In Change We Trust

The reaction in Russia to Barack Obama's announcement of his future national security team has been a net positive, if not somewhat guarded.  Having mentally prepared for the horrors of the McCain administration, Moscow definitely considers the ClintonGates tandem as a lesser of two evils.

The pro-government Izvestiya approvingly noted that Obama prefers "pragmatists over ideologists" and pointed to the non-partisan character of the nominations.  Izvestiya was especially complimentary of the future National Security Adviser, Jim Jones, praising his diplomatic skills and fluency in French.

The Kommersant quoted Federation Council Foreign Committee Chairman, Mikhail Margelov, who believes that Clinton's tenure at the State Department is likely to improve U.S.-Russia relations.  Although Margelov anticipates Clinton paying close attention to the issues of humans rights and democracy, Margelov nevertheless expects "softening" of the unipolar character of the American foreign policy. 

Margelov's Duma counterpart, Konstantin Kosachev, however, disagrees.  He is concerned that the appointment of both Clinton and Gates – whom Kosachev calls "the steady proponents of the idea of American domination in global affairs" – signifies the continuation, rather than reformation, of the White House foreign policy.  In contrast to Izvestiya, Kosachev is not impressed with the nomination of Jim Jones as NSA:

"One can hardly expect him [Jones] to put forward bold initiatives that would dramatically contradict current policies."

It is not clear what kind of "bold initiatives" Kosachev has in mind.  Did he hope that a new NSA would call for the disbanding of NATO ? Or would suggest sending a battalion of marines to Tbilisi to overthrow the Saakashvili government?  

Kosachev's position highlights, yet again, the major drawback of Russia's policy vis-a-vis the United States: its perpetual lack of pro-activeness.  Moscow prefers to sit back and complain at the lack of "bold initiatives" emanating from Washington, but proposes no bold initiatives of its own.

Besides, Russia's foreign policy could use a bit of change, too, by bringing new faces to the Smolensky Square.  As I argued before, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, has been on the job since 2004 and shows signs of exhaustion.  It's time for President Medvedev to replace him.

In the spirit of reciprocity, won't the appointment of Valentina Matvienko (former deputy prime minister and ambassador to Malta and Greece and current governor of St. Petersburg) as the new Foreign Minister be a great idea? 

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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3 Responses to In Change We Trust

  1. Alex says:

    I liked the second half (with exception of Lavrov-related) – I would say – “thought-provoking” (as usual). Which thought(-s)? Eg. what will be an example of pro-active Russian foreign policy ? It cannot be offers of cooperation – for the US to understand & start listening (or at least to stop harassing Russia) it must be something more material .. Eg. SS-18 on some friendly Caribbean territory or an offer of a little help to ayatollas in couple of countries ?..Of course, there is a chance also that new USG will not need such “hearing aids”.. Another thought was that (cit.) “..Clinton’s tenure at the State Department is likely to improve U.S.-Russia relations..” is probably a reflection of how low the current relations are – anything will be an improvement over Dr.Rice..
    Cheers, me

  2. Igor privet!
    I agree with your last line: anything will be improvement over the current administration. (Actually, Obama is in an enviable position, however counterintuitive this may sound: things are so bad everywhere — economy, foreign policy — that anything Obama is able to achieve will be perceived as success.)
    There are many things to make Russia’s foreign policy pro-active. To mention just two: Medvedev proposed Russia’s idea of trans-Atlantic security a few months back already. It’s time finally to put forward concrete proposals. Isn’t it Lavrov’s job?
    Second, specifically, with respect to US-Russia relations. Russia should put together 3 lists: a list of things it wants from US (no AMD in Easter Europe, for example), a list of things it’ll do in return (putting more pressure on Iran, for example), and a list of things it’ll do if the US doesn’t cooperate (Iskander missiles, bases in Latin America, meddling in Afghanistan — you name it). But to sit and wait what uncle Obama will offer us — this ain’t no pro-actice policy. Or any good policy at all, for that matter.

  3. Alex(Igor) says:

    I actually like your idea of the “lists” my concern was that it won’t be read – so far the US did not understand anything but the Cold War language. Also fair trade is “new missiles – for the new missiles” – which is “Iskander for Polish ABM” – and then we can start talking. As for the Lavrov’s duties thing is to generate a policy- another to have it approved by everyone who counts.. Anyways, see you on blogs!

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