Putin as Janus

The Japan Times has Vladimir Putin’s number (hat tip:  Robert Amsterdam):

Diplomats in many corners of the world are puzzled by what appears to be a fundamental shift in Russia’s foreign policies in recent months, from a strategy based on threat and intimidation to one of a low profile seeking friendship, especially with Western countries. Their consensus, however, is that this shift is only temporary and that Moscow will sooner or later return to its old tactics.

The first sign of such apparent change was noted in the aftermath of a tragic airplane crash that occurred on Russian soil April 10, killing Polish President Lech Kaczyinski and a number of other high government officials of Poland. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally led a special committee to investigate the cause of the crash, and accompanied Kaczyinski’s body back to Warsaw.

The Polish population, who have been historically critical of Russia, are said to have been deeply moved by the presence of President Dmitry Medvedev at the state funeral for their late president while the leaders of many other countries were prevented from attending the ceremony by the Icelandic volcano, which disrupted air traffic across Europe.

One Polish government official said Medvedev’s attendance seemed unbelievable in light of the earlier threat that if Poland agreed to the deployment of a U.S.-led missile defense system in its territory, Russia would counter by installing missiles along the border.

Poland is not the only country to which Moscow has sent messages of reconciliation. In April, Russia lost no time promising financial aid to the transition government of Kyrgyzstan under Roza Obunbayeva, after civil unrest had forced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee the country. In so doing, Moscow made no mention of the existence of a U.S. military base in that country even though the regime change offered a golden opportunity for Russia to seek its closure.

Diplomatic experts were also surprised by Russia’s attitude at a summit meeting of the “BRIC” nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China in Brazil on April 16, at which Russia dropped its previous slogan of setting up a new international monetary system to challenge the current U.S.-dollar based system.

At its top-level meeting with Ukraine on April 21, Moscow offered to reduce the price of natural gas in exchange for Kiev’s agreement to let the Russian Black Sea Fleet use Ukrainian port facilities for another 25 years.

On April 27, President Medvedev visited Norway and the two countries agreed on drawing a demarcation line between their respective continental shelves in a manner that gives each side the same area. Even Norwegian diplomats were puzzled as to why Moscow suddenly softened its attitude.

Perhaps the most symbolic event reflecting changes in Russia’s basic diplomatic attitude was the military parade held in Moscow’s Red Square on May 9 to commemorate Victory in Europe Day. For the first time, some 200 troops from the United States, Britain and France marched with their Russian counterparts in front of Lenin’s Mausoleum.

One answer as to why Russia has been making these and other conciliatory gestures is that Moscow, at least for now, does not see any need to continue a confrontational attitude toward the West at a time when American influence is dwindling in the former Soviet sphere of influence and former Soviet republics and when Western European nations, hit by serious economic slumps, have suspended efforts to expand NATO’s sphere of influence further east.

It would be a mistake, however, to jump to the conclusion that Moscow has abandoned its diplomacy of threat and intimidation for good. There are two factors to indicate that the apparent change to “friendly diplomacy” will last no more than a year or so.

The first, according to diplomatic sources, is the U.S. midterm congressional elections this fall. Russia believes that, after the elections, President Barack Obama will no longer be able to work on “resetting” relations between Washington and Moscow. In anticipation of this, the Russian leadership is looking for an opportunity to establish “more equitable” U.S.-Russia relations, in which Russia takes the lead.

The other factor is the election of the members of the State Duma, or the lower house of the Federal Assembly, late next year and the Russian presidential election in two years. Before these elections, the government must prove to citizens that the Russian economy is recovering. Prime Minister Putin’s goal of making Russia among the five top economic powers will require at least a 6 percent annual growth rate. Therefore, Moscow is seeking economic cooperation with as many countries as possible.

In April, Medvedev became the first Russian head of state to visit Argentina, where he discussed construction of nuclear power stations and diversification of bilateral trade.

On the other hand, the government is faced with the need to inspire patriotism among citizens, because a “peace diplomacy” will not win large numbers of votes held by “Siloviki” officials in the security and military services. One Russian government source predicts that Moscow will return to its traditional diplomacy of threat and intimidation against Washington, after Obama becomes a “lame duck president.”

Another important factor is that Russia is turning its smiling face only toward the U.S. and its allies in the West, while giving the cold shoulder to its eastern neighbors, particularly Japan and China. An expert in Russian affairs observes that the present detente between Moscow and Washington is reminiscent of the two countries’ working together to fight international terrorism after the 9/11 attacks.

Chinese President Hu Jintao showed his displeasure with this situation when he watched the military parade of the Russian, American, British and French troops in Red Square.

Russia’s attitude toward Japan might even grow tougher than toward China. For example, with the backing of the Kremlin, the Russian Federal Assembly is working to revive “Victory over Japan Day,” which had been abolished following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

14 responses to “Putin as Janus

  1. voce della ragione

    Their consensus, however, is that this shift is only temporary and that Moscow will sooner or later return to its old tactics.

    Back in 1986, the same consensus was that Gorbachev was insincere and that Moscow will sooner or later return to its old tactics.

    “Tear that wall, Mr. Gorbachev!” – demanded Reagan. But did the Russian ever do that? Did they ever abandon their occupation of Eastern Europe? Did they ever disband the Warsaw Pact? Did they ever give freedom to the 14 Soviet republics?

    Any russophobe will tell you: NO!

    This time, expect the same kind of results.

    • Now Voice Of Retardation,

      Considering that the Russians were forced to give up their empire in eastern Europe by a succession of popular uprisings against their puppets, as a result of decades of revulsion at the brutality of Russian rule, well you get the drift.

      Meanwhile, today, modern Russians still dream of reinstating their foul imperial rule over the former Soviet republics (Imperial possessions).

