Lieven, Obama and Russia

News media are full of analysts urging Barack Obama how to deal with Russia. In The Nation, Anatol Lieven tells us ‘How Obama Can Reform Russia Policy‘. Basically, “in order to achieve a significant improvement in relations, Washington does not actually have to do anything. It only has to stop doing certain things.” He suggests US policy-makers pay attention to the difference between the “the image of Russian behavior in the United States and its reality”.

(Which we could rephrase as noticing the difference between the hegemonic image of Russian behaviour in the US and other potential images which could be equally as plausible. See, the problem is that the post-structuralist phrasing is just not as succinct…)

Lieven also suggests (quote):

  • The first step in relations with Russia on the part of the new administration should therefore be quietly to move the offer of NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine onto the back burner.
  • As far as Ukraine is concerned, the Obama administration should aim at a clear, if doubtless private, agreement that would exclude radical action by either the United States or Russia in favor of a joint commitment to share influence.
  • It should also be made clear to Moscow that if it ever uses energy blackmail against existing members of NATO and the EU, then all other agreements will automatically be under question.
  • The Obama administration needs to embed its relations with Russia in a wider new strategy toward Eurasia. The frame should include Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, and the approach should be based on a recognition that the United States is simply not strong enough anymore–if indeed it ever was–to impose its will on the region, or even to prevent Afghanistan from sinking into deeper civil war.
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