Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a statement: “It’s quite distressing to see two permanent members of the Security Council using their veto when people are being murdered -women, children, brave young men. Houses are being destroyed. It is just despicable, and I ask, ‘whose side are they on?’ They are clearly not on the side of the Syrian people.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov during a visit to Colombia: “Western states inciting Syrian opposition to uncompromising actions, as well as those sending arms to them, giving them advice and direction, are participating in the process of fomenting the crisis. The UN council is not a tool for intervention in internal affairs and is not the agency to decide which government is to be next in one country or another. If our foreign partners don’t understand that, we will have to use drastic measures to return them to real grounds.”
Philip Gordon, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, in an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta: “As for the status quo in the relations between the United States and Russia… the way I see it, we will have to find some other term for them and retire the term “reload”. After all, we reloaded the relations already; we upped the level of trust between our countries. However we call it, what really counts is that this way of thinking will remain unchanged. Our attitude towards each other will remain unchanged.”
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in an article for Moskovskiye Novosti, February 27, 2012: “In recent years a good deal has been done to develop Russian-American relations. Even so, we have not managed to fundamentally change the matrix of our relations, which continue to ebb and flow. The instability of the partnership with America is due in part to the tenacity of some well-known stereotypes and phobias, particularly the perception of Russia on Capitol Hill… Nor is mutual understanding strengthened by regular U.S. attempts to engage in “political engineering,” including in regions that are traditionally important to us and during Russian elections.”
Recently the Washington Post reporter Kathy Lally wrote (February 16th) about Vladimir V. Putin’s allies attacking America “raising questions about the future of U.S.- Russian relations.” I must tell Lally that we have been here before. It was the same scenario in the last Russian presidential election and the one before. Yet we did not see the end of cooperation in areas of mutual interest. Not the least among these was the New START treaty and transit into Afghanistan for our military supplies. They also voted to permit the UN Security Council to act in Libya. But we also did not see an end of acts of antagonism, narrow nationalism, and counterproductive policies. We are likely to see more of the same in the coming years.
That being said, the fundamental interest of both sides is to seek a balanced accommodation and peaceful evolution towards a real partnership of mutual advantage. What is the alternative choice?
Is it stupid of Putin to play this anti-West card? Yes. But he is in trouble in his own country with more open domestic opposition and is falling in polls. Yet even without his anti-American stand, he will most likely win the coming March elections.
Our job, while others lose their heads, is to stay calm and see the forest as well as the trees. That means seeking engagement rather than playing the useless game of antagonism and “lose-lose.” In the end, we will gain with this approach and so will the Russian people.
The danger on this side is our own mindless right wing ideologues that seem to want to both defeat Obama at all costs and make Russia (and China) unnecessary “enemies” to justify more mindless increases in funding highly expensive and largely useless military projects and equipment. With their neo-con media and think tank allies like the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and with military-industrial allies, they represent a formidable political force. What they do not represent is thoughtful analysis of our real risks and assessment of what we need in the future in a more complex and unpredictable world where massive weapons systems are useless and flexibility and preventive diplomacy tools and focused and discrete interventions are better options.
We are in for a very rocky time both in the run-up to the Russian election and with the debates and mindless name calling here in America, to say nothing about the unpredictable contingencies of unrest around the world. There are going to be plenty of areas that will need wise and careful diplomacy and not a little innovation in our approaches – no time for foolish ignorant ideologues with myopic vision. The Russians need themselves to see the benefits of entry into responsible global partnership and seek their own best interests. This can best be done in partnership with an America that sets forth policies that can be seen as in the interest of all participants rather than one that builds on false antagonism.
Our job is to keep our cool!
By Harry C. Blaney III.
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