Turning the Page? Medvedev, Obama, and US-Russia Relations

Once again, exams [this time Corporations] have foiled my ability to cover exciting developments in Russia. Anyone reading by now knows that Putin, along with four parties (United Russia, Just Russia, Agrarian Party, Civil Force), has endorsed First Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to be the next President of Russia. In so doing, Putin has all but guaranteed that Medvedev will win the vote in March. A full discussion of the coverage and implications of this event is beyond my ability at this point – I will simply point you in the direction of Sean’s Russia Blog, Scraps of Moscow, Accidental Russophile, and Perspectives on the New Russia. There, you will find good coverage and analysis as well as lively discussions on Medvedev. Instead, I want to briefly the possible intersection of domestic political developments in Russia and the United States and the what meaning it has for the future of US-Russian relations.

For those of you not following the US presidential election, a little background- first, Sen. Barack Obama (whom I support) is now in a statistical tie with Sen. Hillary Clinton in the first three early primaries (IA, NH, SC); second, if Obama wins the Democratic nomination,
I predict he will almost certainly defeat any Republican challenger.

In my opinion, an Obama presidency in the US and a Medvedev presidency in Russia would, as my title suggests, ‘turn the page’ in US-Russia relations. First, and most strikingly, both are young – Medvedev is 42 while Obama is 46. Both are liberal lawyers by training, and, as their ages suggest, are relatively new to the political scene. Obama has [in my opinion accurately] cast himself as the candidate who can move past the domestic battles of the ’60s generation, who is not married to the old rules of the game and preconceptions. Medvedev would be the first Russian president whose career in government started after the fall of the Soviet Union – he was not a Communist Part functionary, he was not in the security services. Obama makes the case that the US needs to focus on building more constructive relationships with the rest of the world, even when we do not agree all the time. Medvedev is a modernizer who sympathizes with Western values.

If and when Presidents Obama and Medvedev meet for the first time, they would not be handcuffed by the Cold War mentality that has defined our relations for the past several years. At a recent foreign policy event in DC, a woman asked Obama what he would see if he “looked into Putin’s eyes.” Rather than fall for the Russophobic bait, Obama simply said that we need to be forceful in voicing our concerns, while working to improve our cooperation in areas where we agree. I think this sort of practical and non-ideological approach would be reciprocated by Medvedev.

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5 Responses to Turning the Page? Medvedev, Obama, and US-Russia Relations

  1. Lyndon says:

    We can dare to dream – I like this post for that reason. Obama seems like the best of the lot in the US election as well, perhaps it’s too much to ask for both Russian and US elections to give us the best possible outcome in the same year, but let’s keep hoping.

  2. Putin watcher says:

    I too share your hope, and think that Obama does offer a less ideological approach to Russia, but fear that domestic political constraints will keep both leaders from straying too far from the established view. In particular, a key plank of United Russia’s sovereign democracy is about countering US influence, so Medvedev – at least in the early stages when he is building support – will have to prove he is tough like his right hand man V V Putin.

  3. Dmitry Medvedev says:

    It looks to me that Medvedev will be working with Clinton in the coming years.
    That will be the two superpower leaders as it now appears.
    Dmitry Medvedev

  4. Jesse Heath says:

    Unfortunately for us Americans, the outcome of an election is not known with such certainty so soon. I still like Obama’s chances…

  5. Dmitry Medvedev says:

    I understand that point.
    I think Clinton will be elected due to womens votes.
    I may be wrong but I simply can’t see the US turning down the chance to elect a woman to office like this. I also think Obama’s popularity will tail off during the year with more defeats due to women voting for Clinton. Of course I may well be wrong.

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