Saturday, February 7, 2009

"My vas pokhoronim!" (We will bury you)

While Joe Biden is in Munich apologizing for the United States, indicating that we will abandon the people of Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe, just as the Obama Administration has indicated that it is abandoning the people of Iran, and proclaiming that we shall have "peace for our time," Vladimir Putin is laughing in his face and treating Barack Obama as if he were Jimmy Carter. To be sure, Putin and Russia see the Obama Administration's words and action for what they are -- weakness.

Without even waiting to hear how President Barack Obama intends to conduct his relations with Moscow – something that Joe Biden, his vice-president, may well address on Saturday at the annual Munich Security Conference – the Russian leaders have thrown down the gauntlet.

First, they leaked details of naval and air bases to be established on the shores of the Black Sea in the breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia, whose independence is recognised by Moscow alone. Then they signed an air defence treaty with the former Soviet republic of Belarus, apparently paving the way for an anti-missile defence system to counter one planned by the previous US administration across the border in Poland. Moscow appears to have persuaded the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan to oust the US from its air base at Manas, outside Bishkek. . . .

Oksana Antonenko, senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, believes all the actions are part of a pattern, intended to provoke a US reaction, and give Russia more bargaining chips in negotiating a new relationship with Washington. “In Russia there has never been any euphoria about Obama as there has been in the rest of Europe,” she says. “Russia is still very mistrustful of the US, and Putin profoundly so.

“But there is an overwhelming view in Moscow now that the Americans are in decline and will be forced to negotiate with Russia from a position of weakness. They seem to expect all the concessions to come from Obama."

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