MOSCOW HOPES THAT OFFICIAL WASHINGTON WILL REVISE ITS POLICY WITH REGARD TO RUSSIA
America elected its 44th president.
America elected its 44th president. Over 50% Americans cast their votes for Democratic candidate Barack Obama. His rival John McCain, President George W. Bush about to step down, and world leaders including Dmitry Medvedev congratulated the first Afro-American to make the White House, yesterday.
The Democratic Party celebrates a triumph. Its candidate Obama polled over 50% votes. It is known as well that the Democrats strengthened their hold over the Hill. According to the latest estimates, they will have 56 lawmakers in the Senate (5 more than before) and 252 in the House of Representative (18 more).
Obama promised to become a president for all and proceeded to elaborate on the financial crisis. He did not say anything on the subject of America’s foreign policy.
Inauguration will take place on January 20, 2009.
For the time being, the Kremlin will have to be satisfied with what little (and mostly negative) Obama and his candidate for vice president Joe Biden have said about Russia. Experts of the Washington-based Foreign Policy Council recall that Obama appraised Russia as “neither an enemy of America nor a close ally” on April 20 and said that it was wrong for the United States to hesitate “to demand (from Moscow – Nezavisimaya Gazeta) more in terms of democracy, transparency, and responsibility.” In September, i.e. after the conflict in South Ossetia, Obama said, “It is necessary to revise our policy with regard to Russia because an aggressive Russia is a threat to peace and stability in the region.”
Before the war in the Caucasus, however, Obama had talked of a more positive agenda and promised to work with Moscow “on a serious reduction of our nuclear arsenals.” It may be good news for the matter of the START I expiring in late 2009. Obama even planned to extend the Russian-American Treaty on Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles to other countries.
Biden in his turn has commented on Russia’s domestic policy for years. He criticized Vladimir Putin for abolition of gubernatorial elections and “elimination of the opposition”. It may be added that several years ago Biden promoted abolition of the discriminating Jackson-Vanick amendment and restoration of normal trade relations with Russia. He changed his tune when Moscow restricted chicken import from the United States (essentially from poultry farms in Biden’s native Delaware).
Victor Kremenyuk of the Russian Academy of Sciences said that the future of the Russian-American dialogue depended almost entirely on the leaders of the two countries now. “I bet Moscow already scrutinized whatever Obama has ever said about Russia. It’s Moscow’s turn to send a message to Obama now,” Kremenyuk said. The expert assumed that with Obama in the Oval Study, Washington and Moscow could launch bona fide cooperation on the agenda put together in Bush’s days. He assumed as well that Obama would certainly formulate his opinion of Moscow’s domestic policy but abstain from trying to interfere with it.
Sergei Karaganov of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council does not expect any serious changes in the bilateral relations in the next six months. “The changes will probably be positive but Russia will have to meet the Americans half-way,” Karaganov said.