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Global cooperation in conditions of global rivalry

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, July 8
The first day of Barack Obama’s visit to Moscow demonstrated that cooperation between the two superpowers will not occur at the expense of allowing the post-Soviet space to be designated a sphere of Russia’s ‘exclusive interests and influence’. Presumably this means Russia will be obliged to consider Washington’s position. However that does not necessarily mean that Moscow will give up its ambitions. We should expect that the Kremlin will try to modify its methods, adjusting them to temporal realities and trying to disguise once-open aggression. We will most probably see Moscow’s attitude toward Tbilisi superficially alter in this way.

Just before Obama’s visit to Moscow Russian political analyst Boris Sokolov, who was discharged from his state employment for writing an article in which he compared the Russian aggression of 2008 to fascist Germany’s annexation of Czechoslovakia, stated that Moscow would demand from Washington that it recognise Russia’s exclusive rights over the post-Soviet territories. However Washington is not prepared to bargain with Moscow and alter its plans concerning Ukraine and Georgia’s NATO aspirations. It has laid its principles on the line, and challenged Moscow to accept them, without however identifying how it will know that Moscow has done so.

So far Moscow has been quite aggressive in its moves against the countries it claims to have exclusive rights to influence. One of the most positive and realistic results of the first day of Obama’s visit could be the fact that most probably Russia will refrain from making a further attack on Georgia, a possibility much speculated about recently. Obama was straightforward during the negotiations and he highlighted in his press briefing that the USA respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. By taking this firm position Obama showed the world, and primarily the US’s European allies that they should not accept the “new reality” of “two independent states” which Moscow is so intensively promoting. However it was significant that Medvedev did not mention Georgia at all in his briefing session. Most probably answers will be cooked up during the brainstorming sessions between Medvedev and Putin which will certainly follow.

We don’t possess any information about whether there were any discussions over the fulfillment by Russia of the Sarkozy-brokered six point ceasefire agreement, which should result in Russia’s withdrawal from Georgian territory. Local analysts think that after the Obama-Medvedev-Putin meetings Russia will not openly assault Georgia but will be more provocative and aggressive in different ways, implementing a policy of so-called crawling aggression. It will continue seeking to damage Georgia’s image worldwide, use economic levers, try to influence Georgia’s domestic politics and so on, in other words make life in Georgia miserable. This is a tremendous challenge for the administration of Georgia. On the one hand it runs the risk of again being trapped into engaging in military adventures and on the other it must avoids doing deals with Russia which compromise the state.

If we look globally, Moscow’s position will prove more vulnerable than Washington’s in the long run. The USA will overcome the economic crisis before Russia does. Moscow faces a longer, harder fight against diverse problems, having to deal with such issues as containing the Russian people’s desire for democracy and continuing to suppress ethnic minorities who are promoting nationalism, as well as economic problems which belligerence against Georgia will not disguise.