The No-Apology Candidate

(This piece originally appeared on Russia Beyond the Headlines)

In the summer/fall of 2007, Foreign Affairs, an American magazine specializing in international relations and U.S. foreign policy, offered its pages to candidates for the 2008 U.S. presidential elections. In the July/August issue of the magazine, Mitt Romney, introduced as “Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007 [and] a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination,” took this offer to outline his foreign policy views. Incidentally, neighboring Romney in the printed space was Barack Obama, “a Democratic Senator from Illinois and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.”

Back in 2007, Romney was promoting himself as the only serious Republican candidate with a successful corporate career. This was reflected in the way Romney presented his foreign policy bona fides: his Foreign Affairs piece read as a business plan — a list of steps a Romney administration would take to confront the challenges facing the nation. While strongly advocating increased spending on national defense (he actually used the term “investment”), Romney, for example, promised to reduce the waste of defense dollars by hiring “a team of private-sector leaders and defense experts” to scrutinize military purchasing. Of course, Romney had done his homework. He professed unconditional love for Israel, and his list of challenges to America's interests around the world included all usual suspects: Iran, Hugo Chavez, and "the economic rise of China." Interestingly, in a long, almost 5,000-word, piece, Romney mentioned Russia only once – in a quite benign context of U.S. energy independence: “…we [should] end our strategic vulnerability to oil shutoffs by nations such as Iran, Russia, and Venezuela.”

Fast forward to Fall 2011. Romney is running for president again, but this time he’s no longer just “a candidate” for the Republican presidential nomination — he is a presumed frontrunner. As such, Romney prefers not to argue with fellow presidential hopefuls; rather, he brings the fight directly to President Obama’s doorstep. So when time came to challenge Obama’s foreign policy, the venue was not an article in an “academic” magazine; it was a speech at the Citadel, a military college in Charleston, S.C. The date of the speech – Oct. 7, the 10th anniversary of sending U.S. troops to Afghanistan – doesn’t appear coincidental, either.

Calling for a new “American Century” and promising to “never, ever apologize for America” – which, as Romney asserts, President Obama does all the time — Romney blasts “the feckless policies of the past three years.” He blames the current president for the loss of American leadership in the world and the lack of “clarity of American purpose and resolve,” which, in Romney’s opinion, made the globe “a far more dangerous place.”

The topic of Russia came rather early in the Citadel speech. Describing to the prospective U.S. military leaders the uncertain world America will be facing in the near future, Romney preaches:

“Russia is at a historic crossroads. Vladimir Putin has called the breakup of the Soviet empire the great tragedy of the 20th Century. Will he try to reverse that tragedy and bludgeon the countries of the former Soviet Union to submission, and intimidate Europe with the levels of its energy resources?”

The question that Romney is posing is no more than oratorical trick, for just a few minutes later, he explicitly identifies “a resurgent Russia, led by a man who believes the Soviet Union was great, not evil” as one of “powerful forces that may threaten freedom, prosperity, and America’s national interests.” No less. Incidentally, the origin of this bold Soviet Union claim isn’t all too obvious, so if President Putin has a chance to meet in the future with President Romney, he may ask for a direct quote.

Having delivered the Citadel speech, Romney wasn’t done with Russia just yet. The same day, he gave an interview to the Washington Post’s Russophobe-in-residence, Jennifer Rubin. In the interview, Romney spoke of Putin’s plans “of rebuilding Russian empire” using, as Romney sees it, “annexing populations as they did in Georgia.” (This sounds awkward: usually, it’s territories that are annexed, not populations.) And when asked by the ever-helpful Rubin what he would do with the “reset,” Romney didn’t mince words: “It has to end.”

It would be too premature, however, to conclude that Romney’s current position vis-à-vis Russia, hostile as it may appear, will necessarily translate into explicit anti-Russian policies of his prospective presidency. Romney’s self-proclaimed status of the major Republican opponent to President Obama forces him to use every opportunity to criticize the Obama administration. While criticizing the White House’s economic policies is easy, given the status of U.S. economy, it’s much trickier to challenge Obama’s foreign policy. The fact is that in many respects, the Obama administration’s current foreign policy discourse isn’t much different from that of his predecessor. And this poses a problem for Romney because his new “American Century” proposal is a slightly disguised version of the George W. Bush administration's “us-vs.-them” approach.

