Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Что делать? (What should be done?)

 Today President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to aim Russian missiles at U.S. missile-defense sites in Eastern Europe if the U.S. doesn't address Russia's concerns with the program. He also threatened Russia would withdraw from its nuclear arms reduction treaty with the U.S. Although Russia has been working with NATO as a partner in the defense shield program to protect Europe against a potential attack from Iran, it is now raising more concerns about the exact use of these missile sites. The Russian government is worried that Russia itself could be a target of the U.S. in the future.

President Obama has refused to sign an agreement that would ensure Russia will never be a target of America's missile-defense sites. As a result, Russia is more skeptical of the nature of these missile-defense sites. In Cold-War type rhetoric, Medvedev stated that short-range Iskander missiles could be placed in Kaliningrad, "ensuring our ability to take out any part of the U.S. missile defense system in Europe." [1] All of these statements undoubtedly put a huge damper on the "Reset" on U.S.-Russian relations which was started only two years ago.

The legitimacy of these remarks are also debatable. One might argue that the possibility of Russia actually deploying missiles in Kaliningrad is highly unlikely. However, the timing of Medvedev's statements is particularly concerning, considering the recent IAEA report that Iran is intent on developing nuclear weapons. The U.S. needs Russia's help with Iran but the latter has sided against them on the matter, criticizing the U.S. for placing further sanctions on Iran.

It also begs the question, is this the beginning of a return to hostile relations between the U.S. and Russia-- especially considering the change in leadership which will take place next March? How will the U.S. and NATO respond if Russia does indeed aim Iskander missiles at U.S. defense sites in Eastern Europe? And even if Medvedev's comments were only intended to mobilize Russian voters, how realistic is it that the two countries can maintain good relations when not only the Russian government, but also a significant proportion of the Russian population, has a deep suspicion of America's intentions?

More recently, because of mass protests against the outcome of the legislative elections, Vladimir Putin is blaming the U.S. for "intervening" in the country.[2] What exactly should America's role be in this matter? We should do more to pressure Russia to politically reform. However, I believe the U.S. and its allies will continue to look the other way due to their dependency on Russia for oil and other energy sources. Unlike the protests happening in the Middle East, the Russian government is much better equipped, militarily and systematically, to suppress these protests. Sadly, it seems that the massive discontent with the current regime in Russia will be all for naught.

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