The news that the Obama Administration has called off the scheduled talks with Russia’s President Putin is hardly likely to upset the Russian leader, who is chairing the G20 talks in St. Petersburg shortly. Accusations were made by Washington that Putin still has a “Cold War” mentality (true). But the fact is that the US does, too, with Washington caring far more than necessary about relations with a greatly diminished Russia.
It was President Clinton who invited Russia to join the G7, the seven richest nations in the world. Russia was hardly the eighth richest. Even now, it’s way down the list of the biggest economies in the world.
Clinton’s invitation was meant to encourage the development of Russian democracy. With their history, there was little hope of Russia ever forming a democracy anything like America’s. The country just doesn’t fit in the G8 or the G20.
That does not mean to say it’s isolated. Far from it.
Relations with China to the east and Germany to the west are far more important to Moscow than is its relationship with the United States. Also important are relations with neighboring countries that were once a part of the Soviet Union, providing Russia with a buffer around its own borders.
Additionally, Russia is doing very well in the Middle East, offering support to Syria’s President Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah. Russia’s commitment to Syria’s government thwarted western efforts to replace Assad with a more acceptable alternative. Al-Qaeda’s involvement with the rebels is another reason the West backed off.
Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah, together with the new Shia-dominated Iraq (thanks to the US and allies!) gives Shia Islam an arc of security it has never had before. Russia’s role only strengthens this. Moscow will continue to provide them all with arms.
Obama’s cancellation of the meeting was due to Russia giving temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee who betrayed US secrets. It’s interesting that there was a definite hesitation in granting his request. Putin may be uncomfortable with Snowden – if a man will betray his own country, he’s also likely to betray any other country that might take him in! His asylum is conditional upon him not revealing any more secrets.
The United States can hardly criticize Russia for granting Snowden asylum. America has often granted Russians fleeing their government asylum in the US.
Obama has also been critical of Putin’s new anti-gay law, saying that the Russian leader is out of step with the rest of the world. This is untrue – most of Africa and all of the Islamic Mideast, plus some Asian countries, have similar laws. If anything, this shows that Washington is out of touch with the rest of the world.
It will be interesting to see how the G20 summit progresses.