Obama’s policy of the “reset” in U.S.-Russia relations is perhaps the only area where Romney can see a clear deviation from the policies of the Bush era. Romney therefore attacks the “reset” because there is not much else to attack.

It remains to be seen whether the newly-acquired aggressive streak in Romney’s foreign policy views will eventually prevail, or if he will instead gradually return to more pragmatic approach he adhered to in 2007. It remains to be seen, too, which effect Romney’s choice of Leon Aron — a prominent Russia expert from the American Enterprise Institute — as his Russia advisor will have on his presidential campaign.

It may well happen that at certain point of his presidency, should it materialize, Romney will realize that having Russia as a partner serves American national interests better than having it as a foe. And who knows: Romney may decide to meet with Putin and look into his soul? And make no apology for that.

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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38 Responses to The No-Apology Candidate

  1. Mark says:

    That’s exactly it – nobody really knows what Romney would do because he is on every side of every issue. But Americans who like his approach to jobs and the economy should remember he got rich by breaking up American companies and selling them off, putting Americans out of work. He doesn’t mention that much, and nobody asks. In fact, he remains the most likely chance for the Republican nomination simply because his opponents have mostly left him alone and let him tell whatever stories he wishes.

  2. In order of interests and knowledge, Russia doesn’t seem high on Romney’s list. It has been said that Romney flips flops. In conjunction to that view, his seeming lack of knowledge and interest in Russia suggests that as president, he might not be such a disaster. Offhand: on Russia, Romney doesn’t appear to have the same negative and biased zeal as John McCain.
    Romney’s views on the former Georgian SSR seem to be in line with the Obama administration. In addition to some prior instances: of late, there’re signs that the love affair of sorts between Saakashvili and neolib to neocon Western foreign policy elements might noticeably decline in the foreseeable future.
    As cited last night on MSNBC, Obama leads in the polls when matched against the lead Republican candidates.

  3. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mark, Mike-
    Thanks for your comments. I agree: Romney is the greatest flip-flopper of our time, even by “high” standards of American politics. The only thing is clear: he badly wants to be president — and make no mistake, this is his last chance — and he would say ANYTHING to hurt Obama. I’m sure that if Obama didn’t push for Obamacare, Romney would now be saying that only a comprehensive health care reform — like the one he implemented in MA as governor — could have saved the country’s economy.
    That said, remember that this time in 2007, Giuliani was the frontrunner and McCain was considered dead. True, the field is so bad that it’s difficult to see an alternative to Romney. Yet, he’s not there.
    Another thing to remember from 2007: everyone in Moscow wanted a Republican president, because “Republicans are softer on human rights.”

  4. Luis Alcalá says:

    I believe that it is not necessary give too much credit on what the candidates, republicans or democrats say, in election campaign, on Russia. Russia is a sure point for the electorate, as it happens with Chávez. to attack them it demonstrates simultaneously steadfastness and connects with the majority opinion of the American public taught by most of the mass media.
    To attack to these countries is free, the commerce of the United States with Russia is insignificant and in spite of all these threats, the United States keeps on importing oil of Venezuela (she is its third world supplier in importance after Canada and Saudi Arabia).
    Unfortunately when they should be presidents, the industrial military conglomerate into which the United States has turned, as Eisenhower predicted will not leave a lot of action freedom to them either.

  5. Quetzalcoatl says:

    I believe that quote about “looking into his soul” serves the same rhetorical purpose as “the reset” for the opposition to claim that the sitting president is “soft on Russia”. Neither was really true, but Obama cannot really afford to bully Russia as much as Clinton and Bush did.

  6. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thank you for your comment. You’re right: talk is cheap, especially when presidential candidates talk:) Yet, not paying attention at all to what they’re saying is a bit irresponsible. Knowledge is not expensive, but ignorance can often be costly.
    Best Regards,

  7. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Here is the direct Bush’s quote after his first meeting with Putin in Slovenia in 2001:
    “I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul.”
    What is not “really true” here?

  8. I find Romney’s phraseology curious.
    First he (or whoever fed him) is to be congratulated for actually checking what Putin said (even though “the great” geopol catastrophe does not get the Russian right) But at least he doesn’t claim Putin called it “the greatest”. So that’s a (little) something.
    But annexing population; that’s very strange. I’m not aware that the Russian census now takes in AB and SO nor than RosStat counts them in. Why would anyone put it that way? Apart from the fact that it’s a rather daffy way of saying whatever it is one wants to say, what does it mean? What does he think happened.
    But generally I think you’ve got it right — at this point it’s just words.
    BUT, consider, there are two ways to criticise Obama’s “reset”
    1) it was just rhetorical and there has been little followup; a great chance is being missed to bring Russia on side
    2) Obama was kowtowing to a quasi-enemy.
    He chose the second. Evidence, I think, of an inclination/a prejudice/an attitude.

    • Lakeisha says:

      Primarily, policy contract is all about distributing threat. For our intentions let’s determine threat as the potentiality that on certain evening QuotesChimp might incur an occurrence which causes something to be lost by you. This can be a fireplace, where situation you might drop your property; or an automobile accident, where situation you risk dropping your vehicle, your wellness, and potentially, following the lawful costs, your nest eggs. On the other hand, the threat might issue your wellbeing along with the prerequisite to keep physicians yet another pricey suggestion. Simply speaking, after that, daily in just about any manner, we’re all vulnerable to dropping some thing of great benefit to ourselves, recognized in insurance lingo as reduction.

  9. Eugene says:

    Thanks Patrick,
    If you have a sec, take a look at the original Rubin interview link. It seems obvious to me that she spoke with him on the phone (he was in SC, she was in DC), so he was relaxed (tired?), perhaps, out of reach of his advisors/speech writers. So what he said could be unpolished but it was sincere.
    As for criticizing Obama, remember his calling the New START Obama’s “greatest foreign policy mistake?” His factual base was SO-O-O sloppy that Lugar had to publicky dress him down the very next day.
    In summary, I’m still unsure about him. I keep telling myself that he’s pragmatic, that, as a “real” politician, he’d say anyhting to get elected. And yet…something really troubles me about Romney.

  10. A piece relating to the earlier contrast at this thread of Romney versus someone like McCain:
    Lavrov was diplomatic in this instance. In another situation, I liked his response to Charlie Rose citing a vintage Brzezinski (Democratic Party foreign policy establishment) comment (diatribe). Lavrov simply responded by saying that he was glad that Brzezinski was no longer NSA. (Of course, Brzezinski’s influence is still evident.)
    It can be a fine line between trying to find something potentially positive about the existing status quo versus being a dupe of that situation.
    The US Republican presidential debates stressing domestic issues over foreign policy can become problematical if the foreign policy of the given presidency is weak on objectively informed analysis.
    On a number of global issues including Russia, McCain reflects a flawed knowledge to Romney maybe not being as well versed, while also not being as committed to negatively inaccurate positions.

  11. Mark says:

    That the United States does insignificant direct trade with Russia is itself insignificant; it is the dominant energy producer at a moment in history when Saudi reserves are the object of suspicion – when, in fact, Saudi Arabia is struggling to contain domestic unrest that once broken loose, might result in new rulers and new rules – while the world is unwilling or unable to break away from petroleum-based economies. Bad relations with Russia are going to send oil prices higher, provided those bad relations occur coincident with other steering factors such as economic recovery and renewed development. The only alternatives are to cultivate better relationships, or deliberately curtail recovery. I don’t see any middle ground. Of course, recovery could stall on its own, but under normal circumstances governments that wish to be re-elected would do everything in their power to prevent such a circumstance. Higher oil prices mean increased opportunities for Russian influence. Lower prices mean a restless and angry western electorate. You pays your money, and you takes your chances.

  12. Eugene says:

    As you might know, I’m not a Lavrov’s fan –to say the very least. Yet, I’m with him on McCain. McCain is becoming precipitioulsy irrelevant on every issue facing the Senate, including foreign policy. I think that Kirk is now the Republican foreign policy face/mouth in Senate. McCain shouldn’t have run for the Senate seat again — too old, too outfashioned…

  13. Eugene says:

    The oil price fluctuations may have no effect on U.S.-Russia relations. OK. Yet, Russia’s dependence on oil export is unhealthy — no matter how you parcel it. Low prices mean unbalanced budget, high prices mean high inflation.
    So regardless of what Saudi may or may not do, Russia does have a problem. I think that Kudrin’s recent Kommersant paper is very informative in this context.

  14. Eugene, in addition to Lavrov, I sense that you’re (if anything) more negative of Rogozin.
    Recent discussion at your blog has included observing the different takes of past and present American presidential candidates and wonks.
    Putting you on the spot (so to speak) in a way that’s respectfully appreciative of your insight, who do you see as a good alternative to Lavrov as Russian FM?

