President To Be Elected Putin Returns To Bashing America

March 1, 2012  

It is significant that presidential aspirant Vladimir Putin, the all but certain victor of next Sunday’s Russian presidential election, returned to foreign policy in the last lengthy article that he has published prior to the election.

During the campaign, Putin composed a series of lengthy articles on various topics in which he communicated his positions to the Russian electorate. To some extent they remind the reader of addresses by Communist Party First Secretaries prior to elections for the Supreme Soviet, elections whose results were also certain. These addresses did serve as a policy platform and Putin is updating the format.

Putin emphasizes the importance of an independent Russian foreign policy as a key to that guaranteeing respect for his country, but he also believes that Russian independence provides a key to global security. The United States, in his opinion, constitutes the major threat to global security due to a number of glaring flaws in its foreign policy.

The Americans are so preoccupied with their own security, he writes, that they are willing to make others insecure. This can be seen in NATO’s eastward expansion and American insistence — Russian objections notwithstanding, to push ahead with an anti-ballistic missile system.

Secondly, the United States has espoused humanitarian intervention while undermining national sovereignty. The one body that can and should decide on such intervention is the United Nations, where abuse of power is tempered by the veto power of the permanent representatives. Putin erroneously claims that the veto power was originally installed at American insistence; it was actually installed to placate Stalin, who feared that otherwise the Soviet Union would be isolated and outvoted in the new world organization.

Putin criticized the West for supporting the United Nations when it suited them, but not when they could not get their way. In that case, they formed coalitions and acted unilaterally, despite the fact that they lacked UN sanction.

The failure of such policies, he continued, could be seen in the Arab spring where the West intervened and succeeded only in replacing one power clique with another – under the best of circumstances – and empowering extremist Islamists under the worst of circumstances. Russia ,in contrast, sought to create reconciliation while demanding that all sides refrain from violence.

A third major irritant was the manipulative use of soft power, that in Putin’s view, was “all too often being used to develop and provoke extremist, separatist and nationalistic attitudes, to manipulate the public and exercise direct interference over the domestic policies of sovereign states.”

Russia, he said, did not use or fund NGOs to pursue Russian influence (although towards the end of his article Putin promised to promote Russian culture abroad as a way of achieving influence – a variant of soft power), Russia acted on a policy shared with China, India and Brazil on a state to state basis;  this way it acted openly, rather than on the sly.

Putin expressed alarm about a possible attack on Iran and claimed that Russia would seek a solution under which Iran would verifiably abandon its military nuclear program. In return, Iran would be granted full freedom to pursue the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Putin blamed the West, particularly the United States, for the growing nuclear proliferation problem, arguing that this was a reaction to the Western disrespect for sovereignty as governments are seeking an antidote to intervention.

“It appears that the more frequent crude and even armed interference by outside forces in the domestic affairs of other nations, the more likely it is that hard authoritarian (and other) regimes wish to possess nuclear weapons.

On the issue of Afghanistan, Putin has declared the NATO intervention a failure in terms of reducing the threats of terrorism and drug trafficking. Putin termed the flow of drugs to Russia from Afghanistan aggression and was willing to offer greater Russian participation in return for more vigorous pursuit of the crops and the opium refining labs.

Putin devoted a section of his article to relations with China. He has been accused in some circles of reducing Russia to a subordinate status vis-a-vis Beijing. Putin replies that he does not consider China a threat and both countries benefit economically and technologically. He would even involve China – judiciously of course – in developing Siberia and the Russian Far East (these regions, as opposed to Western Russia, consider China a greater threat than the US).

China has opposed the United States, did not seek dominance and there were no outstanding differences between the two countries, even if the relationship was not completely trouble-free.

Using the relationship with China, including joint participation in international organizations, Russia views itself as a bridge between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Putin offers the European states a Union of Europe, an idea that Russian leaders have suggested on and off (for example Mikhail Gorbachev during the 1980s offered Europeans a “common European home.”) Part of the idea is to wean the Europeans away from the United States. Putin however lectured Europeans on the need to balance their budgets and to stop discriminating against Russia. Russia has opened up lucrative areas of its economy to the Europeans, but the Europeans still impose restrictions on Russia he claimed.

Coming back to the United States Putin regretted that relations had not yet reached the desired level and he blamed anti-Russian stereotypes and phobias on Capitol Hill. Putin singles out Henry Kissinger for praise and lets his readers know that he frequently meets with Kissinger.

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