In a last minute change in posture, President Barack Obama recently decided to go to Russia to “reset” the generally confusing political relationship between Russia and the United States.
Outsiders could perceive that the U.S. State Department attitude has been that Russia can be ignored because it is not in the game and is just another distraction for the U.S. This position is a complete and utter rejection of the world of reality which we live in, including the misuse of the word “distraction.” Russia can never be ignored nor should she be. This general Washington attitude about Russia tends to be an unrealistic assumption , and does not consider what the long-term and potential tragic consequences that this idea could render for the international community. A recent media comment stated a realistic assessment as, “Russia is too big of a country to ignore including the fact that European History has been tied to Russia, sometimes with disastrous results.”
As for the Summit, Andrei Klimov, Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Commission said prior to the official Summit meeting, “Unfortunately, our agenda contains too many difficult issues; I’ll be surprised if we can solve any of them.” In the Intel World this is considered a very strong position statement. In another confusing statement, President Obama, on Russian TV said, “It (Russia) remains one of the most powerful countries in the world.” If this is true then how can the State Department ignore Russia and consider it as a weak country not worthy of American attention and/or support. Although, on the other hand America does need Russian support for creating a viable European image including the building of much needed political and public support for America.
Thus, at the end of the meeting, the public was told that two agreements were signed. One agreement involving the cutback in nuclear arms to 1,700 warheads per country within seven years. The second, a mutual agreement which gives the U.S. the right to fly over Russia to deliver troops and supplies to Afghanistan. This is estimated to save the United States $133 million in current day fuel costs.
As a conclusion to the meeting President Obama reinforced Russia’s nuclear arms position during his speech at the New Economic School in Moscow when he stated, “President Medvedev and I made progress” the word progress does not mean resolution “on negotiating a new Treaty that will substantially reduce our warheads and delivery systems. We also renewed our commitment to clean, safe and peaceful nuclear energy, which must be a right for all nations that live up to their responsibilities under the NPT. We also agreed to increase cooperation on nuclear security, which is essential to achieving the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear material within four years.”
It is interesting to note that both the Russian and American media understanding from summit is that both parties have reached a major breakthrough in terms of limiting nuclear arms to a new low level where nuclear weapons are not considered a threat to any country. This is hard to believe since the U.S. and Russia together have approximately 95% of the world’s nuclear weapons, which the State Department reported in 2009 as 3,909 Russian warheads vs. America’s 5,576 warheads. Are we to believe that this is the primary subject? Or is the real concern, the proliferation of nuclear arms in Iran and North Korea, a problem which neither Russia or the U.S. want to face directly.
A most interesting analysis of the so-called Arms Agreement has been made by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association when he called the agreement,”An overdue, if very modest, step toward riding each side of obsolete and expensive cold war legacy weapons.” John Bolton added his thoughts when he said,
“The number they are proposing for delivery vehicles is shockingly low.” Aren’t these comments the main objective that both sides really wanted? To initiate a media program in both countries in order to obtain public credit for eliminating old useless nuclear weapons including unreliable missile systems. This agreement does not preclude the fact that the world needs to realize that it still faces large stockpiles of new high performance, multi-headed nuclear weapons and delivery systems? THINK ABOUT IT. Is this a subject Political Intrigue or Reality?
In terms of an overview President Obama made light of the positive cooperation between Russia and the U.S. in assessing the threat of ballistic missiles from other countries. He said, “I’m pleased that President Medvedev and I agreed upon a joint threat assessment of the ballistic missile challenges of the 21st Century, from Iran and North Korea.” As we can see, this was an interesting comment to make considering just three weeks ago, right after the election of Iran’s new president, Russia and Iran both sat at the same table, as official members, at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) annual meeting. At this meeting President Medvedev officially expressed his support of the newly elected Iranian President. It is also interesting to note that the Charter for this organization says its goal is, “To pursue joint security, energy and development goals, including enhanced cooperation against terrorism, Islamist extremism and separatism.” The word “Separatism” is of real concern in terms of Putin’s vision of a new Great Russia. Therefore it is now official that Russia and Iran support each other in their “security efforts” in an organization that rejected the entrance of U.S. as a mere observer status. How will it be that Russia shares the same ideals for security as Iran while supporting the US in a so called, “Joint threat assessment of the ballistic missile challenges?” One answer comes from the Intel World which states from long experience, “All is not what it appears too be.” Only time will answer questions like these. As Peter Baker in the Wall Street Journal recently said, “They made promises of cooperation that ultimately might prove easier to translate into words than reality.”
This current agreement may be reminiscent of similar ones made in the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and G.W. Bush presidencies. In summary it is oblivious that although agreements were reached on the decision to reduce nuclear missiles many issues have been left open as points to agree to disagree. After President Obama’s meeting with Prime Minister Putin President Obama said, “On areas where we disagree, like Georgia, I don’t anticipate a meeting of the minds anytime soon.”
The second day of the meeting involved President Obama meeting with Russian business leaders to stress better economic ties between the United States and Russia. This is a reasonable subject to open, assuming that the U.S. has an economic system to negotiate with. It is also interesting that the Secretary of Commerce was the only person to accompany President Obama to Russia. Secretary Locke’s remarked at the Business Summit that, “Now is the time to further United States and Russian integration with the world economy.” We continue to hear words like “World Economy” not “American Economy.”
Secretary Locke also commented that, “Likewise, we consider it very much in the interest of Russia to further integrate into the world economy. We support Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization and encourage Russia to pursue opportunities to increase its bilateral trade and investment with the United States as well as other countries.” Russia had been on the waiting list to enter the WTO for several years although the week before the Summit Prime Minister Putin withdrew Russia’s application. This is a key Russian strategy decision which America should not overlook.
The logical question now would be why did Putin remove Russia from the application process only a week before the Summit with the U.S.? Russia is continuing to give conflicting signs of what it wishes to do. Is no one paying any attention to what Putin is saying?
In summary, one question must be asked: will this Summit have the desired effect of starting the so called “reset” of the long troubled relationship between Russia and the United States? Keep in mind that the U.S. won the Cold War and Russia lost. In winning the Cold War we created a “Big Bad Enemy” which is not going to be subservient to the U.S. In addition, Russia and the United States have very different cultural views with the result of a distorted view of the U.S. which has become embedded in the Russian public. How will Russia overcome this view that it has had of the United States for so long? Will it happen in a few short meetings, years, or ever? Will it be too much to overcome or will we be able to work through them to have two strong countries who no longer fight for power, but instead share and grow from it.
It has been said by many wise men including Julius Caesar that, “Power is the Name of the Game.”
Think about it.