Pravda On The Potomac-7 (What The Washington Post Wrote About President Obama’s Visit To Russia)

Overshadowed by a pop hysteria over the death of Michael Jackson, the first bona fide summit between presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev took place in Moscow on July 6-8.  The way Obama's visit to Russia was covered in the mainstream U.S. media suggests that his administration's attempts to "reset" U.S.-Russia relations will be met with profound skepticism, if not outright hostility, in certain corners of the U.S. political beau monde.

Given the frenetic activity demonstrated by the Post's authors on the eve of the first Obama-Medvedev meeting in London in April – and a suspicious lack, in May and June, of any interest in their second in Moscow – I expected a bit of passion from the Post's "regulars" in the early days of July.  I was wrong.

Only David Ignatius showed up, which was already unusual: the sophisticated Ignatius – he has a strange, for a Post's columnist, habit of traveling to a country before writing about it — was an unorthodox choice for the pre-summit Kremlin bashing.

"As Barack Obama packs for his trip to Russia next week, he should bring along a copy of "The Brothers Karamazov." For the modern Russia of Vladimir Putin is still struggling with the same political riddles that Fyodor Dostoyevsky described 130 years ago."

This is how Ignatius began his July 2 piece.  I kind of see his point: Ignatius has just returned from Moscow, where he took part in a conference under the somewhat shrinkish headline, "What Does Russia Think?"  It appears that some of the Russian participants of the conference did sound as having just stepped out of the pages of Dostoyevsky's novels.  Consider this:

"Nervous Russians are 'running away from their freedom', offered a leading sociologist."

Or this:

"[A] Russian who is a prominent politician suggested: "The real problem is that we don't understand what we want."

Indeed, in the country featuring such "leading sociologists" and "prominent politicians", Fyodor Mikhaylovich would be an island of a mental stability.

Hiding behind quotes of unnamed "key advisers" to Medvedev and Putin, Ignatius seems to be at least mindful of a popular complaint in Moscow that "America's past actions had threatened Russia's security and the Kremlin wasn't about to forget it."  And this is how he finishes his second piece of July 5:

"The Obama magic, so evident in his other trips abroad, isn't likely to work in Moscow this week. A real reset of Russian-American relations will require intense discussion and some serious give-and-take — something that neither side is ready to offer."

Nice prediction about "the Obama magic", and a correct one (see below). 

Continuing the Dostoyevsky theme (albeit without calling him by name), Mark Medish, a former National Security Council official, laments that "[t]he whole Obama phenomenon does not translate well into Russian", for "Obama is a visionary pragmatist, while the Russian political elite is full of cynical realists."  Medish then plunges into an adventurous excursion to the depth of the Russian language:

"Empathy — the centerpiece of Obama's philosophy — does not have an exact Russian counterpart. The words "sochuvstvie" and "soboleznovanie" are closer to sympathy. The word "sostrandanie" means compassion. But empathy, the idea of putting yourself into somebody else's shoes as a way to think about the world, is a distinct concept. And it is not one that can be elegantly rendered into Russian."    

Having established Obama's moral superiority over his Russian counterparts and having warned the Russians not to confuse Obama's "intellectual solitude" for "weakness", Medish surprisingly proceeds with a call on Obama to "urge Russians to put away Cold War thinking" and to "show that Americans are doing the same" (by repealing, for example, the Jackson-Vanik amendment). 

(You never know with these Post's authors — just like with Dostoyevsky's characters.  And, by the way, Mr. Medish, the Russian for "empathy" is "soperezhivanie") .

Michael Fletcher was dispatched to Moscow to help Philip Pan cover the summit, and for the next couple of days, the two didn't seem to have had much sleep.  On July 5, they produced their first article with a broad outline of the summit's agenda.  The next day, Pan specifically elaborated  on the challenges faced by the two countries in the area of nuclear arms control.  Later the same day, Fletcher and Pan reported on the set of joint documents signed by Obama and Medvedev after their first day of talks.  On July 7, Fletcher covered Obama's mini-summit with Putin, his address to the New Economic School, and his meeting with Russian opposition leaders.  He also expressed the common among American journalists feeling — a peculiar combination of a surprise and disappointment — about the lack of any signs of "Obamamania" on the streets of Moscow.  (Ignatius was right).  Finally, showing obvious signs of fatigue, Pan mumbled about the Obama-Medvedev-Putin love  triangle. 

