in Ljubljana, in the spring of 2001 in Slovenia, the American president marveled that by looking deeply into Putin's eyes, he saw "the soul" of his Russian colleague. The attacks of September 11 of that year brought the two men together in a common fight against international terrorism.

 

For the degradation that followed, both parties share responsibility. Based on changes in the world after the fall of the Berlin Wall, American neoconservatives have challenged agreements dating from the Cold War that they had always disagreed with, notably the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty . The installation of elements of an anti-missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic is one example of this policy. The expansion of NATO to former Soviet republics is another bone of contention.

 

Russia has used this as a pretext to try and recreate a sphere of influence around it, a policy initiated by the "color revolutions" in Georgia and Ukraine. After being a partner to the West in the early days of post-communism, Russia has once again sought a rivalry that would give it the feeling of being a great power.

Posted by WORLDMEETS.US

 

Neither the euphoria of the 1990s nor a return to the Cold War: between these two extremes, Mr. Obama will determine his Russia policy. For the moment, he has stuck to generalities. He wants to cooperate with the Kremlin "when possible" (against nuclear proliferation and terrorism) and warn it against intimidating its neighbors. That's good but it isn't conclusive. Can he make gestures to show his willingness to resume a dialogue? In Democratic circles, some suggest that it would be good to slow the expansion of NATO, if only to avoid finding themselves in conflict for adhering to solidarity with people like the Georgian president [Mikheil Saakashvili ]. The same people add that the anti-missile defense system in Europe could be "revisited."

 

Mr. Putin shouldn't, however, be under any illusions about an American president who is considered inexperienced in foreign affairs. In 1961, Nikita Khrushchev sought to impress John Kennedy by telling him during their first meeting in Vienna in 1961: "What's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable." The following year, the young president fended of the USSR in Cuba [The Cuban Missile Crisis].

 

Email: chroniqueinter@lemonde.fr

 

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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US December 14, 12:55pm]