ROAR: Clinton meets Russia’s neighbors

During her tour of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, Hillary Clinton has promised support to new allies, but analysts draw attention to the lack of specific agreements.

Russia was on the agenda of many Clinton’s meetings. The US is interested in improving relations with Moscow, she said in Yerevan on July 4. The US and Russia are co-operating on such issues as Iran and Afghanistan, she noted.

But Washington and Moscow do not agree on Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the secretary of state said. Although the disagreements remain, the two countries would continue to co-operate, she noted.

President Dmitry Medvedev congratulated his US counterpart Barack Obama on Independence Day and stressed that “constructive and good-neighborly relations between Russia and the USA” serves the interests of the two peoples and the world.

“In such circumstances, any attempts to belittle the importance of the agreements we reach or hinder our consistent efforts as partners have no future and are doomed to fail,” Medvedev said.

During her visit to Poland, Clinton demonstrated that the list of disagreements includes human rights issues. Speaking in Krakow on July 3, she criticized Russia, together with several other countries, including Iran, Venezuela and China, for “slowly crushing” activist and advocacy groups.

Earlier, the US administration “had been reproached for ‘forgetting’ the value agenda in the co-operation with Moscow and Beijing for the sake of promoting its own interests,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily said.

Now Washington intends to create, together with other countries, “an independent mechanism to monitor repressive measures taken against non-governmental organizations, the paper said.

At the same time, Clinton’s visit to Poland had a military side, the daily noted. Warsaw and Washington signed an amendment that adjusts the accord on missile defense. This document takes into consideration technical changes in connection with a new US approach to missile shield.

Clinton stressed that it would be “purely a defensive system” that does not threaten Russia. The shield should protect the US-deployed forces and Washington’s friends and allies, she noted.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, in his turn, said the facility was built “for the declared ends” and added it could be inspected by Russia.

Setting off for her tour of Eastern Europe and North Caucasus, Clinton had to answer many questions asked by Washington’s partners. In Kiev and Tbilisi, her aim was to persuade the authenticities that the US administration did not forget them “for the sake of resetting relations with Russia,” Gazeta.ru oline newspaper said.

In Baku and Yerevan, the secretary of state should have contributed to solving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the paper noted.

“Clinton is on a very difficult mission. It is a symbolic visit,” believes Aleksey Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center. She has to tell Ukraine and the Caucasus countries that “Washington loves them,” he told Gazeta.ru. “But the US also loves Russia,” he said, explaining the difficulty of her situation.

In Kiev, Clinton wanted to “familiarize herself with the country’s new authorities,” former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk told the paper. And Ukrainian politicians and analysts had not expected any breakthroughs, he added.

“The US is closely watching the changes [in Ukraine] and clearly sees the movement toward Russia,” he noted. So, Clinton is trying to understand “whether it is a particular case or a trend,” he added.

However, the main point of Clinton’s tour is the South Caucasus, believes Aleksey Vlasov, general director of the Post-Soviet Studies Center at Moscow State University. She is wrapping up her tour on July 5 by meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and her counterpart Grigol Vashadze, as well as with representatives of the opposition.

However, the analyst predicted only declarations from Clinton’s visit to Georgia. In Tbilisi, Clinton said the US would help Georgia develop democracy and noted that Georgia should continue carrying out reforms.

Speaking with Georgian women leaders, Clinton also stressed that the US “would never recognize the occupation of Georgian territories,” adding that it was Washington’s “very firm position,” Interfax reported. In 2008, Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Some representatives of the Georgian opposition were offended by the fact that they had not been invited for the meeting with Clinton, Vremya Novostey daily said. Meanwhile, one of those invited, former ambassador to the United Nations Irakli Alasania, intended to raise the issue of the Georgian political system, Vremya Novostey said.

According to the paper, Alasania advocated that a person who is elected president twice, should not occupy the prime minister’s post. The Georgian president is considering such a possibility, the daily said.

The US retains interest in the situation on the post-Soviet space, said Maksim Minaev of the Center for Political Conjuncture. “But now Washington’s recourses for the activities on that direction are limited,” he added.

The US administration is focused on the Middle East, Central- and South-Asia and Asia-Pacific region, he said. In these conditions, the White House has to demonstrate well-disposed attitude to former Soviet republics, but without any practical steps in bilateral dialogue with them, Minaev said.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT