[Cyberpresse, Canada]



Vedomosti, Russia

Kremlin Must Take 'Full Advantage' of Obama's Presence


"This requires a deliberate policy on the part of Russian authorities to fight anti-American sentiment within national public opinion, political culture, media and the expert-elite community."


By Nikolai Zlobin


Translated By Alexander Sviridovsky


January 2, 2010


Russia - Vedomosti - Original Article (Russian)

The anniversary of Barack Obama's presidency has become a significant event in international life. All over the world, people discuss the results of his first year as the head of the most powerful country, his loss of support of almost a third of Americans, and the question of whether President Hope hasn't turned into President Disappointment. Indeed, Obama's job is now extremely difficult, his political capital rapidly dissipating, pressure from a Republican Party that is quickly reasserting itself is growing, and the number of problems facing him is not diminishing.


But one shouldnt be too pessimistic in assessing the American president's current situation. First, as a rule, world leaders usually experience a period of significant decline in the level of public support at the onset of their second year in power. One can even recall Vladimir Putin's ratings at the time, when he transitioned from the great expectations of the presidential campaign to the disappointing reality. Secondly, support for Obama isn't insignificant, especially considering that America is fighting two wars on foreign soil, going through a formidable economic crisis and undertaking a number of systematic and painful reforms.


The victory of Republican candidate Scott Brown in the Massachusetts election (to replace the late Edward Kennedy) deprived the Democratic Party of a qualified majority of 60 votes in the Senate, and dealt a severe blow to the positions of the president's party in Congress, weakening his prospects for enacting his policies. However, this is a restoration of normalcy for the balance of powering the American political system, which doesn't favor any political party and drives them to seek compromise. This is its healthiest and most efficient condition. For Obama, the most important problem is now the search for his new spot on the U.S. political spectrum, since the anti-Bush sentiment that assured his victory a year ago is no longer synonymous with a mandate for unchecked liberalism. His presidential potential within the country will now depend on how successfully he resolves the problem of bringing along his political base.


In foreign policy, society's main issue of concern continues to be security. Obama, as everyone recalls, promised to maintain the security achieved under his predecessor but use fundamentally different methods. His reaction to the terrorist attacks that greatly marred the end of his first year in office showed that so far, he has been unable to do so.



In the field of security and foreign policy generally, Obama, in my opinion, is too often reminiscent of George Bush. From now on, the strength of his political capital in the global arena will depend on his cooperation with the international community and whether he can abandon Bush's methods while providing America with a high degree of security.


Although Russia is not among the priority countries for the United States, Obama treats it more than favorably. He has been able to significantly restructure U.S. policy toward Moscow, from his refusal of an anti-missile defense system that drew protests from Russia and ending the policy of inducting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, to a sharp decrease in criticism on issues of the Kremlin's domestic policies and human rights. However, it seems to me that for Moscow to expect Washington to develop a completely new agenda for bilateral relations would be naive and politically wrong. This is a two-way process.



Moscow itself should take full advantage of the American leader's desire to reboot relations between the two countries. Russia undoubtedly needs good, stable and full relations with the United States, based on the maximum equality possible in this situation. Moscow needs this much more than Washington does. Obama's presence in the White House has created political conditions that Moscow must take advantage of, primarily to once and for all, institutionalize relations with the U.S. and end their fragmentary and tattered format, which has consisted of endless ad-libs and improvisations.



Second, Moscow can offer Obama its own version of a bilateral, regional (the post-Soviet space) and global agenda for discussion; third, it can do everything possible to create a meaningful economic relationship between the two countries, which today doesn't factor into U.S. policy at all. Fourth, it can create an influential Russian platform in Washington to enter the real - and not the imagined - U.S. political and media space and become an active element in current U.S. policy and lobbying activities; and fifth, to bring Russian and American civil society closer, so that each country begins to see the formation of social groups interested in developing bilateral relations on a regular but non-governmental basis, etc.


All of this requires a deliberate policy on the part of Russian authorities to fight anti-American sentiment within national public opinion, political culture, media and the expert-elite community. It's important for Moscow to take a stand on defending its own national strategic interests in its dialogue with Washington, while understanding that the latter, as always, will steadfastly defend U.S. national interests. Balance by the two countries in defending their real interests will not make them enemies, but rather partners and competitors, which will enhance the role and influence of Russia in the world, including in the space of the former Soviet Union.



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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US February 2, 8:25pm]



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