According to a poll done by the National Public Opinion Research Center, on the eve of the presidential summit in Moscow most respondents (39%) expected the summits would have no substantial results at all. Slightly fewer respondents, 36%, hoped that the summit would be useful for Russia. Eight percent of respondents were convinced of this. And 17% of respondents were unsure. According to the Vek weekly, which published the results of the poll, the opinions of analysts showed very similar divisions.
Before the summit, Profil magazine decided to find out what regional leaders thought about Russia-US relations. The topic turned out to be very sensitive. Answering the question, “What would you talk to President George Bush about?” President of the Bashkortostan Republic Murtaza Rakhimov said, “At such a meeting I think I would say: Mr. President, do not try to rule the whole world and stop considering the whole planet as a zone of US interests. That will lead to no good, neither for the US nor for humanity as a whole.” Chelyabinsk Governor Petr Sumin responded, “How should this be understood? Since September 11, Russia has supported the United Stated in fighting international terrorism, both morally and politically. You should appreciate it. However, as soon as we have a problem and the US might support us, it turns out that Russia ‘does not have a market economy’ and should be ‘running errands’ for the US.” Governor of the Ulyanovsk region Vladimir Shamanov said, “Half-measures are not enough to stop terrorism…. It is a great mistake to underestimate the role and position of Russia in these terms. Moreover, it is becoming dangerous for both the US and its European allies…. Russia is full with Gorbachev’s and Yeltsin’s friendship with American and European leaders. That only deteriorated the situation. We live in a world of mutual compromises but not of unlimited concessions.”
The opinion of Nizhny Novgorod Governor Gennady Khodyrev is, “I would start with the most important, to my mind, issue: what is to be with dollar? Is it to remain same stable or to fall? I would also talk about the anti-missile defense. Can we trust the Americans? Their unilateral withdrawal from the treaty says a lot….” Finally, Krasnodar region Governor Alexander Tkachev said, “I would suggest that dear US President George Bush started buying Kuban chicken legs for the Americans. In fact, they are tastier and better than “Bush’s legs”.
At the next Profil’s page Director of the Russian and Asian programs of the US Center for Defense Information Nikolai Zlobin published one his his lately numerous articles, which is a direct rebuff to Russian politicians with their sore self-confidence. He writes, “Actually, Russia has no alternatives to choosing cooperation with the West. No matter what part of the elite I talked to, no one can definitely formulate what an alternative to this way could be.” This is the difference between the two countries, stresses Nikolai Zlobin, “America can afford carrying out the present politics for the sake of its own interests only. While Russia’s foreign policy is taking into account multiple factors, including the US, no matter if you like it or not.”
George Bush was more aphoristic speaking of the US present foreign policy (as is known it raises objections not in Russia only), “One day we may find ourselves lonely. I do not object to this. We are America.” (cited from the Gazeta periodical.)
In his interview with the Vremya Novostei paper Nikolai Zlobin was very regretful about inability of the Russian elite to understand a simple thing, “It would benefit much greater from cooperation with the US elite than from objecting to it.”
According to Zlobin, the agenda of the summit – signing an agreement on arms reduction – is “Russian agenda of yesterday, or even the day before yesterday”. He states, “The US is not interested in it.” That is why, Nikolai Zlobin believes, having agreed to sign the agreement, President Bush made a “symbolic and very respectful gesture in relation to Moscow”.
Political scientists Andrei Pionkovsky also noted that the US elite was completely uninterested in the topic of negotiations. He cited in the Novaya Gazeta a statement of his American friend, “I will tell you why we do not want to conclude any agreements with you – you don’t matter.”
At the same time, Russia and the US are friends now: so, Piontkovsky reflects, “It is necessary to be US enemy to ‘matter’ something.”
In fact, the author notes, objective geopolitical interests of the two countries push them to a strategic partnership. The main obstacle is superstitions and complexes of the Russian elite. The main obstacle from the US is “messages ‘You don’t matter’ that are sent from time to time from Washington not to Russia only, but also to the US closest allies.”
As a leading Russian expert on strategic armaments, head of the Center for Strategic nuclear forces issues, Vladimir Dvorkin said in his interview with the Kommersant paper, it would be strange to expect the US to make any concessions. Russia had no levers to exert pressure on the US, “As any agreement is always a barter transaction. I give you, you give me. Now Russia has nothing to give away, just because Russia had announced beforehand that it would reduce its nuclear forces down to 1,500 nuclear warheads.”
Dvorkin thinks the only advantage of the new agreement is that it “fixes almost equal nuclear status of Russia and the US.” According to the author, this document does not have other good sides. Moreover, it actually “fixed unilateral plans for development of nuclear forces in the US and Russia.”
Famous political scientist and analyst of the Carnegie Center Lilia Shevtsova has a similar viewpoint at the situation. She does not doubt that despite all hopes and concluded agreements the “Cold War is far from its end – now it is just the beginning of its another phase.”
