Thursday, August 08, 2013

The adult in the room

By Carl 

The interesting dynamic that is the relationship between Obama and Putin has a new twist, and it's one we should welcome: 

On Wednesday evening, when U.S. President Obama cancelled his upcoming visit to Moscow, the Russian reaction was perhaps most clear in the way that Vesti, the state's main propaganda TV channel, conveyed it on the channel’s website. Buried about half way down on the page, underneath a story about Russian tourists in Turkey, Vesti announced: "The invitation for Obama stands." Beside that was the somewhat diversionary headline: "Barack Obama will travel to St. Petersburg for the G20 summit." The actual news — that Obama had decided not to meet with his Russian counterpart before, after or during the G20 summit in St. Petersburg next month — was clearly not something the official spin doctors wanted to advertise.

After a year spent honing their anti-American rhetoric — on issues ranging from the adoption of Russian children to missile defense in Europe and the civil war in Syria — the Kremlin message makers were suddenly eager to claim that President Vladimir Putin didn't really mean for things to go this far. "Sure, Putin uses this rhetoric, but it's not so much anti-American as anti-Euro-Atlantic," says Evgeny Minchenko, a Kremlin-connected political strategist. "And keep in mind that he has tried to stop short of a head-on collision."

So, shorter Kremlin: Holy fuck, he's not that idiot Bushy BooshBoosh

Indeed, he is not. And he's not going to kowtow to the likes of a tin-plated moron who trades offices like a Southern governor.

Putin has played the U.S. since at least 9/11, using our War on Terror as cover for all kinds of sins in Georgia and Chechnya, and let's not forget the 130 Russians who died in a terrorist standoff in a Moscow theater.

Yes, this is the guy Edward Snowden wants protecting him, but won't give up secrets to. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Keep in mind that, as Bush pursued a unilateral American foreign policy with healthy servings of imperial aggression, without engagement or advisement from what could have been its strongest ally in fighting terrorists, Putin took both offense and advantage of Bush's narrowed focus to become an active player in the Arab and Muslim world, particularly as the development of the Russian natural gas industry saw Russia become a major player in the energy field that previously had been dominated by the OPEC nations.

Putin began to develop ties to Venezuela, Syria, and North Korea, partly to further their own energy markets but also to assist them, it seems, in keeping America occupied. Our response?

To place a ballistic missile system in 2007 along the Polish border, nominally to protect against, errrr, Iranian and North Korean missiles.

This provocative move came a few short years after Bush removed us, again, unilaterally, from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaties in 2002.

While I cannot and will not defend Putin's responses to any of these actions, in hindsight his motivation becomes clear: he saw a new Cold War starting up. I'm not sure that was an unjustified position to take. 

So here comes Obama, tasked with both maintaining the façade of those missiles being vital to American security, while having to defuse Russian imperial ambition and coax (or bully) them on board with regards to Syria and Iran, and possibly North Korea.

Is ignoring a summit opportunity the way to go? Keep in mind that both Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will still be meeting with their Russian counterparts as part of the G-20 Summit and that both Obama and Putin will have opportunities to communicate, possibly even privately, while in St. Petersburg. So it ain't over yet. The message is sent. Let's see how Russia responds. As indicated by the Time magazine article, the signs are hopeful.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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