On July 8, Fletcher and Pan began to wrap it up by quoting officials and pundits:

"I can't think of a summit that was so comprehensive in what we are trying to do as a government," said Michael McFaul, special assistant to the president…"

"Sergei Rogov, director of the Institute for the U.S. and Canadian Studies, said Obama's visit was more successful than most in Russia had expected. Obama "made all the right sounds in a very respectful way" and did much to reduce mistrust in Moscow, he said."

In a touching parallel track, Robin Givhan was following the first lady Michelle Obama's part of the visit, beginning with her arrival in Moscow "wearing a bright coral dress, jacket and flats that splashed color into a teeth-chattering, overcast afternoon."   Repeating, in a sense, a surprise at Muscovites being immune to Obamamania, Givhan sounds puzzled that the "street chatter here have focused on her [Michelle's] White House kitchen garden rather than her clothes, her Ivy League pedigree or her interest in promoting public service."

"Her clothes, her Ivy League pedigree or her interest in promoting public service."  Is this the order in which Robin Givhan rates Michelle Obama's remarkable qualities?

(I too was somewhat puzled with Givhan's description of Moscow streets as "filled with grand czarist architecture."  Could it be that Givhan was writing her reports sitting in a hotel room and watching a video about my beloved St-Petersburg?).

Givhan concluded her Michelle Obama trilogy with describing the first lady's visit to the St. Dimitriy Orphanage and expressing regret that Mrs. Obama's activities in Moscow didn't include a major public speech.  (I concur).   

It wasn't until July 7 that the Post published its first and the only editorial covering the summit.  The editorial was a net positive in its assessments of what Obama has achieved in Moscow, giving him guarded praise for "a good-faith attempt to work pragmatically with…reality."  But the Post's editors didn't mince words renouncing what they called the Kremlin's desire to use the results of the summit to "cling to the illusion that Moscow's imperial power can somehow be recaptured." 

The editorial called on Obama to keep pressure on the Russians (in particular, in "an effort to coax Russians away from their leaders' misguided ideology") and urged him not to sacrifice "relations between the United States and its Central European NATO allies" when negotiating with Moscow the future of missile defence. 

In a couple of more days, the creme of the Post's Russophobia team, Anne Applebaum and Charles Krauthammer, reminded us that they are still alive and didn't stop thinking about Russia.

If Applebaum wanted to be ridiculous with her July 9 piece, she definitely has succeeded.  Read this:

"Forget the nuke deal, forget the speech, forget even the Russians' lack of interest in Michelle: The real surprise of President Obama's trip to Moscow this week was that he spent most of his time talking to the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, and took only a couple of hours to pay a courtesy call on the Russian prime minister and former president, Vladimir Putin."

In the core of Applebaum's contrarian approach is a not-so-original point of view that one doesn't need to waste time talking to President Medvedev because everything in Russia is being decided by his prime minister.  But Applebaum offers a fresh, absolutely irrefutable, argument to prove this point again:

"Someone who took part in a meeting with them some months ago told me afterward that Putin did all the talking while Medvedev took notes." 

Brilliant!  Has it occurred to Applebaum that the described "meeting" could have been a Cabinet report with the head of the Cabinet — and who else? — doing "all the talking"?

(Could it be that Applebaum is trying, if even subconciously, to elevate the status of Putin's visit to Poland this coming fall, the visit that her husbund, Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski, is organizing?).   

Breaking with the Post's editors, Krauthammer asserts that Obama's (whom Krauthammer calls a "foreign policy neophyte") visit to Moscow wasn't simply a failure.  Krauthammer insists that the "Joint Understanding" signed by the two presidents is outright detrimental to U.S. national security.  Why?  Because by agreeing to proceed with a new START treaty, Obama has allowed Moscow to link offensive and defensive nuclear weapons.  

An apostle of the zero-sum-game approach, Krauthammer believes that any talks with Moscow that take into account Russia's concerns is a sign of American "weakness."  (But let's just wait for a few weeks until Krauthammer will be fuming that Russia doesn't take seriously U.S. security concerns).  And nuclear arms control negotiations are in particular meaningless given the U.S. "huge…technological advantage in defensive weaponry" ("the decisive strategic factor of the 21st century", in Krauthammer's words).  Krauthammer sees the future of U.S.-Russia relations in remarkably crystal terms: 

"We can reliably shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile.  They cannot."   

Listen carefully to this line.  We'll be hearing it often in the months to come: from Krauthammer himself and those who, like Krauthammer, are upset with the Obama administration's budget cuts on missile defense.

