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24 Sep, 2009 11:20

ROAR: “US again considers Russia an equal partner”

ROAR: “US again considers Russia an equal partner”

Moscow may come to an agreement with Washington, although it should not rely on “benevolence” from the US, analysts say.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visiting the US for the 64th UN General Assembly session and the G20 summit, giving him a chance to take a new step in resetting relations with his US counterpart, many observers believe.

During talks in the US, Russian representatives are trying to make things clear in the issues of the US missile defense in Europe and the treaty on strategic offensive arms, Mikhail Neyzhmakov, head of the Center for International Politics at the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements, said.

The development of the Russian-US relations under Barack Obama demonstrates that Moscow may not be satisfied with Washington’s explanations about the new plans for missile defense, the analyst wrote on Kommentarii.ru website.

“In fact, against the background of statements about scrapping the program of deploying the missile defense system in Eastern Europe, these elements may be deployed in the soft underbelly of Russia – in the South Caucasus,” Neyzhmakov said.

As for the treaty on strategic offensive arms, the Americans will try to get Russia’s concessions, and they “have chances to achieve this,” the analyst predicts.

Kommersant daily, in turn, noted in this regard that although Barack Obama made it clear that the decision on missile defense was not a concession to Moscow, the US is trying to understand if Russia “is ready to reciprocate.”

The priority on the US agenda is Russia’s military-technical cooperation with countries that are hostile to Washington, the paper said. The White House is concerned first of all about Russia’s military ties with Iran, Syria, and Venezuela, the daily wrote.

Washington is especially worried about Russia’s cooperation with Iran. “Medvedev is most likely to tell Americans that Russia will not hurry to deliver its S-300 missile systems to Iran,” Fedor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine told Kommersant.

A source in the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed this allegation. He told the paper that Russia “has military contracts with Iran, but they are not being implemented now,” adding, “this is a kind of a paper tiger.”

However, sources close to the Russian-US talks have told Kommersant that they are ready to insist on Russia’s right to continue arms shipments. “Why we are being deprived of this right? Are we a banana republic?” the paper quoted the sources as saying.

At the same time, Moscow may reciprocate to Washington’s initiative in the missile defense sphere by supporting tougher sanctions against Tehran, analysts say. Speaking after talks with Obama on September 23, the Russian president met their expectations by saying that “sanctions rarely produce a positive result, but sometimes they are inevitable.”

However, Medvedev stressed the need to create “a system of incentives that would allow the peaceful use of nuclear energy by Iran on the one hand, and would rule out the creation of nuclear weapons on the other.”

Another compromise in the Russia-US relations may be achieved in the issue of strategic offensive arms reduction, many observers believe. “The START-1 treaty expires in less than three months, but the positions of the sides [on the next treaty] are still far from being agreed upon,” Sergey Rogov, director of the US and Canada Institute, told Kommersant. “It is difficult to expect progress without interference from the presidents,” he added.

However, progress is possible in this sphere, Rogov said, taking into account the decision of the American side to scrap missile defense plans for Poland and the Czech Republic.

Moscow and Washington will sign an agreement on prolonging START-1 rather than concluding a new treaty, Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Military Forecast Center, believes. “It took four years to develop the previous treaty on strategic offensive arms,” Tsyganok told the Baltic Information Agency. “The sides cannot coordinate all details of the new document over several months,” he said.

Moscow will insist on its “equal right with Washington to control nuclear arms,” Tsyganok said. “America for the first time in the last 20 years considers Russia an equal partner, and that means that the two countries will sooner or later come to an agreement on the control over strategic arms weapons,” he added.

Aleksandr Konovalov, president of the Institute of Strategic Assessments, thinks that Moscow should not hurry to conclude a new treaty with the US in this sphere. “There are no professional negotiators in Russia,” he said, adding that the previous teams have broken up.

The two sides need at least six months to coordinate the details of the new agreement, Konovalov told the Baltic Information Agency. The analyst predicts that Moscow and Washington will have difficulties in determining the number of carrier vehicles that should be remained. “America will not decrease weapons, on which it spent a lot of money,” Konovalov said.

However, Leonid Polyakov, chair of the department of political science at the Higher School of Economics, believes the new agreement will be concluded because “neither Russia, nor the US wants a new phase of arms race.”

“But one should not wait for an expansive smile from Americans and to rely on their benevolence,” Polyakov told the same agency. “We should firmly defend our goals,” he added.

Meanwhile, speaking in New York on September 23, the Russian president said that the good start in the work on the new treaty on strategic arms “gives us grounds to hope that our teams will cope with the task and we will receive the new document in time.”

Russian observers note that Obama’s activities in relations with Russia are only part of the whole range of tasks that he is facing now. Now his approval rating is falling, criticism of his policies is increasing, and “it seems that everything is going wrong,” Boris Makarenko, chairman of the board of the Center for Political Technologies, wrote in Kommersant daily.

Commenting on Obama’s policies, Makarenko said: “The war in Afghanistan brings more victims, the Middle East peace process is deadlocked, the healthcare reform plans have polarized society, a hand extended to the Islamic world has hung in the air, and a recent address about climate change was met with a sigh of disappointment.”

However, things might not have gone differently for Obama, the analyst believes. The first reason is that “the neoconservatives led the US politics into a dead end, which can “only leave using a reverse motion,” Makarenko said.

Also, Obama won the election as “a president of hope,” who was supposed to solve all pressing problems, including the financial crisis and the tarnished American image in the world, the analyst added.

Makarenko believes that in fact, Obama has managed to do a great deal. The US president “has changed the format of the operation in Iraq and placed emphasis of military efforts on Afghanistan,” he said. “He is striving for resetting relations with Russia, and one could not call [his effort] a failure,” Makarenko stressed. Obama has “an advantage – as a minimum three and a half years” for his attempts to change policies, the analyst added.

It will take two to three years of intensive joint work of Moscow and Washington in the spheres of strategic arms reduction and missile defense, former President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev thinks.

Writing in Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily, Gorbachev stressed that the Russian and US presidents should take large-scale tasks upon themselves “to change strategic relationships of the main nuclear powers in their own interests and the interests of the world.”

Sergey Borisov, RT