  15. On follow-up, I’m not sure Kosachev or Churkin as Russian FM would be something noticeably different and improved from the current status quo.
    There’re others to consider as well.

  16. Eugene Ivanov says:

    I’m responding to both of your two last posts.
    Yes, I’m negative of Rogozin — always have been since his days as the Rodina leader. I don’t doubt his patriotism or willingness to defend Russia’s national interests. However, as a diplomat, he must watch his mouth, yet the comments he made during his recent trip to the US were not only unprofessional; they were outright offensive and rude.
    The worst part of it is that it’s not that Rogozin suddenly lost his cool. No, back then he was — at least he thought so — about to go home and get involved in Russian politics again. So his assault at Kirk and Kyl — whether warranted on the merits or not — was intended as a “Hi!” of sorts (you can call it “initial investment” too:)) to domestic audience. This is troubling, especially given recent rumors that Rogozin may replace Lavrov in the next (Medvedev’s?) cabinet.
    Now, I have no problems with Lavrov, professionally speaking, except for two things. First, he’s been on the job since 2004, and that’s enough, IMHO. Second, his whole diplomatic experience is focused on the US — I don’t think he ever worked anywhere but in the US — and he simply doesn’t see any difference between Russia’s foreign policy and Russia-US relations.
    For this reason alone, I don’t like Churkin as the next PM: his career and experience are almost identical to those of Lavrov.
    I like Kosachev and I’d disagree with you that he wouldn’t bring anything new: as I wrote in a couple of my NAME posts, Kosachev carefully argued for the introduction of some “value-based” approaches to Russia’s foreign policy, which is healthy. On the other hand, I know nothing about Kosachev as a bureaucrat, whether or not he’ll be able to handle such a monster as MID.
    I do have a candidate in mind — and I think I named this candidate a few year ago on this blog. It’s Valentina Matvienko, recently appointed the Federation Council Chairman. She has all the skills, qualifications and hand-on experience to do the FM job — and she’s tough enough to run any ministry, including MID. Keeping her at the Federation Council is the waste of her talents. Not to mention that appointing a woman as the FM will only improve Russia’s image abroad.

  17. Thank you for the detailed and thought provoking replies Eugene. These kind of discussions are enlightening.
    Your explanation for seeing a change at the Russian FM position immediately reminds me of Terry Francona leaving the Red Sox and the stated reasons (by him and others) for his leaving. Among his peers in other countries, Lavrov has a lengthy run, similar to Francona’s situation among MLB managers.
    Such a matter depends on the performance of the person at the helm, as well as how he/she feels along with management. Francona wanted out, with the Red Sox top brass not seeking him back upon notice of his decision.
    Lavrov doesn’t strike me as doing a bad job. His appearing to be top heavy on the West stems in good part to how the lead Western countries militarily carry on. In contrast, Russian-Chinese relations don’t involve such a noticeable difference on the use of force. The role of FM appears more prone to dealing with diplomatic matters, related to arms reduction, territorial disputes, wars and “rogue nations”, as opposed to a singular issue like the increased foreign trade with a given country.
    My Rogozin reference was a round about way of expressing how a change with a different mood might not be particularly good – from the perspective of seeing a diplomatically applied Russian foreign policy – that can effectively communicate Russia’s interests – in a way that’s a fine line between firm and not being unnecessarily provocative. IMO, Rogozin is good in a kind of “good cop, bad cop” foreign policy position that’s below the position of FM. As previously expressed, I’m not always against returning sharp manner initiated by someone else. “Smacking down to size” can serve to underscore a valid point that some haven’t acknowledged.
    On Matvienko as FM, I immediately think of SoS Hillary Clinton, as someone who (whether one agrees with her or not) is bright, while having undertaken a key foreign policy position, without that field as her primary background. Respectfully said, I prefer someone who is bright, with a foreign affairs profile, that has exhibited a broad knowledge on the subject with relative objectivity. Matvienko has her supporters and detractors. My concern on her becoming FM is on the latter group taking negative PR swipes in a way that gets off topic. That said, I’m all for someone accepting a position and replying to their critics in a direct way – in the form of a committee confirmation review of an appointment.
    I’ll further ponder your stated approval of Kosachev and perhaps reply back.
    Getting back to some other recent discussions at your blog (I kick ideas around for improved knowledge), I was reminded that Lenin took an internationalist position along or perhaps nearing the lines of a proletarian having no homeland. Note that Lenin is periodically referenced in anti-Russian leaning commentary. For clarity sake, I’m simultaneously against chauvinism and the other extreme that conjures up such terms as: Quisling, traitor, stooge, dupe, self hater…. Offhand, I can’t think of an American or British head of state, who pointedly warned against American or British chauvinism, with Lenin’s comment of “Great Russian chauvinism” in mind.
    On another discussion which included Mark and yourself: two thoughts come to mind. Putin has a concept of modernization, with Medvedev going into his presidential role as a part of that process. In time, Medvedev became more comfortable as president, inclusive of feelers inside and outside Russia who egged him to continue on in a more challenging way to Putin. At issue is what might’ve transpired behind the scene (among insiders with different preferences on how Medvedev should continue on) in the year or so leading up to the announcement that Putin would be United Russia’s next presidential candidate.

