The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks on ties with the United States are to be taken as a definitive indicator that Moscow is lowering whatever residual expectations there might have been in the Kremlin that President Barack Obama would kickstart a new initiative to improve the relations between the two countries.
The Moscow pundits were speculating that no sooner than the inaugural ceremony on Monday in Washington got over, Obama would despatch National Security Advisor Tom Donilon with an overture to the Kremlin on charting a new course in US-Russia relations.
But Lavrov’s remarks suggest that nothing of the sort is happening. All he could think up was a meeting with Vice-President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference next month, which is an annual event.
Interestingly, Lavrov’s remarks followed Obama’s inaugural speech on Monday
where in a stirring address of some 2000 words devoted to domestic social and economic issues, he spoke about 150 words on foreign policy to breeze past three ideas: (a) primacy on resolving differences with other nations through engagement; (b) emphasis on alliances, coalitions and institutions for projecting US’ global leadership; and, (c) value-based approach to foreign affairs.
Obama didn’t single out any country or any “hotspot”. He had no doctrine to unveil, nor any transformational ambitions. Noted writer Steve Coll couldn’t have put it better in a New Yorker Podcast when he said last week, “He [Obama] just wants to keep the world at bay, so that he can concentrate on the projects he has in mind in domestic policy.”
We can expect a continuation of the trends that began with Obama’s first term. Period. Evidently, Russia is not a priority in Obama’s agenda. His priorities are: Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East, China.
Washington estimates that it can address these issues with or without Russia’s help. Simply put, call it ‘new cold war’ or whatever, the US feels no compulsion to accommodate Russia.
The veteran Russia scholar Stephen Cohen of New York University analyzed in a recent article that there is “overwhelming bipartisan support” in the US political establishment and “full support” among the policy elite in Washington on the expansion of NATO and the missile defence program and the policy of selective engagement of Russia (when it suits American interests), while robustly working to crack open up the Russian political system from a long term perspective. Cohen estimates that the US’s Russia policy has been consistent since the early 1990s and Obama has no intention to change course. Cohen’s opinion piece is here