`American leaders fail to understand central role of Russia in the world` - expert

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`American leaders fail to understand central role of Russia in the world` - expert
Published 10-08-2013, 07:37

Rob Sachs

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I wanted to ask you specifically about President Obama’s questions or answers in regards to relations with Russia. He said we’ve seen more anti-American rhetoric with Vladimir Putin back in the helm of the presidency. Would you agree that is more of a Cold War back and forth going now?

I think there is too much associativity and overreaction going on both sides. And both sides are being led by unwise legislation coming not from the top levels in the White House or the Kremlin, but coming from both parliaments. I refer, first of all, of course to the Magnitsky Bill, which, I believe, President Obama should have vetoed. It’s a ridiculous bill, it should never have gotten out of Conference in Congress. It’s childish. It caused untold damage to US-Russian relations and, of course, Russia then responded with its own new legislation cracking down on non-governmental organizations registration acts and we see on both sides far too much overreaction.

As for the Cold War, the sectors fled both the US and the Soviet Union and they fled Soviet Union to the US, and never on a single occasion was this taken by either Moscow or Washington, by any success of US or Soviet leader, as a justification for cancelling any scheduled bilateral summit meeting. President Obama shouldn’t have done this. I personally see the influence of National Security Adviser Susan Rice on this, I think it’s very unwise. I don’t think Secretary of State John Kerry with all of his vast experience and prudence would have recommended this course of action.

Well, in terms of not attending this summit, he said that there are a lot of issues that Russia is simply not moving on, they have to assess where the relationship is in terms of advancing US interests and where they can move forward. But right now they say they need a little bit of a breather. Is it a good idea to maybe take a pause and, as President Obama said, maybe recalibrate and see where things can be done jointly rather than keep buffing heads publically?

No, I don’t think so. I think that’s an example of neopolemist shallow thinking we see in Washington today. If one looks back at the Cold War, especially after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev and US Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, even Jimmy Carter, all were prepared to meet with the Soviet leader Brezhnev, even when they were buffing heads on the far more fundamental scale around the world then anything we see between Russia and the US today. Russia, for example, still cooperates with the US in keeping the North-South Transport Corridor open for US Air Force planes to fly to Afghanistan to supply US and allied forces there. This concession would be inconceivable for any Soviet leader to offer during the entire Cold War.

There is a whole issue of Islamist terrorism around the world, which is an issue of the greatest concern to both President Putin and President Obama and this is an area where it should be far more cooperation and there is the potential for cooperation. So all this talk about recalibration is as mindless as the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton getting a big red plastic button marked "reset” and giving to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. The button wasn’t even made in the US, it was made in China, which is symbolic in itself. And secondly even more symbolic, the button was jammed, and didn’t even work even as a toy. This is empty rhetoric from Washington. The US and Russia are the two dominant nuclear players on the planet and they have been for so much before. American leaders fail to understand the central role of Russia in the world and the crucial importance of US-Russian relations and Russian leaders repeatedly interpret what is ignorance and irresponsibility by the US as evidence of a fundamental hostility, which actually it is not. So both countries see each other entirely the wrong way.

As for Obama and his address on the issue of anti-gay legislation in Russia. He said that he is not going to boycott the Olympics, that’s not appropriate, but he has spoken out not just to Russia but other countries and he seemed to be saying that he wants to see some gay and lesbian athletes to bring medals home and if Russia doesn’t have gay or lesbian athletes that would probably make their teams weaker. What do you make about that? Speaking about this social issue, which is a big difference between Russia and the US?

Here again I think, there is a fundamental problem in America: the world as a great American historian Samuel Huntington says is a multipolar place, there are many different civilization. It is a catastrophic mistake for the US to try and impose our values and values that we cherish and we quite correctly try to honor, however, imperfectly within our own country, to impose this on the international scale. Here we see Obama at his best, a president who is cool, usually cool, usually calm, usually maintains his emotional balance, tries to avoid getting caught in emotional issues, which is entirely correct. And he is correct not to make this issue an attempt of justification of a wider boycott of the Sochi Olympics. Every country is to make its own choice on the matter. I don’t think boycotting Sochi is wise or advisable for any country. This is not comparable with the issue of boycotting the Nazi Germany in 1936, not remotely. It is more likely of a political test for Russia and the West.

There are differences in legislation and values in both countries we need to recognize this. It’s catastrophic from the US and the EU to mindlessly impose its views and values.

 

Voice of Russia

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