  18. One quick follow-up thought on Kosachev, Lavrov and Churkin. The last two come across better in the English language – at least from what I’ve seen.
    This is an important aspect to consider. By itself, that particular shouldn’t determine who is best suited for the job.
    Globally, the English language is prominent. Coupled with that are some misguided views of Russia within English language speaking countries. Granted that an English language savvy Russian foreign ministry lacking in “strategery” isn’t a good situation.
    A hypothetical FM Kosachev could be supplemented with a top notch spokesperson, to handle the likes of Matthews, Zakaria, Amanpour, Rose…

  19. Mark says:

    A dependence on the fluctuation in oil prices is unhealthy….for who? Not major energy producers who are able to defend themselves against soft and hard power or have a special arrangement with major western consumers. It was definitely unhealthy for Iraq and Libya, but thus far it has proven quite healthy for Russia, as witnessed by its low debt load and large cash reserves. I’m betting if huge reserves of oil were discovered in the USA tomorrow, the conventional wisdom on oil reliance would undergo a paradigm shift. Suddenly, relying on oil to help achieve your foreign and domestic policy objectives would begin to seem like just sound business practice.
    I understand what you’re saying – being able to rely on a steady cash flow from oil revenues makes liberalizing reforms appear less urgent. However, stable supplies of oil also allow the west to pursue destructive interventionist foreign policies, and nobody seems to think that’s a crutch. Russia doesn’t need to change its ways as long as it is rich with oil money – but the west doesn’t have to change its ways as long as the supply remains reliable and not prohibitively expensive. Which entity’s policies have a bigger negative impact on the world?
    It’s not as if Russia has no alternative but dependence on oil – it is a rich source of timber, minerals and other raw materials and is perfectly capable of turning out quality manufactured goods. If the west truly wishes Russia to reduce its dependence on oil revenues, it could be more supportive of diversification efforts. Is it? I would have to say No.
    I have a hard time seeing the west’s criticism of Russia’s “oil problem” as anything other than bitterness that it is simultaneously something the west does not have of its own, and a major factor guarding Russia against the collapse the west yearns for. If oil really was responsible for steadily eroding Russia’s living standards, I suspect the west would be saying, “God speed the plough” rather than “Stupid Russians, with their oil-junkie habit”. Substantiation for this belief is offered by the crowing about large deposits of shale gas in the USA. Let’s forget for a moment that this is still not economically recoverable with anything like the profitability of fossil oil – why would the USA be jubilant about an energy supply that promises only to enslave Americans? Far better to invest the money in something that promises a peace dividend, like green energy. Do you see that happening? Neither do I.
    A reliance on oil revenues – whether that results from genuine laziness on Russia’s part or obstruction of Russia’s efforts to become a leader in other endeavours – is only a liability if the price is going down or is forecast to do so by a slackening of demand. The west could force this to happen by sharply curbing its appetite for oil. It actually does so only when driven by unfortunate circumstance.

  20. Eugene Ivanov says:

    I like your Terry Francona reminder. As a matter of fact, in Russia, they tend to rotate (meaning fire) coaches of soccer teams very frequently. However, when it comes to politics, everyone on the very top seems indispensable…
    I’m not saying that Lavrov is doing bad job; what I’m saying is that 7-8 years is enough, and a new blood is needed. And if one is to go negative, I do have a problem with Lavrov’s “US-centrism,” in particular, with how he dealt with the South Ossetia crisis: there was an urgent need in Moscow-Washington dialog, but Lavrov was MIA, because he was offended by something Condi Rice told him. As a result, nothing was moving along. At the very least, one could expect a thicker skin from a FM…
    Now, I easily agree that Matvienko may have her faults along with detractors. My point is exactly the same: there are always alternatives to consider. Regular rotation is what is missing.

