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US-Russia: Rewinding the Russia reset

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Peace and sovereignty, democracy and human rights. Those were some of the issues at stake as US and Russian presidents Obama and Medvedev sat down in Moscow earlier this week to address the agenda of a troubled world, against the backdrop of global recession and climate change.

Even though expectations for a breakthrough in US-Russian relations had been downplayed ahead of Obama's meetings with President Medvedev – and Premier Putin – one would imagine that the very real issues at hand – nuclear disarmament, Afghanistan, Iran, sovereignty, democracy etc. – were to be widely debated in the blogosphere. Instead, reactions to the 6-8 July Moscow summit from the Russian blogosphere form a climate of anticlimax.

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Barack Obama: Speech at the New Economic School – by Drugoi

Starting off from the Moscow horizon, the overall impression is exactly that Obama's visit was rendered a lukewarm reception by the Russian blogosphere, on either side of the political spectrum. As LJ user taranoff points out [RUS], in general, most people took little notice of the visit:

[...] If someone like Putin arrives in some town, then this town is sure to be scrubbed clean, shaped up, painted and polished. [---] And still, as Obama yesterday arrived in Moscow, it was as if – holey-moley – nothing could be noticed. [...]

LJ user lamerkhav continues [RUS] along the same line:

[...] It is still not long ago that America was dearly loved in Russia. Behaviour towards the USA was like that of a young girl to her idol. The “cool States” was the ideal. Now times have changed. The attitude I've come across in media and blogs reminds me of a sour, lonely and old suitor, abandoned by everyone. I won't try to gather why it's like that. Apparently, not out of unanswered love, but generally because mentality is like that. [...]

Characterizing the essence of the summit, LJ user Nevzlin addresses [RUS] renewed Cold War sentiments – disarmament and Human Rights – and perceives differences in Obama's attitude towards Medvedev and Putin:

[...] Generally, it was like colder times at the conference table – the fate of political prisoners and arms control. [---] From the outset, Obama typically split up Medvedev and Putin: Some praise and some critique. He said that Medvedev pulls ahead and Putin holds back. [...]

LJ user Yakushev continues with [RUS] the domestic political ramifications of the summit, speculating on a US-inspired Medvedev-Putin division into liberal and conservative camps:

[...] What was the essence of Obama's visit to Moscow? I imagine it as if Obama signalled to the liberal part of the Russian élite to go on the offensive. As it appears, Obama came to engage himself into Russian domestic politics. Already before the American president's visit, he made it clear who the USA supports in Russia, having promised Putin not to disturb his and Medvedev's progress. As no official reply was given to this ordinary American insolence, one can conclude that the Kremlin agrees with Obama. [...]

Not even when it comes to President Obama's meeting with Russian opposition representatives, it seems to please Russian bloggers. Thus, LJ user v milov – an opposition supporter – writes [RUS]:

[...] Obama's meeting with the opposition turned into true comedy. It's great that Nemtsov and Kasparov were invited from our side – but that's also all the good news there were. Further on the list were Mitrokhin, Gozman and Zyuganov. The State Department stands with one foot in the past. :) But seriously, a meeting with such a gathering is a flat puncture for those on the American side who prepared the visit. In such meetings, the real opposition must take part and not hopeless figures from the past. [...]

Turning to the very real issues agreed upon by Medvedev and Obama within the sphere of security policy – as e.g. nuclear arms’ reduction and Afghanistan – LJ user malkolms writes [RUS]:

[...] How is it possible to sign anything with the USA (especially concerning such important issues as the START-agreement) when the USA demonstratively [XXX] Russia in the [XXX]. In my view, it is simply degrading to start any dialogue with the USA without lifting the Jackson-Vanik amendment. And especially if signing such documents is unfavourable to Russia. The USA once again “sinks” us as was always the case during Yeltsin and Clinton. [...]

What about the Russian reset then? LJ user optimist presents his views on the credibility of Washington's policy towards Moscow:

[...] In my view, the word reset doesn't mean anything in real political terms. It is a word of deception, the usual soap bubble [---]. It appears on all our screens and means nothing new, but a return to the past, to business as usual. And previously, our relations with the Americans were either one of confrontation or domination – on their part, by the way. So, what will we be returning to after a “reset”? [---] Aren't they just fooling us as usual… [...]

What stands out, from these and similar comments, is how little significance is given to the outcome of the US-Russian summit. It is like simply going through the motions, whereas the real issues at hand seem to be of little consequence. So, judging from Russian blogger reactions, the Moscow 2009 Obama-Medvedev summit could hardly be seen as a reset in US-Russian relations. The question is: Was it even rapproachement?

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Pictures, if not otherwise indicated, from america.gov/ru.

  • Straus

    I haven’t had a very thorough look at the blogging on the visit, but an impression I got from a casual look at posts was that there wasn’t much racist, xenophobic comment on Obama. Was that your impression? If so, do you think it was surprising given the large nationalistic presence in the Russian blogosphere?

  • http://vilhelmkonnander.blogspot.com/ Vilhelm Konnander

    Dear Straus,

    I actually could not say, but my impression at least is that there were not very many racist remarks about Obama in the Russian blogosphere. Still, when going over a lot of blogs on a daily basis, one tends to ignore those with hateful speech, racist or sexist remarks.

    I guess it is a way of sorting out what is worthwhile reading and what is not, of course, in the process risking the fallacy of missing out on developments that would deserve greater attention.

    I personally felt this problematic in connection to last year’s conflict between Russia and Georgia, where I was hesitant on whether to ignore too overt sentiments of hate or include them to illustrate feelings in the blogosphere.

    So, there is not a really good answer to your question, except for my quite subjective impression that Obama was not subjected to racist remarks on any larger scale.

    Still, judging from my piece on blog reactions, and also Karina Alexanyan’s of Internet & Democracy Blog, comments were rather scarce and Obama’s visit not very well covered by Russian bloggers.

    Yours,

    Vilhelm

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