It is a start. The honesty, dignity and respect shown by the President of the United States of America was a refreshing change to the arrogance, boorishness and callousness of the Bush regime and provides a scenario for a reset in relations and a genuine spirit of partnership for the future. An excellent example for the wider world.
Barack Obama comes away from Moscow with a handful of documents, which could be summarised in a nutshell as no more than the beginning of a process to reduce the nucear arsenals of the greatest nuclear power, the Russian Federation, and the second greatest, the USA and also the permission to fly troops and equipment over Russian airspace to Afghanistan.
Apart from this, little else tangible. There is still the question of NATO expansion to the east, something which Russia was promised on several occasions would not happen if the Warsaw Pact were to be discontinued and which promptly took place, a most monumental lack of respect, absence of character and a barefaced lie. There is also the question of the missile defence shield on Russia’s borders, which is an intrusion into the status quo established between the parts over the years.
However, what there is now after the visit that did not exist before is a spirit of cooperation. President Obama promised to continue studying the plans and left the door open for a possible change of mind given that the situation changes with regard to Iran. Was he saying “Give me an Iran without the capacity to produce weapons-grade nuclear power and I will not build the shield?”
To highlight, President Obama’s careful choice of words in behaving as a polite guest would be expected to, a sharp contrast to the sneering insolence from Condoleeza Rice, Bush and Cheney over the last eight years which basically soured the relations to such a state that they hit a 15-year low last August, when Georgian troops trained by US military advisors launched a cowardly act of terrorism against South Ossetia, slaughtering nearly two thousand Russian civilians.
President Obama leaves Moscow more in the spotlight outside Russia than inside (many people did not even know the visit was taking place and the TV stations do not attach a great importance to it) but the first step has been taken, the first stone cast towards mending relations and building bridges, not walls.
Truly we now have a US President with the stature to call himself worthy of his post on the threshold of the 21st Century, someone whose global vision appears to be nearer to Moscow’s, which has always been that of a multilateral world working together in fraternity and mutual respect.
We can indeed reiterate the words proferred in this column after the election of Barack Obama: Welcome, friend! Now let us move on to the actions...
Alexey Navalny returned to Russia on January 17. He was detained upon arrival at the Sheremetyevo Airport. A court arrested Navalny for 30 days