“In Russian-American relations, perhaps, a pause should be made”

“In Russian-American relations, perhaps, a pause should be made”One gets the impression that the Russian-American reset has approached a certain “natural” frontier. The fact is that it was proclaimed as a transition to a new quality of Russian-American relations, which in particular implied the refusal of the American side from actions that are directed against the interests of Russia. In our turn, we assumed more active US support in areas that are strategically important for the Obama administration. Namely, in the Iraq issue, as well as in regard to the transit of American military cargoes through Russian territory to the Afghan war area.

The reboot was intended to influence the Russian political system.

However, in reality, the reboot in the USA was considered (and this is still happening) as a way of influencing the evolution of the Russian political system. This was first stated by US Vice President Biden in an interview with the WallStreet Journal, published in the July 16 issue of 2009. The point is that, under the influence of a reboot and certain benefits that the US promises Russia, there must be a change in the Russian political system. And in a more favorable direction for the United States. In personal terms, this should have been expressed in the departure of Vladimir Putin from the first roles in Russian politics and in the approval of Dmitry Medvedev as not only nominally, but really the leading policy of the Russian Federation, with subsequent election for a second term.

The fact that the logic of the reboot was exactly that was what the Barack Obama administration itself made clear. Let me remind you that the newly elected US President before his arrival in Russia in July 2009, said that President Medvedev is a modern politician who understands the realities of today very well and with whom Obama has a wonderful mutual understanding. While Vladimir Putin has one foot in the past, that is, in times of the “cold war”. At that time, Medvedev’s preference for the American administration and the United States as a whole was clearly indicated. The reset, the wording of which was actively involved in the newly appointed Obama's new US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul (before that, he served as senior adviser to President Obama in Russia), and was supposed to provide such an evolution. Practically nothing was said about this in the Russian press.

However, Michael McFaul was from the very beginning Putin’s consistent opponent. He constantly compared Putin’s rule with Yeltsin’s rule. At the same time, he made quite paradoxical statements, such as the flourishing of the Russian economy under Yeltsin, whereas during Putin’s rule, it fell. There were other judgments that were little true. I wrote about this article in the American magazine NationalInterest, which was highly appreciated by influential American political scientists and political figures. From the very beginning, the concept of reset meant that this process would lead to a change in the nature of political governance in Russia and a change in the main political figures. The problem, however, is that this evolution does not occur.

The exchange offered by the Americans cannot take place

As Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview with the FinancialTimes newspaper, he and Vladimir Putin represent one political force. The president made it clear that the differences between them, of course, exist. In particular, he believes that in Russia it is necessary to carry out accelerated modernization (a breakthrough, as he put it), while Vladimir Putin is in favor of a quieter option. Nevertheless, Medvedev made it clear that the differences are private, and in general, both participants in the tandem are on the same political platform. And that is why Medvedev will not be Putin’s rival in the elections, and he will not become Medvedev’s rival. That is, together they will not go to the presidential elections in any way.

This actually means that Medvedev postulates the maintenance of the current political system in Russia. And this in turn means that the exchange offered by the Americans (namely, that they will help Russian modernization in exchange for "democratization" of Russia) cannot take place. Because the political system that has established itself in our country is supported by both Putin and Medvedev. That is, the latter in this respect is not an alternative, whatever hopes the American side would place on it.

This became especially clear after the Russian and US authorities, who had previously demonstrated a sufficiently high degree of agreement on a number of international issues, eventually faced problems that I think could prove insurmountable. Namely, this is the war in Libya. The US insists on the right of NATO to conduct military operations on the territory of this country. At the same time, Moscow (including through the mouth of President Medvedev) constantly emphasizes that the UN resolution to which the NATO countries refer was in fact simply trampled by the West and that it does not give such a right. The second stumbling block is Syria. The United States, France and the United Kingdom want to adopt a resolution in the Security Council to punish Bashar Assad in some way and take measures that will help to overthrow his power in Syria. Whereas Russia flatly refuses to support such a resolution.

We have a situation reminiscent of the practice of the Cold War.

And the third point, which is in the plane of bilateral relations, is the so-called. “Magnitsky amendment”, to which Russia has decided to respond with its own bill, which is currently in the State Duma. That is, in response to the intentions of the American side to legally approve the right of the United States to create a certain black list of Russian officials who may be denied entry to the United States and whose accounts in the United States (if such persons exist) can be frozen, Russia intends to create its own black list of US persons whose actions have damaged the interests of Russian citizens.

Here we have a situation reminiscent of the practice of the Cold War, when a certain unfriendly action of one side, the other responded with about the same action. I interpret this in such a way that the US administration and the political class of the United States as a whole, failing to deploy the reset in the direction it was designed for (that is, to make it a tool for influencing the internal political development of the Russian Federation) began to respond in a quite characteristic way for the United States. If in the first two years human rights issues (even the Khodorkovsky problem) were relegated to the second or third plan and the White House diligently showed us that he does not intend to give lectures to the Russian authorities on sensitive and delicate problems, now there is a situation when Washington practically can not avoid it. Because the Congress, where the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, with the support of a large part of the Democrats, put the issue of human rights to the fore in Russian-American relations, took the initiative

It is worth returning to the reboot topic after elections in Russia and the USA

And those bills that are now being considered in the United States are personalized. If the principle of blacklisting is adopted, then any Russian official who is deemed to be corrupt, or by his actions detrimental to the American understanding of human rights, can get into it. In such a situation, the Russian government becomes extremely vulnerable. Currently there are no major Russian political figures on this list, but this does not mean that they cannot appear there.

The legislation that personifies sanctions against Russia, in my opinion, is an extremely sensitive blow that US lawmakers are trying to inflict on Moscow. This can cause very serious reboot damage. Because the Russian side is likely to respond by adopting its own bill. As a result, we will receive two personalized bills at once. Moreover, the United States and Russia enter the pre-election year, when the controversy usually increases, and rhetoric comes to the fore because candidates in both countries will try to please their voters. In the US, there are still quite strong anti-Russian sentiments. And in Russia, quite pronounced critical sentiments towards the United States are still common.

Thus, we get a general political background that is extremely unfavorable for a reboot. Moreover, the exchange of modernization for "democratization" did not happen. Including because the USA offered us nothing in terms of modernization. The fact that Cisko intends to invest 1 billion dollars in Skolkovo over 10 years cannot be considered as a serious contribution to our modernization. Rather, it is just a gesture of courtesy, which was appreciated on our part, but nothing followed it. That is why I believe that now in Russian-American relations, perhaps, it is necessary to pause, not trying to force their further development in the conditions of unfavorable political and pre-election conjuncture. To return to the topic of reboot after the election. When will the situation be clearer in both Russia and the United States.
Alexey Pushkov
Ctrl Enter

Noticed a mistake Highlight text and press. Ctrl + Enter

Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must to register.

I have an account? Sign in