In fact, Shevtsova notes, if Russia and the US are not opponents any longer, why do they need the notorious 1,700 – 2,200 nuclear warheads. Actually, not much has changed, “Both countries still aim their missiles at each other’s objects that are said to be potentially dangerous for them.” And of the presidents want to really “stop the inertia of the Cold War and to start a “new chapter of relations”, they will have to do a real breakthrough. Moreover, they will have to speak of not nuclear warheads only, but also discuss a new partnership philosophy.” So far, the latest summit was just “a maximum of what both president can squeeze from their teams and the heritage they received.”
At the same time, both Shevtsova and Zlobin think that Bush’s three-day visit and signing the agreement was a real gift from Bush to Vladimir Putin. “The Americans were benevolent and decided not to cause troubles for the Russian president and not to give his critics a reason to accuse him of “Gorbachevism” and “selling Russia out.” So, the really positive thing about the summit is not signing the agreement, but that Washington really cares about the fate of Putin’s new pro-western course.”
Especially, if take into account that there are more than enough Putin’s critics in Russia. “We should not be afraid of the words “not ally”, we should not be eager to become an ally of the country, which in all strategic direction, beside several exceptions, has completely different from Russia’s interests and disastrous for our country ambitions,” writes Mikhail Leontiev in the Ogonek magazine.
Even under Gorbachev’s presidency, Russia constantly made open concessions to the West, “We always made reductions to the areas where we had obvious advantages.” Agreements, concluded at that time weakened Russia, though “formally they preserved our status of a nuclear superpower, the second superpower of the world,” as they preserved the concept of parity. Approximately the same is happening at present, “Formally the parity is preserved. Formally we are again equal, we are again the two courtiers, which used to decide the fate of the whole world. In fact, it is profanation.”
Russia again accepted disarmament “a la Gorbachev”, “In fact, we reduce all, while they only withdraw their missiles from duty and stock warheads.” Russia cannot stock anything, its warheads “die themselves” and there are no resources for their renewal.
Mikhail Leontiev thinks signing of the new agreement is a mistake, which is made for the sake of “fears”. The fears have grounds, as Russia is weak, “We need to carry out modernization, we need to define and consolidate our new doctrine, we need to restore the state, the restore political and economic role of Russia in the world.” According to the author, receding from these positions will mean disappearance of Russia as a state, “The country will simply break up.” From this standpoint, the motives of current actions of the Russian authorities are quite clear.
However, “real free game politics is politics of complicated efficient modern diplomacy which is absent in Russia.” It is impossible to “sleep on old Soviet assets – both diplomatic and political – any longer: they are rotting and decaying,” writes Leontiev. It is no winder recently the president reproached the state apparatus if inability to make strategic economic decisions – it turned out that there are no strategic decisions in the Russian foreign policy either.
Geidar Jemal has an even more radical viewpoint on Russia-US relations. As he said in his interview with the Profil magazine, “There is an internal paradox in them: Russian political class, starting with Putin, declare a new ear of partnership between Russia and the US.” Simultaneously, cooperation in terms of anti-terrorist campaign is especially stressed after September 11 events.
On the other hand, US politicians “many times, more or less sincerely” pointed out that from now on the US “does not need the consensus of the world society, neither any support from its allies in order to justify its actions.”
Moreover, Jemal continues, such documents, as for instance researches of the US National intelligence council “Global trends of 2015” say that “Russia cannot be US ally as it is doomed as a state.” It is logical to suppose that in such a situation Russia is rather “the only source of really serious military threat, which is to be removed” for the US.
From this standpoint, the main direction of Russia’s development is “its breakup and leaving the world arena with simultaneous gaining control of what remains from its present nuclear forces and high techs that may be applied for military purposes.”
It is undoubted, Geidar Jemal states, that the whole US strategy is currently intending to finally destroy Russia. The author reminds that in particular, Zbignev Bzhezinsky, who visited Moscow in February this year to meet with Russian military analysts also said about it. Bzhezinsky is convinced that at present Russia does not have any internal resources for breaking “the descending trends in its political fate.”
Alexei Biyer, chief economist of The Globalist analytica center wrote in his article in the Vedomosti paper that the present friendship between Bush and Putin is extremely dangerous, first of all for Russia.
The current objective for the US policy concerning Russia is to “neatly bring to null ‘special relations’ between the hyper power of today and the superpower of yesterday.” Washington intends to “strengthen its position as the master of the world. That is why humiliating for Russia US demarches after September 11 had a concrete goal – to show Moscow its new position in this world.”
However, according to Alexei Biyer, the main danger for Russia is cultivation of vain illusions in the Russian society. Many-year hopes that “Russia and the US will finally be able to share the world and to jointly dictate their conditions to it” will make “inevitable humiliations which in any case follow Bush’s visit” especially painful for the Russians. Besides, they are highly likely to weaken Putin’s positions inside the country. So, the question is: why does Bush acts this way? Alexei Biyer warns that the answer is likely to be a great surprise for many, “In the simplicity of this heart. “
George Bush-junior does not have enough experience in international communications. During his European tour he visited European capitals for the first time. He is very naive in diplomacy, “And he does not realize how dangerous it is to send false signals to the opposite side.”
However, despite all “simplicity of his heart” that has been largely advertised by the world media – or perhaps, due to it – the US president many times to give an extremely brief definition of an issue, while experienced and cunning people devote whole volumes of the size of the Bible.
