Petr Topychkanov, Member of Research Council of the Carnegie Moscow Center, about first tour of John Kerry as US State Secretary and prospects of US foreign policy.

We are now discussing whether the tour made by Mr. Kerry, the first tour in his capacity of the US Secretary of State, could give us better understanding of what kind of policy, foreign policy the United States is going to pursue in the coming years.

Petr Topychkanov
Topychkanov was a fellow in the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Nonproliferation Program.
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Now it is difficult to analyze the US foreign policy with the new State Secretary because not only this is the first visit of Kerry to foreign countries but also because he spent only several days and weeks in this high post and he didn’t have enough time to represent his position about current foreign policy problems and it means that during this visit maybe he tries to meet with important people to understand problems in some difficult regions but not to make real policy towards these regions and countries.

So, how would you see, even if we move away from Mr. Carry’s tour, what do you see could be identified as the main trend in the coming years in the foreign policy of the United States?

I think that the United States will continue to limit its presence in global affairs because Barack Obama is committed to more moderate role of the United States in foreign affairs, and it was seen during his campaign in Iraq and also in Afghanistan. I think that Kerry agrees with this policy and he will provide support to the Barack Obama policy toward much more limited presence of the United States in the international relations.

When we are talking about the US presence, does it correlate with the US alleged plans to perhaps lower their influence in the international affairs?

Yes, I think so. Of course it doesn’t mean that we will see limited presence of the military of the United States in some regions, for example in Asia Pacific. We will see significant presence of the US mainly in this region, but as for political participation of the United States in the solution and maybe in the interference in domestic problems, I think that the United States will continue the trend, which could be seen during last several years.

We were just trying to draw parallel between US relations, Egypt and Pakistan because both countries used to be strategic allies and after that they just entered troubled waters of domestic politics and we’ve seen both of those countries trying to make a turn-around probably in their politics – some call it Islamism, some call it just more attempts to spell out their sovereignty. But at the same time how do you see that notorious, so to say, patron-client’s relations state and actually what is the basics of that stick and carrot approach Obama administration is going to use, taken into consideration what you said already that the funds are really limited and probably there are much less instruments left just to influence them, but on the other hand, the United States are taking efforts not to lose those partners?

Yes, it seems to me that Barack Obama wants to avoid this kind of relationship between the United States and other countries like patron and client. But of course he faces very strong opposition in the United States. For example regarding to his opposition on Israel, on Egypt or on the Middle East, you can see very strong world’s statement made by the Republicans in the United States that this policy of Barack Obama is not good for the United States and it will be disaster for the United States and so on and so force. So, from this point of view, yes, Barack Obama wants to avoid this kind of relationship but at the same time he cannot avoid this relationship and this ambiguousness may harm this approach and may harm the foreign policy of the White House during Barack Obama leadership because he sends mixed signals to the allies – from one hand he gives them money, but from another hand, he tried to leave them alone with their problems including the problems in the domestic policy, including religious extremism and so on.

Considering all these recent changes in relations of the US with its foreign partners, strategic partners, perhaps what we see is the fact that this patron-client model has become totally outdated and will never come back.

It seems to me that this type of relations is outdated, I would agree with you. But of course it depends on the domestic policy in the United States, for example if after this presidential term of Barack Obama the opposition wins the elections, of course, the Republicans will try to restore the relations with the clients of the United States. But of course time will change the landscape in the Middle East, in Far East and in other regions. But what does it mean for Russia and for our policy? I think that it will mean that we will have to have more responsibility in the Middle East and in other countries because of limitation of the presence of the United States and White House foreign policy in these places.

You mean to say that Moscow is going to fill the vacuum?

Not to feel but to find ways to have more articulated foreign policy in this region because during the 1990s Moscow was in a very comfortable position. We could criticize the United States and Washington for the activities of the United States and its military but we avoided to bear responsibility, for example if you compare the participation of Russian peace-keepers in the international operation, it is a very small number comparing for example with China or Bangladesh or even Pakistan. But now, of course, it will not be good for Russia if we try to fill the vacuum after the United States but I think for international security it will be good if the international organizations including the UN first of all, of course, will try to fill this vacuum and to take more active role in the international relations.

Thank you so much, Mr. Topychkanov.

This interview originally appeared on Voice of Russia.