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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13 Responses to Pravda On The Potomac-7 (What The Washington Post Wrote About President Obama’s Visit To Russia)

  1. Leo says:

    Eugene (if I may),
    I believe Mr. Ignatius is correct when he states that Russians don’t know what they want. That is especially true for the Russian political class who seems to be incapable of formulating what Russia’s interests are. “Nyet” to this, “nyet” to that, but “da” to what exactly? As for the masses, they decry the evil intent of the West and pronounce dead the Western economic model. But it does not stop anyone from flying next day to Europe for a business trip (or vacation as soon as one finds means). One may wonder how all this goes together. I bet Dostoyevsky would have plenty of characters to write about if he lived to this day.

  2. Leo says:

    Eugene,
    Thanks for your reply. I will try to elaborate on where I am coming from in my original assertions.
    Competition never stops in nature and it has not ceased to exist in international politics in spite of some proclaiming “the end of history”. The rules of competition just got nicer and more inclusive. So, why am I saying all this? Because if one says NO to something he/she has to offer a credible alternative.
    Let’s consider NATO expansion. What is in it for the US? I can refer you to Nikolas Gvosdev’s note here:
    http://www.acus.org/new_atlanticist/obamas-missed-opportunity
    Not to say that I agree with what he says there, btw. And here is why:
    http://www.nationalinterest.org/Article.aspx?id=21844
    It will become a long-term liability for the US. But that is a topic of a separate discussion.
    What is in NATO membership for the newly independent countries of the FSU? Assistance with military reform and modernization of armed forces (personnel, equipment and logistics-wise). For the elites – to be rubberstamped with western approval and to pander to their inferiority complex, especially since the EU acceptance is very far away (if at all possible).
    What exactly does Russia offer as an alternative? Is Russia an example of a successful military reform? Has it modernized its army so others can follow its footsteps? The answer to both questions is NO. Did Russia help the newly independent countries build their militairies (they had none in 1991)? NO. Does Russia’s political elite treat their counterparts in the FSU fairly? NO. Actually, while pretending to be a great power, Russia stoops quite low in relations with its neighbors.
    Pan-European security? It is a very vague concept, akin to Gorbachev’s “new thinking”. Also, Russia is a relative newcomer to the “European security table”. European security existed before the demise of the USSR. Aren’t late-comers supposed to bring some treats to the table? Is it clear to anybody what exactly Russia can bring? Again smoke and mirrors, it seems.
    Missile defense. Here Russia has actually offered some alternatives. It seems to me that the issue is not so much with the installations themselves, but with the fact that the US became an unpredictable superpower under G.W. Bush. That could easily renege on agreements and ignore even its closest allies. Therefore, moves like missile defense are treated with great suspicion, and not only by Russia. If Obama is smart enough, he should try to overcome the resistance at the Capitol Hill and in Poland and Czech Republic to establish joint control and radar use with the RF.
    No, I do not have a better picture of the Russian “masses”. I visit once a year or two and socialize with Generation P. Perhaps that could explain the incongruities in their perception of the outside world. But no matter how incongruous their view of the world can be, to blame the US for all the economic travails is to shirk the responsibility of Russia’s own actions (or rather inaction). Has Russia diversified its economy enough to be able to dampen the effect of falling commodity prices? NO. Has it developed a strong and stable banking system? NO. So, the crisis is raging and Russia is completely helpless. Is it just the US that is at fault here?
    Best regards,
    Leo

  3. Folks:
    Great exchanges.
    In his above analytical review, I think Eugene makes an interesting observation on what might’ve motivated AA on a point she made concerning VVP.
    Regarding the discussion between Eugene and Leo, Russia hasn’t offered much in part because quite frankly it has its limits.
    With this in mind, it’s not necessary to provoke matters by pushing advocacy like Ukraine in NATO and the historically half baked OSCE statement on Molotov-Ribbentrop, which blows over the Western appeasement at Munich.
    As for Georgia in NATO, the former is in greater need of other things. On the other hand, Eugene is right that Russia can better help itself vis-a-vis not taking some of the stances that it has undertaken.
    Best,
    Mike

