Russia has made some brash moves in the past couple weeks. They chucked out two Canadian diplomats, broke the ceasefire agreement in Georgia by advancing their troops to the borders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and even had one Duma member, albeit an outsider, suggest that Russia hold large scale war games with Venezuela and Cuba in the Caribbean. The Russians say this is in response to the NATO exercises in Georgia, and cast the blame on those plucky Baltic countries for having gotten a couple of spies fired – Dmitry Rogozin is asking us to believe that their is a diabolical anti-Russian campaign underway in the Euro-Atlantic alliance.
However you wouldn’t know that there was anything wrong with relationsjudging by the words coming out of Washington. President Barack Obamawas exhuberant, describing the chances of improved relations as “excellent.” Sec. of State Hillary Clinton was more willing to acknowledge theregrettable nastiness happening this week. Amusingly, she painted herdisagreements with Minister of Defense Sergei Lavrov as a sibling rivalry: “people in families disagree” she explained with a smile.
On the one hand, Eastern Europe must hear these kind of comments andfear for their futures. Washington has basically watched Russia testsome new boundaries of what’s permissable in its treatment ofneighbors, and the new administration seemed only to shrug. ApparentlyMoscow has just been granted this additional influence and “respect” ithas been demanding for some years now. But on the other hand, there isa small detail which makes the Hillary-Obama approach seem smarter thatit was on first glance: the NATO exercises went forward anyways,completely ignoring the protests of Russia. They may not be braggingabout it, but the Americans continued forward with their plans, andreally only seemed to be paying attention to the management ofdisapproval of its actions, rather any substantive change of itspriorities.