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 Clinton–Gates 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?