  4. Leo
    I very much appreciate your last set of comments.
    The WaPo folks are gone after because of their clout in terms of reach. AA becomes all the more interesting with her RK ties. Putting these points aside, there’re other sources to consider besides the likes of The WaPo. From my (and I suspect your) vantage point, too bad some of these other sources don’t get the same attention.
    Meantime, I’m glad Eugene is critically analyzing The WaPo coverage. (Mind you, this is said by someone who has been put in the same box as him: http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/2009/07/09/categorizing-the-russia-debate/ ) There’s much out there to study. Among some other sources, I’m generally turned off by The WaPo. At play with me on this point is my NY background, that has me going thru The NYT, which as you no doubt know often has a similar slant as The WaPo. There’re also other sources to critically assess. Eugene saves me time.
    You touch on an ongoing headache of sorts that a number of others besides myself have had.
    I suspect the Russian government might’ve been initially caught off guard by the OSCE statement. Having said this, Russian media and academia responded with the obvious that the OSCE statement left out. Here’s a link to a pro-OSCE statement enthusiast and my retort:
    http://talk.guardian.co.uk/WebX?14@803.f38rgDFpL1l@.7760b692/1937
    Awhile back, another “Russia watcher” nodded in agreement with my view that American sports journalism is qualitatively better than much of the high profile coverage of the former Communist bloc. Beat writers covering a given team can be quite critical of the latter. Likewise with some of the broadcasters of teams that are often employed by the latter.
    The coverage of the former Communist bloc is stacked with biases that often go unchecked. Part of it seems to involve a bit of a censorship factor, with the other part having to do with the “alternative” propped view not always so up to snuff, in addition to the appearance at times of being restricted to offer opposition up to a certain point.
    On the observation of Russia appearing to not offer better options, perhaps there’re times when not all is being brought out in the open, for a reason that’s deemed as better kept silent. Up until the shooting down of Gary Powers’ plane, you might know the claim of why the USSR never complained about U2 over-flights (it would be an acknowledgement of not being able to successfully curtail such activity).
    At times, I’m also reminded of the hockey player who dipsy doodles with the puck against the opposing team, only to not finish up with a goal.
    Having said all this, I’m hopeful of a better situation. There’re a number of bright folks out there with a good deal to offer.
    Meantime, there remain definite fault-lines, which should be detailed for quality sake. Pardon the soap box, but this leads to a recent Kyiv Post article brought up by the linked chap and followed up by yours truly:
    http://talk.guardian.co.uk/WebX?14@927.n3J0gMFWLFZ@.7760b692/1909
    The dynamic involved in this exchange is a Sikorski/Brzezinski leaning person who likes Petliura because that Ukrainian historical figure was willing to cede Galicia to Poland in exchange for becoming the head of a pro-Polish Ukrainian state. Understanding what motivates some to reach certain views is a key analytical ingredient. Having been exposed to the Sikorski/Brzezinski slant, I knew exactly what the reply would be to my initial response at the above linked discussion. On the other hand, the political opposite to my view on the subject isn’t always as well versed on my position. This particular subject concerns issues where the mainstream to semi-official Russian view is taking a pounding.
    On that point, I’ll end this soap box with this related article that touches on Russo-Ukrainian history and the kind of selective criticisms getting the nod: http://www.russiablog.org/2009/07/nikita-mikhalkov-denikinist-state-averko.php#more That article did get some notice elsewhere elsewhere – http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22Another+Look+at+Mikhalkov+and+the+Denikinist+State%22&btnG=Google+Search&aq=f&oq=&aqi= – while being formally ignored by some of the established status quo.
    Salut!
    Mike

  5. Pardon if I’m repeating myself Leo and company. After awhile, one engages in some of the same discussion elsewhere, making it easy to overlook being repetitious. Further encouraging this scenario are the repeated points that get noted.
    In this note, my brevity involves looking at the last set of comments without fully checking back on what has been said at this thread.
    The state of Russia’s relations with other former Soviet republics concern an ongoing process that includes growing pains and bumps on the road.
    As noted, Russia has been at some fault. The matter of fault in the state of Russia and other former USSR relations isn’t exclusively Russia’s.
    From the point of view of Russia’s and the West’s actual best interests, I’m still hopeful that this situation will noticeably improve. What happens between now and then is a concern.
    On one of your English language mass media points Leo, the journalists’ not getting it right issue is either because of their biases and/or an understanding of what are and aren’t the preferred views for posting and/or being subconsciously unclear of the biases.
    On another point of yours: among the readers of The NYT, and WaPo who think within the realm of opinion expressed at this thread, there’s the view that these kind of venues should be critically read on account of their channeling the predominating biases of the elitny. The follow-up to this critical overview includes these type of exchanges.
    Best,
    Mike

