Implications for Russia and America in the Coming Elections: Prospects and Dangers

As we move towards 2012 and elections in Russia and the United States, the issues of how each country will manage the relationship in the future will become more urgent.  On both sides there is a high level of uncertainty about the results of the elections (unless Putin runs alone without significant opposition). In that case, on the Western side, there will be a high degree of anxiety.  Even as this is written both President Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are sparing for political positions while various partisans are urging both to run.

But the dual elections set in motion, on each side, a national assessment of the success of their policies of cooperation.  The election process will also, in some cases, initiate a debate whether cooperation is worthwhile and create an opportunity by some elements to develop opposition to the other side’s actions or policies.

One of the problems is that there are interests in both Russia and the United States who would like to undermine cooperation and reconciliation between Russia and America. On the Russian side, there are right-wing nationalists who are deeply anti-West and still view the U.S. in Cold War terms. Further, there are military elements that have their own agenda and desire to create their own “bogeyman” to gain resources and influence.

On the American side, there remain the neo-cons and other conservative groups who, like their Russian counterparts, still remain in their Cold War stupor.  Further, they do not want to admit that the Obama “Reset” has been largely successful.

Hopefully the respective leaders in Russia and America will defend the New START treaty as a gain for all sides. Hopefully the forces at work in Russia, and especially President D. Medvedev, will continue to argue that Russia has more to gain by cooperation than confrontation. But much remains unknown about the debate on this question (and others) within the Kremlin.

In Russia, Putin has used past elections to advance a strident nationalistic and anti-Western/American stance which played well at home but at the cost of a self-induced rise in right-wing nativistic opinion. Will this play out again as we move towards 2012? Medvedev has made a stake in the U.S. – Russia relationship and developed an image as a modernizer and moderate reform leader. Cooperation with the West is part of his strategy.  But Prime Minister Putin has continued his rhetorical nationalism and stance of skepticism and criticism of America and its global role.

Obama’s “Reset” initiative has been largely successful with the New START treaty, Russian cooperation in getting key transit rights into Afghanistan via that country, and Russia’s stand down in the UN Security Council on the Resolution on Libya.  There has been a host of cooperative actions and programs under the umbrella of summit meetings and other contacts.  Russia has also gained American support of its membership in the World Trade Organization.  There are still key differences including Iran’s nuclear ambitions and European missile defense. Further progress on nuclear and non-proliferation issues, confidence building measures, and economic, science, environmental, and technological cooperation would enhance and solidify the mutual structure of common gains.

Russian analysts and Kremlin leaders, however, must also be pondering the possibilities of what will happen if Obama is not reelected. They must also be worried that if anyone of the likely Republican presidential candidates, given the composition of that ideological right-wing field, won, they would undo all that has been carefully built up over the last three years. That must have them worried and wondering if they have made a shaky “bet” on a lasting and solid relationship with America.

While the American election will be focused on domestic unemployment, the economy, and  possibly the results of a dysfunctional Republican Congressional stance on the debt fiasco, there will also be some debate on Obama’s foreign policy, especially among those voters most knowledgeable and involved in international programs, trade, and generally global issues.  Nevertheless, unpredictable events in Russia and nearby nations of the old Soviet Union could, like the Georgia conflict, bring this relationship into public debate.

We will be examining the impact of the coming elections and developments in Russia-U.S. relations over the coming months and welcome comments on its significant impact on security and related foreign policy issues.  Please look for new posts on this. 

And do add your comments and questions.

By Harry C. Blaney III.

5 thoughts on “Implications for Russia and America in the Coming Elections: Prospects and Dangers

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  2. Harry Blaney August 4, 2011 / 8:42 PM

    I’m afraid that today’s massive market drop is both a vote of fear at the direction of our economy and also of our political system in which it seems the “crazies in the House” have highjacked our system for the benefit of the very very rich and damn the rest of the country and for that matter the rest of the problems of the world from starvation in the Horn of Africa to the killing going on in Syria, Libya and now Yemen and beyond.

    The world also looks on in wonder and fear of what is taking place in our nation and has, rightly, second thoughts about our leadership, especially after the eight years of George Bush and his high deficits, myopic views, and un-needed wars. They can’t believe what the GOP is doing to our country. As I have noted, we need to provide a helping hand along with our allies and friends to give life to those on the edge of starvation and to the countries of the “Arab Spring” who are trying to make their own revolution as did Franklin and Washington against their tyrant. But our political landscape make it almost impossible to act when we need to.

    Yes, Bob you are right we are living in a “Plutocracy” and to get to a better place we need to both change our politics, change our attention to the world and get ourselves better and fairer media. We need to pay attention to human needs at home and abroad to be the nation we hope for.

  3. Bob Lamoree August 4, 2011 / 7:04 AM

    One would hope that the American citizenry painted with a broader brush visa vis elections . . . that they could see past the smoke screens of hype, sound bites of half-truths and out-and-out lies. We don’t! The sad fact is that we’re manipulated, and the media does not help. In the instance of Fox News [Is Fox News an oxymoron?] it not only doesn’t help, it’s at the heart and soul of the manipulation. So, we limp along, a great portion of our citizenry believing we’re the great democracy, the world’s greatest power, and most of what we do is right and necessary. All the while, as has already been pointed out, we’re paying scant attention to foreign policy as we watch our economy slip in to a morass.

    Democracy, as inefficient as it is, remains the best form of government for all the people. When asked what is the best form of government, Ben Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Considering that our democracy is morphing, or has already morphed, into a plutocracy, Franklin’s words are all too prophetic. The threat to us today is not just a world in crisis, it’s what we’ve allowed to happen to our political system. The monied plutocrats have purchased our elected officials, and who knows where we’ll be led?

    Changing direction . . . Is it possible? That is the real question.

  4. Harry Blaney August 3, 2011 / 3:30 PM

    I agree with Frank Feigert, on the low level of attention to “foreign affairs” by the general public, especially when their are suffering from unemployment, a major economic crisis generally — that was caused by lack of a true growth policy (caused by the GOP’s desire to cut spending to generate growth and stop Obama getting a second term), a destructive goal not so much for Obama but for this country.

    Our attention to the so-called “debt” crisis took our attention, for example, from the problem of getting growth and putting people to work. The “deal” on debt will lower growth and could help bring the double dip so many fear. Also the policies and economic problems abroad impact our nation….lower or negative growth in Europe, the Euro crisis, deflationary policies abroad, and a slowing China, along with stagnation here are all part of a globalized economy in deep trouble with large impacts on each citizen’s well being here in the USA.

    As for foreign affairs and the election, Mr. Feigert, is right on current attention but global “Black Swan” events can have an impact even beyond war…..and while there is only a small percentage of voters that see international issue as primary — understandable in current dire situation — the coming 2012 election may be so close that even 1-2% could make a difference. But the reality is that “domestic” and “international” in a global economy are connected as never before. Immigration, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, trade, investment, climate change, food scarcity, etc. all are global in scale and impact. We just have not been told this my our myopic media.

  5. Frank Feigert August 2, 2011 / 11:11 AM

    Perhaps, BUT something must be acknowledged from the outset. Opinion studies consistently show that foreign policy is not seen as salient/relevant to the average citizen except in times of stress, such as imminent or ongoing war. Even then, it is most likely to be “on the radar” for those with something to gain or lose. This so-called “relevant public” is a a very small minority, most of the time, and is quite unlikely to affect the outcome of any US election.

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