Wikileaks Resets The Reset

PutinMedvedev_wikileaks.jpgIt’s no wonder why the FSB vaguely threatened to assassinate Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.  In just the first wave of confidential diplomatic cables released yesterday, we get the opportunity to how officials of the U.S. government really felt about relations with their new partners in Russia, underscoring the profound cynicism of Obama’s reset policy.  And apparently, there is much more to come once Wikileaks taps its Russian archives.

Apart from a near total obsession with Russia only through the prism of Iran, the wires also reveal a specifically detailed awareness of Russia’s democratic unraveling, which contrasts sharply with the president’s positive statements on the relationship.  Vladimir Putin is described as the “Alpha Dog” of a “vitrual mafia state,” while Dmitry Medvedev “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.” The Guardian has also highlighted the leaked cables which express U.S. concern over Putin’s burgeoning relationship with Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, including “lavish gifts”, lucrative energy contracts and the presence of a “shadowy” Russian-speaking liaison who gets the deals done. In others words, the memos confirm much of what we have been publishing here over the past few years.

Some allies, because of their past experiences, are still very concerned with Russia and are not sure how much to trust the West,” reads one cable from a meeting between Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his French counterpart, Herve Morin, from February 2010.  “SecDef observed that Russian democracy has disappeared and the government was an oligarchy run by the security services. President Medvedev has a more pragmatic vision for Russia than PM Putin, but there has been little real change.

Will these revelations, as well as more from the Russian side in the near future, have any measurable impact on U.S.-Russia relations?  It looks doubtful.  Sergei Lavrov is already looking to forgive and forget, pretending to be confused why anyone is so interested in these disclosures from “a petty thief on the internet” (if only Tiger Woods had such PR advice).  “WikiLeaks is an amusing read, but in practical politics we are going to be guided by the concrete actions of our partners,” he said.

I don’t expect to see any shift in policy in the immediate future, but hopefully we can begin to hear people start speaking more honestly about who they have chosen to work with in Russia.  More to come soon.