  6. Hi again Eugene, Leo & Co.
    From an independently mainstream Russian position, inclusive of constructive criticism of Russia, things aren’t looking all so bad.
    Recent polling indicates Putin/Putvedev would win the presidency over anyone else worldwide in Moldova and Ukraine. (This includes the politicians in these two countries.) A recent Ukrainian poll also indicates Ukrainian citizens favoring closer ties with Russia over the EU.
    Folks in Pridnestrovie, South Ossetia and Abkhazia prefer Russia over the countries claiming them.
    In recent years, Russia has been a leading nation in terms of emigration.
    There was an earlier mentioned (at a discussion at this blog) poll showing how Georgians at large like Russians more than other groups, while also not liking the Russian government. To a degree, this poll result does suggest hope, in conjunction with the comments made at this thread.
    Regarding global arms suppliers, Russia is a distant but solid number two.
    Eugene, I don’t disagree with the emphasis of the West being the sexier topic among a good number of budding and current Russian foreign policy elites. This is to be understandably expected. Offhand, despite curtailments in Russian studies programs throughout the US, I sense that the now former USSR still captures the interest of a good many budding and current American foreign policy elites.
    I recall the IMO liberally responsible Vladimir Lukhin suggesting that although Russian is part of Europe, it still has another side to it (Asia), which the most-Western oriented of Russians can’t legitimately dismiss. There’s also the phenomena of Asia and the rest of Europe getting closer due to the changed global economic order. As you know, I’m a bit more upbeat on Lavrov.
    Picking up from another discussion we had Eugene, you might be aware of Medvedev’s letter to Yushchenko withholding the latest Russian ambassadorial appointment to Ukraine, in protest of Yushchenko’s policies. There’re two obvious ways of looking at this in terms of unnecessary roughness, or Russia acting accordingly to a not so hospitable (to Russian concerns) Ukrainian president. I can see a basis for believing the former, while also thinking that this action by Medvedev will not significantly change things. Perhaps this is the Russian government’s way of firmly making clear that no matter what Yushchenko does from hereon, he’s not to be given any consideration among the more Russia friendly in Ukraine. Part of this thinking might keep in mind any pre-election charm offenses.
    Sticking to Ukraine, Patriarch Kirill’s visit to that country seems to have been (all things considered) gently done.
    A final point on Eugene’s latest set of comments concerns the limits of time many “Russia watchers” have in observing the scope of topics related to the subject. This point explains why the coverage is often lacking. A case in point is Kirill’s visit to Ukraine. There has been some one-sidedly negative coverage against his visit, which I sensed. I get the impression that some others felt this as well, while not having the time to look into the specifics.
    Then you’ve others who’re more willing to unquestionably accept the status quo. (whether because of their inherent biases or gullibility to readily believing certain sources). This situation reminds me how some interested, but not so keen followers of figure skating seem to take what one particular high profile journalist says on the sport as the gospel. On the other hand, there’re the more diehard of that sports’ followers who see fault with some of her/his views.
    I suspect many within the existing establishment order aren’t so keen on seeing technically sound critiques of their work getting great notice.
    Best,
    Mike

  7. You’re quite welcome Eugene and thanks for your great conspiracy theory, which serves as an example of why I keep checking back here.
    On your stated “imperial stance” (taken somewhat jestfully), I’ve been called a cuddily nationalist.

  8. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Hi Mike,
    Sure, the embassy is working, and I’m not convinced it’d be working better with Zurabov in🙂
    IMHO, Medvedev violated a golden rule: don’t prevent your enemy from destroying himself. The only consequence of his letter that I see is that it allienated people who hate Yushchenko but still support Ukraine’s independence (from Russia included) and don’t like being lectured by “foreigners” (exactly as Russians don’t).
    From this point of view, Yushchenko’s response was quite skillful: he didn’t use too offensive language and sounded victimized. As you know, Slavs love victims of abuse (remember Yeltsin?).
    Best,
    Eugene

  9. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mike,
    I certainly agree that the status quo will be preserved. After all, this status quo is being established and changed by relations between powerful financial-industrial interests in Ukraine. With all due respect to the clout of the President of RF, one letter from him — however high-profile — can’t change the big money equation(s).
    Besides, there are still a few months before the actual election, and I’m sure that by the election day, Medvedev’s letter will be forgotten. And I hope this letter will be his last of the sort🙂
    Regards,
    Eugene