This happened during his visit to Moscow, at a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin. An American journalist asked a childish question, “Why isn’t it possible to annihilate all missiles, if they are such good friends?” Bush horrified his surrounding with a sincere answer, “Well, who knows what will be in ten years? Who knows what intentions the next Russian president will have?”
As the Vremya Novostei paper states, Vladimir Putin did not even turn a hair at this. The paper decided it all was due to his intelligence training.
Overall, as editor-in-chief of the Moskovskie Novosti weekly Viktor Loshak noted, for all who met the US president for the first time had a chance to understand the phenomenon of his victory in the United States. The main component of it is a very successfully found image, “Simple, charming, cool, very energetic, moderately sentimental…” Moderately! Plus, the stress on a “religious citizen” and “faithful husband” – unlike Bill Clinton.
Bush started all his unofficial meetings with journalists in Moscow and politicians in Spaso-House with dithyrambs for his wife. Viktor Loshak thinks it is wise, “Though he was elected, voters expect the wife to be sage statewise as well.” On the other hand, for Russia the “two-in-one” version – as they called Bill and Hillary Clinton in the US – is hardly acceptable.
However, so far no one doubts – at least now – who will win the 2004 presidential elections in Russia. Moreover, this time successes and failures of image makers will not matter.
So, now interested people are concerned about who will be organizers and masters of the ceremony at the next elections.
Of course, the president has enough time to make a decision. Journalists notice some political calmness on the threshold of both elections campaigns.
Still, the forces are already being laid out for the elections. Recently, the Obshchaya Gazeta reported that two elections headquarters had already been formed, like in 1996.
The headquarters are staffed on a “mutual hatred” principle: one is formed of “remnants of the Old Family team”, the other is “St. Petersburg security officers”. It is due to St. Petersburgers that the pre-scheduled election “all hands on deck” started, “they too energetically began to trample down the United Russia party and deprived Vladislav Surkov, deputy head of the Kremlin administration of control over it.”
In response, Alexander Voloshin urgently formed an election headquarter and appointed his deputy Dmitry Medvedev as its leader. It was considered to be a successful tactical move: Medvedev origins from St. Petersburg and his appearance must cause turmoil among the opponents. As Moskovsky Komsomolets commented on the situation, “Well-bred Medvedev has always felt comfortable in Voloshin’s team, not among his compatriots working for security services.” The headquarters is in Voloshin’s office, Surkov is in charge of work in the regions; Abramovich and Mamut are main treasurers.
According to the paper, the St. Petersburgers gather at a secret ABC object, which belongs to the Federal Security Service, to be farther from the Kremlin. Another Voloshin’s deputy Igor Sechin is their leader.
Sechin as a leader of the personal presidential secretariat along with Dmitry Medvedev is responsible for the schedule of visits to the president. As Moskovsky Komsomolets noted, this is to inevitably cause conflicts between the two officials.
Security officer Viktor Ivanov is in charge of work with regions, Mezhprombank President Sergei Mamut is the treasurer.
The first battle between the two headquarters was the fight between Pugachev and Abramovich for Slavneft oil company – the media is watching the course of the fight very attentively.
Obshchaya Gazeta states that from now on all fights for attractive properties are to be explained with election interests, “until one of the headquarters catches another one at some blunder and forces the president to make a choice”.
Politicians have also started preparing for elections. As the Vremya Novostei paper informed, Boris Nemtsov suggested promoting a single candidate from all democratic parties by results of parliamentary elections. The leader of the Union of Right Forces offered to Yabloko and Berezovsky’s Liberal Russia to conclude respective agreements.
None of the parties is very enthusiastic about the aforementioned suggestion, the Liberal Russia said directly that it is Nemtsov’s political game for his own sake.
Yabloko evasively noted that it is necessary to make decisions basing on the real situation closer to the elections.
If Yavlinsky does not participate in the forthcoming presidential race, millions of his electors are highly likely not to vote at all, thinks observer of the Moskovskie Novosti paper Ludmila Telen. On the other hand, his participation in the elections is not a guarantee either: the Russians are growing more tired with every elections. The growing amount of voters “against all”, which increases from elections to elections, proves it.
Nonetheless, Grigory Yavlinsky was rather optimistic about the possibility of opening the European doors for Russia in his interview with Moskovskie Novosti. According to him, “new energy” may come from there. If this happens, “The agreement between Putin and Bush on strategic partnership will come true.”
On the other hand, Yavlinsky stresses, opponents of Putin’s foreign policy course may perceive practical steps towards the West as “another Novo-Ogarevo process”. The Yabloko leader warns, that a really “reactionary flank” is currently forming in the country, and these forces may try to either “win the president over to their side” or to “push him aside”.
“Their objective is to use mistakes and failures in the foreign policy, including the economic politics, for a frontal attack,” states Yavlinsky.
As Moskovskie Novosti observer Ludmila Telen noted, it sounds like a warning for Putin about a possible plot – like Shevardnadze warned Gorbachev in his time.
So, the answer to the question on the results of forthcoming elections may turn to be less defined as it may see at a first glance.