Leaked: Obama aide ready for diplomatic war of attrition with Russia

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)
The US reportedly expects that the ongoing confrontation with Russia would continue until at least 2024 and involve many directions. Washington wants to rally support of its European allies to continue mounting pressure on Moscow.

The expected diplomatic and economic war of attrition is being outlined in a Russia policy review currently prepared by Celeste Wallander, special assistant to President Barack Obama and senior director for Russia and Eurasia on the National Security Council, reports Italian newspaper La Stampa. The publication said it learned details of the upcoming policy change from a preview that Washington sent to the Italian government to coordinate the future effort.

US diplomats say Russia changed the cooperative stance it assumed after the collapse of the Soviet Union and is now using force to defend its national interests, the paper said. The change is attributed to the personality of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, Washington expects, will remain in power until at least 2024.

The change became apparent with the conflict in Ukraine, but was emerging since at least the 2008 conflict in South Ossetia, when Russia used military force after Georgia sent its army to subdue the rebellious region, killing Russian peacekeepers in the process.

Washington’s solution to the new Russia is keeping sanctions pressure on it while luring its neighbors away with economic aid and investment, La Stampa said. The current round of sanctions, it reports, was designed not to have too much impact on the Russian economy so that a threat of harsher sanctions could be applied.

While the tug of war in Europe continues into the next decade, Washington wants to continue cooperation with Russia in other areas like nuclear non-proliferation and space exploration. However until Putin is out of the picture, the US does not expect for things to go back to where they were, the newspaper said.

The strategy was hardly unnoticed in Moscow, as evidenced by the annual report of the Russian Foreign Ministry published on Wednesday. The document said the US is pursuing “a systematic obstruction to Russia, rallying its allies with the goal to damage domestic economy” through blocking credits, technology transferee and an overall destabilization of the business environment.

The ministry said Washington had some success with the policy that resulted in an almost 8 percent drop of Russia’s trade with EU members in 2014. However some European countries like Austria, Hungary or Slovakia are pragmatically keeping bilateral ties with Russia active. In European heavyweight Germany, whose government is among the leading supporters of the anti-Russian sanctions, there is a strong business resistance to keeping them.

Non-EU members in the region like Serbia and Turkey are among priority partners for Russia in the current environment, the ministry added.