“I’m announcing that I will be a candidate for president of the United States,” U.S. Senator John McCain announced recently. The 70-year-old Arizona Republican is known for his tough stance on Russia. McCain is a staunch supporter of the strengthening of America’s military potential and the development of U.S. anti-ballistic missile shield. According to him, the missile shield is “critically important for the defense against potential threats which may be posed by such strategic opponents as Russia and China.” McCain unsuccessfully ran for president in 2000.
McCain is known for his consistent opposition to the policies of the Russian leadership. Speaking at a Senate hearing in 2003, he said that the “U.S. should awake to the fact that the Russian government cannot be a friend or partner because it does not share America’s basic democratic values. The policies of the Russian government clearly indicate that Russia runs the risk of being ranked among the enemies.” In 2005, McCain co-authored the Senate resolution which called on the President Bush to expel Russia from the G8. He was one of three U.S. senators who pushed through the resolution accusing Moscow of organizing “politically motivated” legal proceedings against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.
McCain unveiled plans about his taking part in the presidential race just two days after Michael McConnell, the current United States Director of National Intelligence, delivered a scandalous speech during hearings in the U.S. Senate Committee for Intelligence. McConnell said that Russia continued to bring in the spirit of “rivalry and antagonism” to the bilateral relations, especially when in comes to U.S. actions in the former Soviet Union. McConnell reminded of the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in London by pointing out that such incidents lead to the “buildup of problems and frictions.” According to McConnell, “Russia’s movement toward democracy took a step backward.”
In an attempt to disavow of McConnell’s comments, the White House said that the head of U.S. intelligence had not spoken about the official point of view of the U.S. administration. Ostensibly, he only made an analytical assessment of the situation and shared some forecasts while speaking at the hearings in the U.S. Senate. “Russia is our valuable ally, and we maintain an active cooperation with it in a number of areas,” said Tony Snow, an official representative of the White House.
Russian Foreign Ministry released its own statement Wednesday following McConnell’s comments. “Being a former Sovietologist, Michael McConell still sticks to the opinions which are obsolete. His assessments are completely groundless, they have nothing to do with the character and state of relations between Russia and the United States,” said Andrei Krivtsov, a deputy director of information and press department of the Russian Foreign Ministry. “It is regrettable that another high-ranking representative of the U.S. administration has made unfriendly comments with regard to Russia,” said Mikhail Kamynin, an official Foreign Ministry spokesman.
The moderate forces in the U.S. leadership appear to be either incapable or simply unwilling of restraining the anti-Russian push mounted by the hawks of the Establishment. The statement made by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in February became the first serious warning of the Cold War spirit revival. In his statement, Gates virtually drew parallels between Russia and North Korea and Iran. He declared that the U.S. had to have a strong army to repel the Russian threat.
Speaking to Vremya Novostei, Director of the Institute Strategic Studies Sergei Oznobishchev said that quite a few members of the American elite wished to build a dialogue with Russia on the basis of the search for common interests relating to concrete issues. Those pragmatists would rather avoid getting involved in ideological debates or attempts aimed at altering Russia’s domestic policy. “As far as the current U.S. administration is concerned, President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice share this or a similar approach to U.S.-Russia relations. In its turn, Russia sees the U.S. as a partner. Moreover, Putin is on good terms with Bush. It’s a circumstance that undoubtedly had an impact on the signing of a long-awaited bilateral deal that paved the way for Moscow’s entry in the World Trade Organization. Some progress has also been made with regard to the cancellation of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which was passed by U.S. Congress in 1974. The amendment still denies normal-trade status to Russia,” Oznobishchev said. He is skeptical that the latest increase in anti-Russian rhetoric will lead to a new Cold War.
Other experts are less optimistic about the scale of anti-Russian sentiment in the U.S. Deputy Director of the Institute for U.S. and Canada Studies Viktor Kremenyuk believes that Russophobia is on the rise in American society. “Russia had long held a lot of interest for the Americans because it was a strong partner, a country which was extremely rich in natural resources, and had the nuclear capability. Now the appeal has been lost. These days most Americans believe that Russia is an underdeveloped totalitarian state without any law and order,” Kremenyuk said, in an interview to Vremya Novostei. From his point of view, a good relationship between Putin and Bush does not mean a lot for the current Russia-U.S. relations. “At the moment Bush should be primarily concerned about the way his comments on Russia and Putin are interpreted by the Americans. He may suffer a political defeat if he continues to maintain good relations with Putin,” Kremenyuk said.
Translated by Guerman Grachev