  21. Eugene,
    Appreciate the follow-up.
    At other levels of Russian foreign service, there’s a tendency to move folks around in a way that serves to have a greater number of better trained personnel – as they experience different surroundings.
    I’m nevertheless a bit concerned about change for the sake of change sake at a position like the FM one.
    Your characterization of Lavrov isn’t a plus for him. Could there possibly be more to that? In other situations, he doesn’t come across as a wus.
    Back to Kosachev, I understand that his current foreign policy role in the Russian government limits him from taking issue with what has been advocated by the Russian Foreign Ministry. I’m interested to see anything specific from him that can be considered a change for the better.
    In North America, coaches of professional teams typically get replaced within a relatively short time period. Offhand, I think Francona’s stint as Bosox skipper is either the first or second longest tenure in that club’s over 100 year history.

  22. Eugene Ivanov says:

    There is no reason for us to try to split the “oil drop” 🙂 Nor there is any need to constantly remind me about Western propaganda toward Russia: I’m aware of it and as critical of it as you are.
    In my view, Russia suffers from a classic case of the Dutch disease. No, high oil prices don’t erode the living standards of ordinary Russians. On the contrary, so far, they have only contributed to them. Nor do I see any reasons for a precipitous drop in oil prices — for as long as China and India keep growing.
    The problem though is that the state’s social obligations grow faster that the oil revenues. At the same time, increased taxes on oil are being blocked by the powerful oil lobby, whereas budget shortfalls are being compensated by increased taxation on small and medium-size businesses. True, Russia is essentially debt free, and until the crisis had surplus budget. But the current budget is being run with already a deficit, and to balance the 2012 budget, the average price of oil should be around $117. And if oil prices drop to about $60 — again, no particular reasons for that, but just for the sake of argument — cash reserves will disappear in a year, year and half.
    Is THIS healthy? And I’m not even talking about corruption, the consequence of the Dutch disease which is much more prevalent in Russia than in the Netherlands.

  23. Mark says:

    All of what you say is – arguably – true. And it’s also true that the oil lobby has a great deal of power in Russia (just as it has in many other countries, some of whom don’t have much in the way of oil themselves). I’ll take your word that this is hurting small and medium businesses, because you obviously know better than I.
    But. What should Russia’s leaders be doing? Possessed of a much sought-after resource which they are so fortunate as to have plenty of and which the world has not learned to do without, what should they do? Sell the national rights to their reserves, in order to be rid of this curse? Pour the money into small farms, and try to make a go of some other industry, like agriculture? How about domination of the aerospace industry? Computers? Where, precisely, is the west prepared to step aside and make room for Russia to dominate? Or does the west expect Russia to ease off on pumping oil so as not to be quite so dominant in that field, and just accept lesser revenues in order to be seen as “playing it smart”? If in fact something like that were to happen, Russia would promptly be accused of “extortion politics” and “using energy as a weapon”.
    It’s certainly possible Russia could greatly improve the fairness of its tax code, and such reform would be something I could enthusiastically support. However, although Russia has plenty of resources, none are so profitable as oil. Leaders would be foolish to forswear its muscle simply to be seen as “diversifying”, and world markets would hardly be prepared to buy more Russian timber in exchange for Russia pumping less oil. Relying on oil because they have a lot of it might well be risky, but the current climate argues it is not as dangerous as the alternatives would be for the Russian economy. Russia is looking to expand its influence, not diminish it, and that’s something that is met only with stiff resistance even when the world cannot do without what Russia has for sale. What would move the west to champion the cause of a strong Russia if it were not a major energy producer? Pity? I would have to say No.

