Obama vs. Putin, Round 1
We were heartened when U.S. President Barack Obama appeared to signal, in an interview with the Associated Press just before leaving for Moscow, an intention to seek to divide the Kremlin and thereby conquer it. If Obama follows through on this strategy, it will be a master stroke.
Obama told the AP last Thursday that Putin has ”one foot in the old ways of doing business.” He contrasted him with Medvedev, and said he decided to meet with Putin because the KGB spymaster “still has a lot of sway … and I think that it’s important that even as we move forward with President Medvedev that Putin understand that the old Cold War approaches to U.S.-Russian relations is outdated — that’s it’s time to move forward in a different direction.”
Wow, move forward in a different direction from Putin by pairing with Medvedev. Talk about spitting in Putin’s eye!
Obama continued: “I think Medvedev understands that. I think Putin has one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new, and to the extent that we can provide him and the Russian people a clear sense that the U.S. is not seeking an antagonistic relationship but wants cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation, fighting terrorism, energy issues, that we’ll end up having a stronger partner overall in this process.”
Obama’s Russia advisor Michael McFaul implied that the strategy may be even more hardcore: Obama may try to split Medvedev from Putin and then to split the people of Russia from Medevev, with a direct appeal that could include reaching out to human rights groups and opposition political figures. He’s already given an interview to Novaya Gazeta.
It’s a brilliant way test the water and see if there is any chance Medvedev might be induced to break with Putin, creating chaos within the Kremlin. If Medvedev holds firm, then we know where we stand and can act accordingly. It sends a clear message to the Kremlin that the U.S. will not accept KGB rule of Russia.
Of course, it all depends on whether Obama is prepared to act on the information he gets. And that we shall see soon enough.