      Russia was forced to give up its vile, corrupt, brutal, and (much of the time evil) empire.

      It did not do it out of any sense of decency (apart possibly from Gorbachev), but out of necessity.

      The reaction of many Russians was of course violent, see the attempted coup by the Russian military against Gorbachev, see Russian attempts to hold onto places like Georgia, and the Russian sponsored ethnic cleansing in parts of Georgia and Moldovia

      But the sad thing is that today, most Russians want their empire back, they desire another Stalin, they are a bloodthirsty people who have yet to develop into a modern culture, but are firmly rooted in their 19th century Imperialist and genocidal past.

      • Russia was forced

        First of all, it was Soviet Union. And it wasn’t forced by anything or anyone except for two idiotic incompetent jerks, Gorbie and Shevardnadze who had lost all control of the situation. A proven fact, check out Baker or Matlock.

        • By losing control of the situation, they were forced to give up their evil empire.

          Look eleutherios, its pretty obvious you are another pinko wannabe who actually misses the USSR.

          Funny how those who would enslave others in the living hell that is communism always choose names like “the liberator”.

          • You seem to miss the point completely. Being a national democrat, I despise all the leftie scum of all kinds, especially commie sympathizers in the West. Moreover, the Soviet Union was a reverse empire where ethnic regions were pretty happy to drain the center. In view of that, I’m so glad that the S.U. has died in vain. But — nevertheless — it used to play certain positive role as the sole force that kept the U.S. of A. from breaking all the limits of decency (what we all saw in Clinton/Dubya times).

            P.S. And by the way, why the heck are you so impolite that you always demand people to vindicate themselves? Are you a honorary prosecutor?

            • More Russian BS, the USSR was not in any way a “reverse” empire where the ethnic regions “drained” the centre.

              Russia drained the ethnic regions of natural resources, agricultural produce, food, and committed massive crimes in the form of deportations, mass murder, destruction of the environment etc, etc, etc.

              That is why the USSR collapsed, because the ethnic regions were sick of being bled white by vampires such as yourself.

              Really “Liberator”, you need an education.

              For someone who claims to hate all lefties and commie sympathisers, you certainly spout enough soviet lies.

              • Again and again. your animal, irrational Russophobia works as a blanket that prevents you from seeing the truth which may be soo far from your beloved mythology. And accusing Russian SFSR of draining resources from ethnic regions is no surprise since we hear that voice from an area where the only people who are able to work rather than rob and steal are local Armenians and Greeks. My sincere congrats to the proud lazy highlander bullies and their Kiwi cronies.

                By the way, what d’ya do there? Are you into moustached gals?

              • And the truth is as follows:

                1. Salaries and social subsidies in Russia, Belorussia and the Eastern Ukraine were some 30% lower than elsewhere in the U.S.S.R.;
                2. Average price level in Russia was 15–40% higher (depending on specific region);
                3. Complete unconditional mandatory collectivization took place in Russia only;
                4. Russia and Belorussia got the lowest agricultural subsidies;
                5. Official living space standards were higher in Baltics, Transcaucasia, the Western Ukraine and the cities of Central Asia;
                6. Russia and Belorussia had the highest rent rates;
                7. According to the CPSU/Council of Ministers resolutions, imported goods were to be distributed first in non-Slavic republics and the Western Ukraine, then in Belorussia, the Eastern Ukraine, Northern Caucasus, and only residually in the rest of Russia.
                The list may be continued endlessly, but it’s not necessary for those who have seen this quite a vivid picture with their own eyes. Oddly enough, the story goes, ‘Russian’ gov’t state still spends fortunes on Caucasus and even newly-independent Central Asia rather than to develop Russia proper.

  2. voce della ragione

    The latest Putin’s friendliness towards the West is motivated by his desire to drive small russophobic bloggers out of business.

    After a couple of years of good relations between USA and Russia, a hard-working russophobe, trying to make a dishonest living through her/his Russophobic blog, will lose his/her/its funding and will be forced to close their/its blog.

  3. Putin has a desire to lay low for awhile. Nothing else, since he has maxed out his aggressive strategy and knows that it could be all over once again, like the fetid Soviet Union collapse.

    Putin does not want to be a focal point, as he just murdered the top of the Polish Government and by losing political power and being in the hot seat would make Putin’s complicity in his many crimes a focus before the Hague Convention laws of war and war crimes in international law. Putin could be found accountable and guilty.

    RaSSiyan President Medvedyob would just blame him for all the problems, and spit him out to the West. Theoretically he could be dismissed by Medvedyob. Mo money, mo money for those apparatchiks that are still left with straws to drink from the Moscal Primordial Cesspool.

  4. Russian empire will be friend of the West when it will be nuked.

  5. In my opinion Russia is destined to lay low permanently. The USSR collapse was caused by extreme weakness. Nothing has happened since to bring about a true recovery.

    The crushing Putin distatorship makes Russia weaker by the day. It would take long term skilled leadership to bring about a Russian recovery and such skilled leadership is not available.

    Also the geopolitical effect of the new shale gas technology is overwhelming. Everybody has cheap energy available. Russia will find that the energy business will barely break even.

    • Russia is desintegratin in front of our eyes so let’s wait. Look Russia – wars in Georgia, Chechnia, Ingushetia and Dagestan. This last russian instigated putsch in Kyrgyzystan that turned so badly for russia is another step toward russia’s demise. Russians thought it will be simple, old fashion, communist intervention e.g., Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Berlin, etc. using the old tactics; provoke, create internal conflicts and then invade to save those people from themselves – this time Kyrgyzystan’s invasion turned into religious and racial war and the pogroms of russians. Let’s watch and enjoy.

  6. Pingback: Answer me this #17

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