The Big Chill – Russia and the United States

The New Cold War
This week President Obama cancelled a September summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.  The White House stated that it was not expecting much from the summit considering the “lack of progress” on various important issues, including missile defense, human rights, and the Edward Snowden saga.

What was Putin Thinking?

Political pundits are still questioning why Putin agreed to grant Snowden temporary asylum as the United States seeks to prosecute the former NSA contractor for espionage and theft of government property.

Is Russia harboring hostility over losing the Cold War?  Perhaps Snowden is merely a political pawn that Russia will use to its maximum benefit.  After all, the Cold War may be over, but spying and gaining the upper hand has not ended.  Maybe Putin is attempting to keep Russia on the stage as a super power by poking America in the eye.  Finally, the Russians may have grown tired of hearing America’s lectures on human rights.

Whatever the reasoning, one thing that is clear to anyone following US-Russian relations is that the Snowden situation is simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Why so Cold?

Relations have been strained between these two countries for years.  Russia’s position with Iraq is a point of contention.  Russia has assisted Iraq’s nuclear projects in one form or another.  On this topic Russia seems to talk out of both sides of its mouth.  Russia seems to recognize that a nuclearized Iraq will upset the region; while at the same time it defends Iraq’s nuclear program as legal and non-threatening.

Another point of contention is the issue of nuclear weapons.  In 2010, the United States and Russia entered into an agreement (New START), which aimed at reducing nuclear weapons on both side.  Recently, Obama has indicated that he would like to see a greater reduction in Russia’s nuclear weaponry.  It is doubtful that this will occur and New START is on the verge of becoming New FINISH.

There are a variety of additional incidents and issues between these two countries. Russia’s position on Syria, the 2010 spy-gate incident, and trade issues have all contributed to a cooling period between the two countries.

Obama Should Attend

Obama has shown that he has no problem breaking Air Force One out of the hangar for a multitude of trips.  Vacations in Hawaii, trips to Africa, continual campaigning across the country, and petitioning the Olympic committee in Copenhagen to select Chicago as a host city are proof that Obama has no fear of flying.

His unwillingness to attend the summit is typical of his attitude.  Obama’s snub of Putin does nothing to further communication or diplomacy between the two nations.  Recently, MSNBC host, Chris Matthews, took Obama to task for failing to lead or participate on a whole host of issues, and questioned what part of the office Obama actually likes.  He does not like negotiating with Congress.  He does not like the press though they hold him in high regard.  He does not like meeting foreign dignitaries.

Obama’s perfect blend of detachment and arrogance leaves him on the outside looking in.  If he is unable to attain his goal through coercion or circumvention, it is not worth his time or trouble.  If the face-to-face talks with Putin prove pointless -nothing ventured, nothing gained.   Keep in mind, it would not be the first time Air Force One flew across the ocean for nothing gained.

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