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13 Oct, 2009 12:13

ROAR: “Clinton not shining as bright as Obama”

ROAR: “Clinton not shining as bright as Obama”

It is expected that the US Secretary of State will propose new ideas for the further resetting of Russian-US relations.

Hillary Clinton is visiting Moscow to hold talks with the Russian leadership on nuclear arms, missile defense, Iran and human rights.

It is not easy for Clinton to represent the US president, believes Aleksey Malashenko from the Carnegie Moscow Center. “Barack Obama is enthusiastic about changing the world,” he wrote in Kommersant daily. Clinton is “absolutely different” from Obama because she is “by origin from the Soviet-American epoch,” Malashenko said.

However, Clinton “understands post-Soviet politicians well and may deal with them openly enough,” the analyst added. “She may be closer psychologically to [Prime Minister] Vladimir Putin and [Foreign Minister] Sergey Lavrov than to her immediate chief whose competitor she was at the election,” Malashenko went on to say.

The talks between Clinton and the Russian leadership “will show to what extent Obama’s populism is in harmony with pragmatism and conservatism of Washington’s veterans,” he said.

Argumenty i Facty weekly, in turn, asks if Clinton is trying to achieve the same influence in the US as former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice did. “It was not difficult to shine against the background of George Bush, but Obama’s star, crowned by the Nobel Committee, is so bright now that all successes in foreign policy are attributed to him, not to the Secretary of State,” the weekly said.

The visit to Moscow is the “first serious test” for Clinton and her chance to confirm by real actions her ambitions, the paper said. But with all their smiles, Clinton and her spouse Bill have not had special sympathies to Russia, the weekly added.

“In this regard, Barack Obama seems the more perspective partner in talks, more so because he easily finds an understanding with Dmitry Medvedev,” Argumenty i Facty said. “Russian diplomacy is likely to address Obama after finding Hillary’s incompliance,” the paper added.

Maksim Minaev, analyst at the Center for Political Conjuncture, called Clinton’s visit “a tactical move” in the development of the process of resetting relations between Russia and US. The issues that Clinton will discuss in Moscow have already been raised in the dialogue between the two countries’ leaders in July during Obama’s visit, he added.

Now, the Secretary of State and her department “do not play a strategic role in determining Washington’s policies toward Russia,” the analyst stressed. This role belongs to the White House’s staff and National Security council, he added.

However, many Russian observers really expect Clinton to “make breakthroughs” in Moscow. One of the main issues that are being discussed is a new document that should replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1). Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has expressed hope that the new treaty will be developed by December, when the old one expires.

Also, on the eve of the secretary’s visit, Russian-US consultations started in Moscow on a range of issues, including missile defense. The talks should confirm that resetting relations started by the presidents of the two countries “is continuing successfully,” Kommersant daily said.

The US administration floated “new ideas” during these discussions, the paper said, calling them “the results of recent talks between Russian and US presidents in New York.” American experts showed concrete details of the approach of Barack Obama’s administration to missile defense, the paper said.

Clinton is also expected to propose to Russia the building of a joint missile defense system. Kommersant quoted Michael McFaul, the US president’s Special Assistant for National Security and Russian and Eurasian affairs, as saying that the main result of meetings between the Russian and US presidents was that the missile defense system “should be created together with Russia.”

Citing the US president’s assistant, the paper also wrote that Washington was not going to include Ukraine in its plans on the new missile defense system.

Vedomosti daily wrote that Russia’s priority at the talks was the preparation of the new treaty on strategic arms reduction. “In July, the presidents of Russia and the US agreed to limit the number of warheads in the range of 500-1100,” the paper said.

“Moscow is insisting on the lower level, and Washington – the higher,” the paper added. During Clinton’s visit the two sides may come to an agreement about a compromise variant, the paper said, adding that “analysts assume that the level will be limited to 800 warheads.”

At the same time, observers say that Moscow will continue to link the talks on strategic arms reduction to US plans on missile defense. Vedomosti quoted an anonymous source in the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying that “offensive arms and missile defense are the two sides of one medal.”

For the US the main topic of the talks in Moscow will be Iran, Vedomosti said. “Clinton’s task is to enlist Russia’s support in the issue of sanctions against Iran in case the negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program are not successful,” the paper said.

Clinton is also scheduled to meet with Russian students and representatives of civil society and to visit the city of Kazan. The US Secretary of State will also discuss in Moscow the work of the bilateral presidential commission.

This work is not very active on topics that are not of paramount importance, Pavel Zolotarev, deputy director of the USA and Canada Institute noted. “One should understand that there is no basis for a many-sided development of Russian-US relations, even economic ties are weak,” Zolotarev told Gazeta.ru website.

One of the key groups of the commission is one on the development of civil society. This issue was also discussed during the talks that started on the eve of Clinton’s visit to Russia. Washington is likely to stop criticizing Russia’s “sovereign democracy,” Kommersant said. To confirm this, the paper quoted McFaul as saying that the reset of relations includes the problems of human rights.

“Mr. MacFaul made it clear that the US no longer intends to teach Russia about democracy, provoking Moscow’s irritation, and instead wants to concentrate on practical work with non-governmental organizations,” the paper said.

This actually means abandoning the policies of previous US administrations that “always publicly criticized the situation with human rights in Russia,” the paper said. However, Clinton will meet with representatives of civil society and human rights activists.

Some observers think that the US is ready to support the Russian leadership to gain geopolitical concessions, first of all in the Iran issue. In any event, the only “important disagreement” between Moscow and Washington is “Georgia’s boundaries” after the 2008 war over South Ossetia, Kommersant wrote.

According to the paper, McFaul said that the US would not emphasize this problem. It is difficult to solve it in the near future, and Washington does not want to generate tension when the Russian-US relations are improving, the paper said.

Sergey Borisov, RT