News

US-Russia Seek A Fresh Start 

Anna Zalewski

The administration of President Barack Obama is vigorously reaching out to the world, offering initiatives in keeping with its new diplomatic approach. Last week, Secretary Clinton had dinner in Geneva with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. She presented Lavrov with an over-sized "Reset" button. The symbolism was meant to say Washington felt It was time to explore a fresh start, in U.S./Russian relations. 

According to Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center, Russian media were ecstatic over the development. “The meeting of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and State Secretary Clinton looked really amazing. And even the tone of the Russian national TV channels which usually project a very negative image of the United States, and I think promote the negative relations between United States and Russia - even those channels actually covered the meeting in a fairly benevolent manner.”

But Matthias Rueb, the Washington Bureau Chief of the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, is more cautious. “Actually not everybody in Brussels in NATO headquarters is happy about this new charm offensive," says Mr. Rueb. "And some nations have also criticized that NATO is reviving talks with Russia even though the situation on the ground in Georgia for instance has not changed. 

The behavior towards Ukraine threatening to cut out natural gas supplies has not changed… So overall you may say they are overstretching the symbolism of pushing the reset button towards Russia without really changing something in substance.”

Still, the meeting between Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov had many in Europe breathing easier. But not everyone. While France and Germany, for example, have long been pressing for a resumption of ties with Russia, Matthias Reub explains others were not so anxious to forgive and forget. “That's exactly true and that's why the smaller countries like the Baltic countries and also countries like Hungary and the Czech Republic in Eastern and Central Europe are not that happy about that rapprochement, well you can even say between the Old Europe and Russia, and also U.S. and Russia," he said. "So even though everybody like lately Gordon Brown is trying to convince there is no such thing as a split within Europe between Old Europe and New Europe - there're clearly different strategic interests in Europe.”

But the United States, under Barack Obama, is beginning to show how it differs from the previous administration in approaching U.S. strategic interests. Towards Russia, the first sign came in a letter from President Obama to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, reportedly offering to back away from a Bush administration plan to counter potential future threats from Iran by deploying a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. Moscow vigorously opposed the idea, calling it a new threat to its own security. But whether the new Obama offer came with an understanding that Moscow would do what it could to curtail Iran's development of long-range weapons is debatable. Matthias Reub of the Franfurter Allgemein Zeitung also says it's unclear how much influence Russia has with Iran.

“This actually remains to be seen," he said. "The Russians are still supplying the Iranians with weapons that might be considered threatening by the U.S. and also by Israel. The Americans are hoping that the Russians will help the Iranians to comply with what UN Security Council is asking for months now that they stop their enrichment program which Teheran has not done yet.”

Iran, for its part has appeared to welcome President Obama's proposal, although it has not offered any official reaction. Political analyst Richard Wolffe with NBC television' cable outlet MSNBC points out, Iran's complex leadership structure brings together clerics and political leaders with views that sometimes differ sharply. “President Obama and his new administration has thrown the Iranian regime off balance. They don't really know how to calibrate their response. It was much simpler world when they could just reflexively be anti- Bush and anti-America," he said.

When Barack Obama became president, he promised a new kind of foreign policy, one in which the United States would engage in active diplomacy - even with countries considered opponents. MSNBC's Richard Wolffe calls it Mr. Obama's charm offensive, but one that he says is practical. “In the end what this administration is doing is being more pragmatic and is seeking a more realist foreign policy as opposed to a realistic foreign policy. Now, whether it's more effective or not I guess we're going to find out over time," Wolffe.

Following President Kennedy's credo that the United States must never negotiate out of fear, but also never fear to negotiate, Mr. Obama is acting with a determination to move beyond the diplomatic reset button. What substance it will bring, however, remains to be seen.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs