America’s new president will have to focus on domestic problems
The new president will have to take a whole range of unpopular measures aimed at healing the American economy. Moscow needs to take advantage of this moment when the USA is relatively weak and secure a number of fundamental concessions from the Americans.
The US election campaign, unprecedented in many respects, is over. Judging by initial voting results, the Democratic Party – headed by Barack Obama – is winning the election. Dissatisfaction with the Bush Administration is so high that American voters are undeterred by the candidate’s race or his lack of a coherent plan for overcoming the crisis. Yet the next president of the United States, whoever he may be, will indeed have to concentrate on the crisis.
The official voting results won’t be announced until later today, but exit polls are generally in line with pre-election forecasts. Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama is ahead of his Republican rival, John McCain, by 3-5%. Most analysts believe that McCain might be able to close this gap to some extent, at best, but he cannot win.
Congressional elections are taking place simultaneously with the presidential election: this entails re-electing the whole House of Representatives and a third of the Senate. The Democrats are expected to consolidate their majority in the lower house and achieve a majority in the upper house, winning over 60 of 100 Senate seats.
In the lead-up to the election, analysts expressed concern that Obama might become a casualty of what is known as the Bradley effect (named after the Black mayor of Los Angeles who ran for governor of California in 1982). All opinion polls showed Tom Bradley in the lead, but he ended up losing to his white rival. But Mark Weisbrot, an analyst at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, maintains that not even white voters will be affected by racist prejudice in this case. “People aren’t voting for Obama so much as voting against George W. Bush and his administration’s policies over the past few years,” says Weisbrot. Voters don’t care about the color of Obama’s skin; neither do they care that the Democrat candidate still hasn’t come up with a detailed plan for overcoming the crisis. “Obama succeeded in convincing everyone that his rival would continue Bush’s policies. After that, people simply started voting for the Democrats in protest.”
The new president, whoever he may be, will have to take a whole range of unpopular measures aimed at healing the American economy. Pavel Zolotarev, deputy director of the USA and Canada Institute: “Fighting the crisis at home will be the main issue for the US Administration over the next few years. For the rest of the world in general, and for Russia in particular, this means that Washington will have to curtail or at least suspend its expansion abroad, while attempting to maintain the global status quo.”
Moscow needs to take advantage of this moment when the USA is relatively weak and secure a number of fundamental concessions from the Americans. For instance, Washington could be persuaded to abandon its plans for deploying missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic, and to stop supporting the Saakashvili regime in Georgia and the Yushchenko regime in Ukraine. Most importantly, it could be persuaded to adopt a new strategic offensive arms limitation agreement. START I, adopted in 1991, will expire in December 2009. During the crisis, the USA cannot afford a new arms race with Moscow – so it would have to accept a new treaty that takes Russian interests into account.