7 July, 2010 — Eric Walberg
The Russian leader has re-enacted the famous American goodwill tour of his predecessor a half century ago, but faces the same Cold War scheming. Will his attempts to befriend Europe have more success, wonders Eric Walberg
The past two years have witnessed a much more pliable Russia, retreating from the fiery rhetoric of Putin concerning NATO, the war in Afghanistan and America ’s targeting of Iran. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has turned Russian foreign policy around, playing to US. He signed the new START treaty, agreed to transit war materiel to Afghanistan, and supports US-sponsored sanctions against Iran. To crown his charm offensive, he made a photo-op visit to the US last month to meet not only his “reset” friend in the White House, but business leaders such as Apple CEO Steve Jobs in Silicon Valley, much like his predecessor Nikita Khrushchev rubbed shoulders with American farmers a half century ago.
At the same time, Russia is pursuing a less spectacular tack, one which is perhaps more important in the long term, to win over Europe. This process began under ex-president Vladimir Putin and is now gathering momentum. Integration into Europe is the name of the game. The proposed new European security treaty unveiled last year was a serious offer. The new EU-Russia Political and Security Committee, chaired jointly by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, announced that Trans-Dniestr may soon see the withdrawal of Russian troops, there since 1991, to be replaced by a joint European-Russian peacekeeping contingent. The European Parliament last month approved a resolution for visa-free travel with Russia. As the US flounders in Afghanistan, the accommodation with Europe becomes a reality.