US-Russia ties: Number one is always security

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US-Russia ties: Number one is always security
Published 17-01-2013, 14:54

Dmitry Babich and Edward Lozansky

Dmitry Babich is a political analyst with the Voice of Russia radio station. Edward Lozansky is a President of the American University in Moscow.

Edward Lozansky, President of the American University in Moscow, Professor of World Politics at the Moscow State University, gives a global overview of US-Russia relationship and outlook for them during Obama's second term in office.

The new President Obama, Obama 2.0, as we have often heard from our friends in the United states, is he capable of changing the relationship between Russia and the United States? Can we acheive some kind of a "new thaw", with Myanmar, a thaw was possible, why is this not possible with Russia? 

I do not think that Obama is capable of dramatically changing the current situation. He can maybe achieve some tactical results but not on a big issue which right now, as I see it, is missile defense (ABM). This is a number one issue because other things can be negotiated. I am pretty sure that even the recent splash in the media about Magnitsky and anti-Magnitsky laws are not dramatic to the extent that they can ruin the relationship between two countries. Number one issue is always security.

Do you think that Obama will be able to make this program operational, and do you believe that it is possible to ensure the security of the United States by purely technical means? That's what we hear from the military industrial complex. No dialogue with Russia, minimal dialogue with the new Arab regimes, confrontation with China, just - thanks to technology we will become again "America on the hill", a "blessed city on the hill" protected from all. 

Talking about ABM probably it is possible to shoot down a few missiles but not from the overwhelming sources like Russia or even China. China doesn’t have too many missiles yet but it is building fast and very soon China will have the same potential if not larger. So, I see it mostly like a military industrial complex lobbying effort plus a good PR machine to convince American people that ABM is capable of protecting Americans from the rogue states. But from real technological and military points of view, I don’t think that this system, at least presently, can reliably defend the United States from incoming missiles.

Why do you think Obama miscalculated so badly the situation in the Middle East?

George Bush sincerely believed that his march of democracy is the best way to serve American interests. I attended some of the meetings when George Bush spoke and many times repeated the line that his push to promote democracy even with the military support is justified because the democratic states do not start wars. Of course it sounded pretty funny after America, certainly a democratic country, has invaded Iraq. I think that in Obama’s case it is a little different. It is no longer a march of freedom and democracy since he understands that this policy has failed. We know that Bush lost two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, all color revolutions on post-Soviet space have also failed. However, the so-called "Arab Spring” started on Obama’s term and the results are not very encouraging as well. In Libya we see that some jihadists are now fighting in Mali but some doing the same in Syria or stayed in Libya to continue their terror activities. So, it looks more and more that Obama, realizing that the West can’t win over the Islamic terror movement in the Middle East is trying to help the Syrian rebels in the desperate attempt to "ride the tiger” that the America has helped unleash back in the times of Soviet invasion into Afghanistan.

Why are there so many mistakes of judgement? Is it a problem of just one person, maybe President Obama, or is it a problem of the American establishment in general?

There are two schools of political thought in America towards Russia. One believes that with all its problems in democratic development when we talk about meeting the security threats of the 21st century Russia should be treated as our ally. The second school which, unfortunately, at the moment is more powerful, thinks that Russia although not the outright enemy, is a strong geopolitical competitor, and you don’t want your competitor to be strong. As I said, this second school is winning so far and the State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton was one of the most outspoken advocates of this second school. There is some little hope that those two guys John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, who most likely will head the State Department and Pentagon respectively, will exhibit more realistic strategic thinking. I am inclined to believe that Obama definitely does not view Russia as an enemy or geopolitical threat and is ready for some compromise on ABM and other issues. Congress and anti-Russian lobby in Washington will do everything possible to prevent Obama from deal making with Putin but with Kerry and Hagel at his side this Obama has a better chance.

Voice of Russia
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