  24. Mark,
    On a subject we discussed at another thread, note some of the folks, their Republican Party ties and what they say as quoted at this link:
    I understand that this piece ran in yesterday’s Washington Times, as opposed to The Washington Post or New York Times.
    Brzezinski and McFaul are also quoted making reasonable observations. There’s nevertheless good reason to be suspect of these two. For example, Brzezinski in at least one recent instance said that he believes Russia has no choice but to primarily look West – suggesting that the Kremlin is bound to predominating foreign policy positions in the West. IMO, that attitude serves to make the Russian-western relationship unnecessarily problematical. Western foreign policy isn’t always so intelligent, with Russian foreign policy having some good points.
    As previously stated: on Russian-American relations, I try to be cautiously optimistic, on the basis that it isn’t in the best interests of either Russia or America to be at great odds with each other. Meantime, this view can stand to have have greater influence with improved English language PR and media efforts, at the more high profile of venues, interested in seeking such advocacy.
    My cautious optimism includes my reaction to this piece:
    On the surface, this commentary seems good. However, I think that going from sovok (Soviet nostalgic) to “objective”, is misleading.
    Note how the RIAN and Independent Media (Moscow Times connected) affiliated Russia Profile gave credence to Arkhangelsky, who said that Russia’s two headed eagle should “die.” That view has been propagated by others including Khrushcheva. At RIAN and The Moscow Times, where’s the valid opposition to that crap? Likewise, nothing from the likes of folks essentially serving as court appointed Russia friendlys. This last view isn’t intended to personally put anyone down. Rather, it’s to highlight what has been simultaneously evident and missing at the more high profile of venues. A true advocacy of improving things welcomes competent others, who’ve been kept out of an imperfect process that can definitely be improved upon. I’m not alone in finding some of the highly promoted panels to be dull exchanges of establishment wonks, wonking off on each other, coupled by wannabes who suck up to such exchanges.
    The above linked National Interest article doesn’t address how much Americans are changing their views of Russia. I still see a good deal of bias, even with the first link of this note in mind.
    I also see limits in some of the more forward thinking of establishment folks.
    The author of the linked NR piece coauthored this article that can be reasonably characterized as having a sugar coated neoliberal imperialist mindset:
    That article is answered at:
    The other author (from the one in the National Interest piece) of the Carnegie/Moscow Times piece has (at his blog) essentially said that supporting Abkhaz independence might be a good thing, for the wishful thinking (on his part) purpose of distancing the Abkhaz-Russian relationship and encouraging separatism among Russian republics. Note that South Ossetia’s independence isn’t advocated (likely due to South Ossetia being on closer terms with Russia).
    As for Aron not being in the first link in this set of notes, over the years he comes across as less provocative towards Russia as Perle and Brzezinski. (Perle being referenced in that first link, along with Brzezinski).

  25. “In a hard-line speech to a conservative think tank (Heritage) on Tuesday, Rep. John Boehner said Russia has displayed an inclination to “restore Soviet-style power and influence,” using its wealth of natural resources such as oil, natural gas and metals as a political weapon.
    Boehner pressured the administration to rethink its “reset” policy with Russia and specifically questioned the U.S. role in the border dispute weighing heavily on Russia’s bid to join the WTO by year’s end.
    “The administration should resolve this stalemate in a manner that respects the territorial integrity of Georgia,” Boehner said. “Then — and only then — will movement on the WTO question be worth considering.”
    Read more:
    The Moscow Times

  26. Thanks for that follow-up Igor.
    On the matter of being one-sided, the Lozansky involved World Russia Forum (WRF) appears more diverse in views than the Heritage event. The same can be said of the Valdai Discussion Club.
    Yet, note how some are more likely to call the WRF and Valdai propagandistic.

