06/24/2009 - 4:17pm
How to Deal with Moscow: Panel on Obama’s Upcoming Visit to Russia
Posted by Komal Hiranandani
The Hudson Institute hosted a panel on June 24th to discuss the stakes of Obama's planned visit to Russia in July. The panelists- David Kramer, David Satter, and Andrei Piontkovsky- warned of a different Russian culture that did not place human rights in the same light as the U.S did. In a perverse way, Russia seems to need to maintain enmity with the U.S. in order to justify the state's iron grip and suppressive policies. This is unfortunate, as the U.S. and Russia have coinciding strategic interests, including preventing Islamic extremism, promoting nuclear non-proliferation, and balancing China's growing power.
So, when Obama travels to Russia, the first aim should be to foster respectful dialogue between the countries. Even now, Russian leaders denounce the U.S. as an enemy on prime time television, accusing the U.S. of sponsoring terrorism in the Caucasus. Given the aggressive steps taken by Russia in the past, it is also important to pose a firm and deterring stance before them. The panelists commended Obama for signaling a rejection of a "Russia first" policy, by including Ukraine and Georgia on his list of visits. The Russian visit assumes added significance, as talks have already begun to renew the START treaty. With nuclear non-proliferation high on the agenda, artfully dealing with Russia is a challenge and necessity.
Striking the appropriate balance by promoting dialogue without showing any sign of weakness is going to be a difficult job for Obama. His predecessor did not set an ideal example- Bush may have gone overboard after meeting Putin in 2001 when he said, "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very... trustworthy... I was able to get a sense of his soul." Such lofty ideas about Russia have not paid off in the past.
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