President-elect Obama will inherit a number of foreign policy challenges from the Bush administration when he takes office. Key areas where the new administration must focus to reverse the Bush administration's failings include Afghanistan, diplomacy, unilateralism, arms control, and climate change.
Due to the current economic crisis, Vladimir Putin is facing, for the first time since his rise to power, the prospect of real political instability. Although Putin has depended on a ‘vertical’ type of government, the logic of this crisis demands flexibility, effective feedback, and broad dialogue with the nation.
Russia must aim for modernization and use its foreign policy to achieve rapprochement with Europe, North America and the economically and politically developed world at large.
Preventing Russia’s economic, social, and political collapse requires effective leadership, cooperation and patience, and government acknowledgment that the crisis has domestic dimensions.
Eastern European and Baltic countries that have recently joined NATO and the European Union have undergone social and economic reforms, but they have also faced significant challenges along the way. Can their experience be of use to Russia?
Successive U.S. administrations have forfeited the chance to integrate Russia into the West first afforded by the collapse of Communism and again by 9/11. The United States has either neglected Russia or openly disregarded its overtures and warnings on a range of regional concerns. President-elect Obama needs a comprehensive approach to Russia based on a shared vision of European security.
Weakened by the economic crisis, President Medvedev and the Kremlin do not want to risk any chance of allowing popular dissent to develop in Russia's regions. But by attacking its opponents the Kremlin is showing its helplessness. Before the crisis it had hoped to modernize the country, now it must resort to damage control.
Nearly 86,000 people have signed a letter asking President Medvedev to pardon Svetlana Bakhmina, a former lawyer for Yukos. Bakhmina, who is due to give birth within weeks, is in a prison camp. Yet Medvedev continues to ignore the call for mercy from thousands of Bakhmina's supporters and thus stands personally responsible for her suffering.
The crisis in Georgia bluntly revealed the failure by the United States and Russia to create a closer working relationship after the Cold War. Agreements like the START and Concentional Armed Forces in Europe treaties could help establish a new book of rules both countries can embrace.
Russia’s new strength and its waning dependence on Western financial institutions help explain the Kremlin’s rejection of a unipolar world dominated by the United States. Russia’s actions in Georgia follow through on what Putin has been saying for years–Russia will not allow Georgia or Ukraine to become a member of NATO.
As John McCain formally accepts his nomination for president, Russian coverage of the event and the campaign in general has been distanced and sometimes condescending. Instead, the Russian media has mainly been focused on the events in Georgia.
Putin may have succeeded Boris Yeltsin, but he decided to adopt the leadership style of Yury Andropov. This style is reflected in Russia’s current dealings with Georgia, which represent a major foreign policy shift for the country. However, these actions will prove to be harmful for Russia and will reignite its own current ethnic separatist movements.
Although U.S.-Russia relations have deteriorated, options for cooperation still exist. Particularly in the area of nuclear nonproliferation, collaboration is essential and may be the best way to ameliorate relations. Russia, the U.S., and Europe should start with negotiating the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), which will provide a starting point for brokering a new consensus.
Unlike what has recently been alleged, the world is not experiencing a new Cold War. Today’s chill in U.S.-Russia relations rests on Russia’s belief that what is good for the West is inherently bad for Russia. Jumping headlong into a confrontation would be a bad idea though for the West. Instead, Western leaders should show that we can gain more from partnership.
The Russia-Georgia conflict is a watershed for a new era in geopolitics. As America scrambles to react to the crisis, Russia will continue to challenge Western influence in the former Soviet space. In turn, both will turn to Europe, and Europe’s ability to defend its own interests will be the most severe test yet for the Union. All the while, China, Iran and others watch with keen interest.
As U.S.-Russia relations continue to sour over the Russia-Georgia conflict, it is unclear how the two nations will be able to rebuild their relationship. Although the conflict led to the current deterioration in relations, problems between the two countries were present before. Despite strong rhetoric from Washington, there is a need for an improved dialogue between the United States and Russia.
The search for a way for all parties in the Russia-Georgia conflict to sit down at the negotiating table is gradually beginning. There is real promise that an EU forum can establish an acceptable format and most likely, Russia is ready to make some concessions. Nevertheless, excessive pressure on Moscow will only strengthen its internal conservative forces and thus exacerbate its hard line stance.
Although in the short term the basis for a ceasefire has formed between Russia and Georgia, the conflict has entirely transformed the region. Russian peacekeepers can now no longer operate alone in the separatist regions. In addition, South Ossetia and Abkhazia cannot revert back to Georgia. Finally, the already deteriorating Russia-U.S. relationship will now face a new set of challenges.
A united Europe could play the pivotal peacemaker in the Russia-Georgia conflict, strengthening cooperation in the continent’s east. However, both unity and independent action on Europe’s part are unlikely. Therefore, the Russia policy of the next U.S. president will be essential for ensuring stability in the region.
Disarmament cooperation between Russia and the U.S. has stalled. Negotiations must be renewed, for inaction could revive an arms race.