  27. Mark says:

    American conservatives, at least the hardcore values-voter crowd of which Boehner is an instructive example, do all their philosophizing on other countries based on that’s-the-way-it’s-always-been. Britons don’t eat a lot of meat or fresh fruit because they were hard to get during the Blitz. The French can’t fight to save their lives, and don’t know how to make anything that isn’t ridiculously complicated. Black leaders are dictators because they only know one way to lead and are incapable of grasping democracy’s nuances. America is the best because it is free and everybody wants to be like Americans.
    Russians are savages who are either oppressors or the oppressed, view everything in terms of personal advantage, and are untrustworthy. Their women don’t wash often and smell sweaty. So it shall be, world without end. Close with a few muffled sobs (if it’s Boehner speaking, because he can’t get enough of crying in public and is cautiously optimistic that it makes him seem more human. There’s a good reason for that – his supporters assess that his spontaneous blubbering, rather than hinting at mental illness, makes him seem more human).
    With the current situation in Europe and several other factors relating to the global economy, I have become convinced that WTO membership should not necessarily be an aspirational goal for Russia. I admit I was once strongly in favour of it, and I used to get quite frustrated with the USA’s constant childish brinksmanship while it conveniently ignored the membership of some of the poorest, most violent and repressive countries on the Big Blue Marble. But not any more – now it’s just amusing.
    Russia doesn’t really need the WTO as much as the WTO needs Russia, with its huge cash and energy reserves. Simpletons like Boehner continue to shake their heads in pretended sorrow and put off WTO membership for Russia yet again because the insult value brings them childish pleasure, and they’ve done it so many times that the insult has lost its sting. Who cares? It’s plain now that even when a sympathetic Democratic administration is in power, it lacks the will and determination to make bold decisions and walking cases of arrested development like Boehner continue to exercise tremendous influence just because Democrats lack the nerve to stand up to them. Therefore, if I were leader of Russia, I would abandon the WTO negotiating process altogether. Obviously, membership is not worth groveling to Saakashvili and validating his impression of his own greatness. There would not need to be “movement on the WTO question” if there were no WTO question.

  28. That Heritage event had quite a tilt, as evidenced by its roster of panelists:
    A more informed way of reviewing a situation is by having diverse views interact with each other in a civil way.

  29. donnyess says:

    Romney will loudly declare the phony “reset” dead. Next he will call for the 2014 winter games to be moved away from Russia using Georgian military occupation as a pretext. Remember Zbig/Carter/1980?

  30. Provided nothing more confrontational in the form of a war involving Russia happens between now and 2014, I don’t think that there will be an Olympic boycott.
    My sense is that the IOC and a good number of key others aren’t pleased with the 1976, 1980 and 1984 summer Olympic boycotts. (The 1976 boycott involved African nations protesting the New Zealand rugby team’s tour of apartheid South Africa. Never mind that rugby isn’t an Olympic sport and therefore not affiliated with the New Zealand Olympic Committee.)

  31. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Igor,
    Well, I don’t think Boehner knows much about Russia, but this is what I think had happened. The Heritage invited Boehner to speak. He asked his stuff to prepare a speech. His stuff contacted the Heritage folks ans asked for “help.” The Heritage folks wrote the text, and the Speaker has just delivered it.
    His speech could have potentially been different if we had a working pro-Russian lobby in the US that would pitch its messages to Boehner and other Congressmen.
    Best Regards,

  32. Eugene Ivanov says:

    I don’t want to get deep into the WTO issue, except for saying that there are those in Russia (say, steelmakers) who favor admission to the WTO and there are those who either don’t care (say, oil/gas sector) or directly oppose like the agribusiness. (When Agrarian Party was “incorporating” into United Russia, their condition was that UR would oppose joining the WTO.)
    For a long time, a consensus was that Medvedev was a proponent of the WTO, whereas Putin was a “WTO-sceptic.” Recently, at one of his now frequent meetings with “supporters” Medvedev opined that Russia had no reason to “rush” into the WTO. How fast things change…

  33. Eugene, your Boehner point reminds me of Curt Weldon, who when in office did things like appear pro-Russian, while in other instances showing uncritical support for the Ukrainian Orange side.
    Bush Sr. received some misguided flack for warning against suicidal nationalism when he spoke in Kiev, when he was president.
    I suspect that the high profile backlash against that statement (from the late Safire among other anti-Russian sources) put some folks on guard.
    It’s like running up a swampy hill with bugs biting you.

  34. Mark says:

    “How fast things change…”
    True dat, as the homeboys say. All right, Zhenya, we’ll leave the WTO for now – but I can’t resist a parting shot, as a new disciple of the forget-the-WTO-Russia informal advocacy group.
    Russian steelworkers are doing just fine under the current trade situation, exporting 10 times as much steel as North America while importing only about a quarter what North America does. Also, Russia supplies to the internal market double what it imports, so local sales are brisk as well compared to North America, which uses the same amount it imports while selling only a tenth of Russia’s output.
    I question whether the Russian steel market would do better under WTO’s regulation, subject as it is to political maneuvering and influence-peddling, not to mention national protectionist measures and subsidies. Under those marketing realities, Russia might well sell less.
    As often happens, when you act from spite as the west is doing in keeping Russia out of the WTO and keeping Jackson-Vanik on the books long after the need for it has passed, it comes back to bite you in the ass.

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