Surprise, Putin and Obama at Odds

Russia Surrounded by NATO, from the Siberian Light blog.

Russia Surrounded by NATO, from the Siberian Light blog.

SODOM & GOMORRAH: In a policy manifesto published yesterday in the Russian state-owned Moskovskiye Novosti, Vladimir Putin lashes out at American foreign policy ambitions. This comes in contrast to efforts made by President Obama to improve relations with the former Cold War adversary.

The stance made by Putin is nothing new. He and other Russian politicians have long derided a score of US foreign policy goals. Namely, the Russians are opposed to American efforts at democracy-promotion in the Middle East, the repeated attempts to install an anti-missile shield in eastern Europe, and any strengthening of ties between the Americans and China.

Putin and Obama will likely have more than a few issues to work out if (when) the former wins his upcoming election and reassumes control at the Kremlin. Putin wrote, “It seems that NATO countries, and especially the United States, have developed a peculiar understanding of security which is fundamentally different from our view. The Americans are obsessed with the idea of securing absolute invulnerability for themselves, which, incidentally, is a utopia, for both technological and geopolitical reasons. But that is exactly where the root of the problem lies…. Absolute invulnerability for one nation would mean absolute vulnerability for everybody else.”

Dmitry Suslov, a researcher at the leading Moscow think tank, the Council on Foreign and Defense Policies, says that Putin feels that America is to blame for many of the world’s problems and that “Russia must prepare itself to act as a counterbalance to the US.”

Russian opposition to intervention in the Middle East is nothing new; since at least the 1960′s they have fought a number of proxy battles and Russia has always used its veto power in the United Nations to block any attempts at armed multilateral intervention. The Russians have also been historically very weary of any military build up or defense positioning in eastern Europe. The areas around Poland and other Slavic countries have traditionally been viewed as Russia’s buffer between it and western Europe. With a missile defense shield in Poland, a pro-America China, and a hostile United States, it’s easy to see how Russia might feel surrounded.

Whether Russia is able to act as a real counterbalance to American ambition remains to be seen.