A New Breath of Hope

, by Luca Caruana

A New Breath of Hope

On 6th July the President of the United States, Barack Obama shook hands with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in what many regarded it as a breath of new hope for the two great powers which just a few years ago dominated the entire world.

Why is such an event so important in today’s international relations? The answer is simple: both Russia and America are great nuclear powers which can still wreak havoc on the world. This threat, that was so dangerous in the cold war era, has not completely died out. Russia has weakened and lost a lot of territory. But with Putin’s rise to power it recovered both economically and its power status.

It is interesting to note that George Bush was the only president of the last ten that didn’t put Russia as one of his top priorities in foreign affairs. This negligence rebuilt the sense of patriotism in Russian hearts which had somewhat been lost in Yelstin’s days. It was only in the last year of his presidency that Bush was forced to make Russia a priority as it invaded Georgia. This invasion is in fact, in my opinion, one of the main turning points of international politics of the 21st century. Vladimir Putin, the current PM of Russia and its actual leader... made sure that his country had a place in the multipolar world of nowadays.

In a speech he delivered at the NES Russia on 7th July, Obama made it clear that ‘America wants a strong, peaceful, and prosperous Russia.’ This was certainly the right approach to take, as - like it or not - Russia is a fundamental power which the US needs to coax to its side in order to overcome the difficulties it is facing in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Obama knows that his foreign policy can never succeed without Russia’s friendship or at least its approval. Obama’s ideal for a world without nuclear weapons needs mutual partnership with Russia to make its mark on the world. The President himself pointed out ‘these challenges demand global partnership, and that partnership will be stronger if Russia occupies its rightful place as a great power.’

Obama’s ideal for a world without nuclear weapons needs mutual partnership with Russia.

Russia may be reluctant to impose harsh sanctions on Iran, but it is certainly not in Putin’s interest to see another growing nuclear power which as much as being a threat for the US may also turn to be a nuisance for Russia itself. ‘Ideological struggles have diminished, but they have given way to conflicts over tribe, ethnicity and religion,’ Mr. Obama said clearly appealing for greater help from Russia especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan where both powers have an interest in keeping extremists like the Taliban down.

Although the US President made it clear countless of times that he wants Russia on his side in international affairs so that progress would be shared, obstacles for this kind of relationship still remain. It is not easy to forget that just a year ago Putin ordered the invasion of Georgia, while last winter Russia’s disputes over the gas supply system with Ukraine affected the European continent – America’s greatest ally – really negatively. It is no wonder that President Obama made it clear that ‘in 2009, a great power does not show strength by dominating or demonizing other countries. The days when empires could treat sovereign states as pieces on a chess board are over.’

By no means is the American President saying that the US is perfect. He is fully aware of his country’s flaws in the Cold War and also in recent years. This came out when Obama pointed out ‘no one nation can meet the challenges of the 21st century on its own, nor dictate its terms to the world.’ This is certainly a novel approach when compared to the Bush administration which with its arrogance not only created new enemies in the Middle East but also deteriorated America’s good relationship with Russia which had been so fundamental in the 1990s. It is the new American president’s job now to bring Putin closer to the west, and this will certainly not be easy.

‘With the end of the Cold War, there were extraordinary expectations – for peace and prosperity; for new arrangements among nations, and new opportunities for individuals.’ Such expectations for peace may not have come into being as many had wished; however, considering what the world achieved in the past two decades and the great advancements it has made, there is certainly reason to hope for a better future.

Image: Russia US Obama (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze), source: www.flickr.com

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