While Obama Breaks the Reset, Putin Slouches
Published: August 1, 2013 (Issue # 1773)
It is well known that President Vladimir Putin has trouble forgiving an insult. He once said, "Whoever offends us will not live out the day."
This principle applies to both his domestic and foreign policies. That is why many political analysts expected Putin to answer U.S. President Barack Obama in kind after he canceled his scheduled summit in Moscow with Putin.
But nothing of the sort happened. On the contrary, Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yury Ushakov, went out of his way to be conciliatory, saying there would be no break in cooperation between the two countries. "Russian-U.S. relations are too important," Ushakov said, "and it would be impossible to push them into a dead end." As Ushakov pointed out, the two countries continue to work together successfully on many fronts.
In fact, the 2+2 meeting between the Russian and U.S. foreign and defense ministers in Washington on Aug. 9 would have been the perfect opportunity for Russia to stick it to the U.S by accusing Washington of trying to undermine the strategic balance with its deployment of a European missile defense system and of pursuing treacherous plans for a military invasion of Syria. It was also an opportune moment to threaten to shut down the transit corridor to Afghanistan.
Yet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov assured reporters that "there is no Cold War. On the contrary, we have the closest partnership ever and good potential for its further deepening."
His words were echoed by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu who said he did not notice any change in the U.S. approach to bilateral military cooperation. "If something has changed, then it has more likely changed for the better. We don't see any threats," Shoigu said.
Yet the feelings were hardly mutual. While Shoigu and Lavrov were being conciliatory, Obama explained to reporters that Washington was taking a pause in the U.S.-Russian "reset" because of the Kremlin's increased anti-U.S. rhetoric and a lack of progress on issues that Washington considers important.
It turns out that the Russian and U.S. defense ministers agreed to introduce the practice of holding regular video conferences with each other. What's more, U.S. officials were invited to act as observers at the upcoming military exercises between Russia and Belarus. And forgetting that his own deputy recently declared that Russia is in no way obligated to invite foreign observers to its military exercises and "unannounced inspections," Shoigu promised to continue the practice into the future in order to expand confidence-building measures between the two countries.
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