We’ll have more commentary coming soon on this, but it appears that President Dmitry Medvedev has greeted the historic election of Barack Obama with a telegram of congratulations (“I expect to develop a constructive dialogue with you on the basis of confidence and respect for each other’s interests“) while simultaneously issuing a direct threat with an announcement that he would deploy Iskander missiles to Russia’s Kaliningrad region, which lies between Poland and the ex-Soviet republic of Lithuania on the Baltic Sea. He also used his state of the nation speech to again blame the United States for the war in the Caucasus and the global financial crisis. As Joe Biden predicted, the new president is immediately being tested even months before inauguration. As we predicted, Russia would be among the first to do it (although Israel also celebrated the election by bombing Gaza). Other voices in the Russian administration are reaching for more soothing tones of cooperation of the new U.S. government.
Konstantin Kosachyov commented that Russia should talk to the Obama administration instead of testing them: “Russia shouldn’t try to press the new U.S. president in pursuit of quick concessions. (…) Obama isn’t burdened by the inertia of Cold War-era thinking.“A Financial Times editorial points out that Medvedev’s aggressive foreign policy speech wiped out big gains on Russia’s equity markets, highlighting a disconnect between Kremlin bravado and investor confidence: “That presents the Putin-Medvedev tandem with its first real political test. The danger is the Russian leadership defaults to jingoistic nationalism. Investors, who had started scenting value in Russian assets at current rock-bottom prices, will hope Mr Medvedev instead seizes on the arrival of a new US president as an opportunity for more constructive engagement.“It seems apparent that the Kremlin is trying to speak to two different audiences with two different messages – but this cognitive dissonance is creating some damaging feedback.More commentary coming soon.Photo: Traditional Russian Matryoshka dolls with pictures of US Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (L) and Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain are displayed for sale near Red Square in central Moscow November 2, 2008. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin