President Barack Obama will let Russia do her business in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. This is the scenario written by the Kremlin which sees in the Democratic senator a guarantee that the United States will not oppose Russia’s imperial foreign policy.
The Russian attack on the neighboring republic of Georgia on August 8th caught the entire world by surprise. Most leaders, including President Bush, were getting ready for the Olympics` opening ceremony in the Chinese capital when thousands of Russian soldiers and tanks poured into Georgian territory. Even those, like both presidential contenders, who were not burdened by official tasks, failed to react fast and strong enough to prevent further bloodshed.
Eventually, the reaction came. President Bush called on Prime Minister Putin, with whom he met in Beijing, to withdraw his forces from a sovereign state. The European Union of 27 countries managed to negotiate a common statement that asked both Russia and Georgia to stop fighting and settle differences peacefully. Senator John McCain, often accused of being too old to act swiftly, was among the first politicians who did not fear to accuse Russia of being a violent aggressor. His Democratic opponent in the presidential race, Senator Barack Obama, said nothing.
Mr. Obama quickly corrected his mistake. At an impromptu conference, organized in Hawaii where the senator was vacationing, he said that Russia and Georgia should start peace talks. That was all. The greatest conflict in Europe since the Balkan wars in the 1990s was getting out of control and the politician who might soon become the leader of the most powerful country in the world asked Russian and Georgian politicians to negotiate. An imperial power brutally invaded a democratic nation, which has been promised NATO membership in the near future, but holidays were more important for Mr. Obama.
Moscow could ask for nothing more. Having to choose between a hawkish Republican candidate and a Democratic senator who suntans in the middle of a world crisis, the Russians immediately sided with the latter. The entire conflict over Georgia was of President Bush’s making, stated one Russian official. Another politician with close ties to the Kremlin went as far as to say that the US prompted the Russian invasion in order to make Americans vote for John McCain. At the same time, Moscow praised Obama as the lone voice of reason.
Why does Russia love Mr. Obama so much? First of all, Moscow hopes he will keep the US from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus – two regions recognized by Russia as her exclusive spheres of influence. Prime Minister Putin remembers that the Democratic candidate criticizes the building of an anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. The shield was designed to contain Iran and other rogue states but could also protect Europe from a Russian attack. The Democratic administration will be too weak to oppose Russia; especially that anti-war rhetoric is the Obama campaign’s leading objective.
President Bush has made it clear that his administration will not tolerate Russia’s occupation of Georgia. But despite the signed cease-fire, Russian forces are still present in Georgian territory, pillaging the country and harassing foreign journalists. “The Americans will rebuild Georgia,” a Kremlin adviser told a Polish daily this Saturday. “Unless the presidential race is won by Obama. Then the situation may look completely different,” he said optimistically.
Russia hardly ever praises foreign leaders unless to protect its own interest. This time, Moscow takes Barack Obama’s words for a green light to rebuild its empire in the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. Hopefully, this is not the change Mr. Obama believes in.