  10. Leo says:

    Eugene,
    I will put off the discussion on Nato, media bias and ethnic lobbying to a later date since these are long-term issues (with a lot of history as well). I still think that all three issues are related to Russia’s competitiveness (or lack thereof).
    Anyhow… strangely enough when Mr. Lavrov was appointed I thought something very similar to what you think about Russia’s MID. Igor Ivanov made his career in Spain, this new guy (Mr. Lavrov) did in the US. Are these backgrounds conducive to dealing with the smaller (and very sensitive) countries of the near abroad? Hardly. And this is what we’ve been seeing. Successes in dealing with the larger European players and almost complete alienation of the neighboring countries. Not sure if we should fire Mr. Lavrov for such a state of affairs, but he certainly needs a powerful second-in-command person to deal with the CIS.
    Now to the Medvedev-Yuschenko exchange. In my opinion, we are seeing a normal (meaning irrational) behavior of two divorced spouses of a shotgun teenage marriage. The difference is that one of the human spouses can move from New Jersey to California, but countries usually don’t move. So we have one guy (or rather a teenager) saying that the relations are bad and it is all your fault. Then we have the other teenager replying: Yes, the relations are bad, but what do you suggest? Skillfully spicing it up along the way with how independent Ukraine is to ally with who it sees fit and interpret the joint history as it sees fit. The bigger teenager appeals to the people of Ukraine saying he cannot deal with the current Ukrainian leadership. The smaller teenager very skillfully victimizes himself. The curtain falls.
    Well, if we get to the facts on the ground…
    I have read that Mr. Yuschenko has been dodging the formal introduction of Mr. Zurabov for some time. Perhaps this was to send a message of how unimportant Russia is to the Ukrainian leadership. It is unpleasant for sure, but does it really warrant such a forceful response? And in the current tandemocracy in Russia who gets offended by this? Not sure if it is Mr. Medvedev. Wouldn’t it be better to communicate to the current Ukrainian leadership (however despicable it is to some) that they lose behaving like this? It is a formidable task to get such a message across (and way below Mr. Lavrov’s weight and professional ineterest), but it needs to be done.
    So, what is the impact of this exchange? As a function of time it asymptotically approaches zero, even if some passages of Mr. Medvedev sounded condescending. Only a serious blunder on the part of Russia in the economic or military sphere could tip the balance toward Mr. Yuschenko’s re-election.
    Well, I was planning to write just a few lines. Looks like my muse left for Eugene for good. Take good care of her.
    Leo

  11. Leo says:

    Eugene,
    Thanks for sharing the muse with me. Hard to disagree that the latest spat between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders produced absolutely nothing for the two countries. If your theory is correct, then Gazprom may have won (eliminated a non-Gazprom person from any deal-making) and Russia lost on the PR side (not the first time). If we consider the sequence of these events. First, Duma approves the law on the use of Russia’s armed forces abroad (will this be in Papua New Guinea?). Then we have DAM issuing a statement on the Russo-Ukrainian relations faulting the current Ukrainian leadership with everything and refusing to deal with it. Granted, the Russo-Ukrainian relations cannot go any lower, short of war. It is also highly unlikely that Mr. Yuschenko be re-elected, but who knows for sure? If painted into a corner, he may try to provoke a crisis with Russia to cause a forceful response. And then save the Fatherhood. I am making things up here, but we saw very undiplomatic delays on the diplomatic front, first delay with agreeing to Mr. Zurabov’s appointment and then with the formal acceptance of his credentials. Does this qualify as a small provocation? Sort of an unmanned drone over the enemy territory. And Mr. Yuschenko does get re-elected, then what? There no Mr. Kuchma to hide behind, as Mr. Putin did the last time around.
    But going back to Russia’s actions, they can be easily interpreted as exhibition of Russia’s bellicosity towards others in the neighborhood. It may not have been intended, but it is surely one way to interpret them in such a volatile region of the world. And this is why I think Russia may have lost some ground because of all this. Will the Russian leaders ever learn to step on their neighbors’ sensitivities less frequently? I am losing hope here.
    All the best,
    Leo

  12. Good hot morning to you Eugene:
    On the matter of accessing Russian diplomatic moves, I’m curious to get your take on this one (that goes for leo and anyone else as well) –
    http://www.rferl.org/content/From_Byzantium_To_Grozny__Russias_UTurn_Toward_Zakayev/1801249.html
    Best,
    Mike

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