Putin and Obama on the world stage

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President Vladimir Putin’s diplomacy has increased Russia’s influence in the Middle East and beyond.  He made Russia the go-to broker for peace in Syria and maybe also in Iran, while increasing Russia’s influence in Eygpt and Turkey and (outside the region) binding Ukraine to Russia instead of the European Union.

In contrast to the hypocritical idealism of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Putin pursues a frankly Machiavellian policy of self-interest.  He does not seek to promote regime change.  He accepts any existing government as legitimate, no matter what its internal policies.  This is less threatening than the policy of  the United States, which in the past decade became the Soviet-style revolutionary power, invading and subverting other countries in quest of world domination.

President Barack Obama is the heir to this foreign policy, which has proven itself bankrupt and left the United States isolated in the world.   The elder George H.W. Bush was able to marshal the United States and virtually the whole world in the first Gulf War, driving Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.  The younger George W.Bush got substantial international support for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.  But the world’s willingness to get behind the  United States has been exhausted, as has the willingness of the American people to support military action.

President Obama deserves credit for recognizing reality and for attempting to make peace with Iran.  His success is not a foregone conclusion.  He faces strong opposition from war hawks of both parties in the U.S. Congress, and from Israel and Saudi Arabia.  The Iranian government may not agree to his terms.  This would leave the United States with the worst possible outcome—alienated from its old allies, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates, and unable to make Iran a new ally.

Then again, what benefit is there for the American people in American dominance of the Middle East?  It doesn’t lower the price of gasoline at the pump.  It doesn’t guarantee U.S. access to oil.  Our whole policy for the past 20 years has been to try to prevent countries such as Iraq (from 1991 to 2003) and Iran (from 1979 to the present) from selling their oil.

The Russian people might ask the same question about their government’s policy.  Vladimir Putin has made Russia strong militarily and diplomatically, and crushed his domestic opposition with an iron fist, but his policies do not help to restore Russia to the ranks of great industrial nations.

Russia is not an exporter of computers or automobiles; it is not an exporter of textiles or electronics components; it is an exporter of energy derived from fossil fuels.  Its future prosperity depends on developing the oil and gas of a melting Arctic and dominating the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.  Unless something changes, Russia’s destiny is to become a resource colony of China.

LINKS

Follow the money: How lobby interests are spinning Iran nuclear deal, an interview of Pepe Escobar by RT News.

U.S.-Iran: the ever-spinning deal by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

Russia’s Turnaround in the Middle East by Fyodor Lukyanov, a Russian journalist and foreign policy expert, for Al-Monitor, a Middle East news agency.

Ukraine’s East-West Dilemma Evokes Century-Old Memories by Robert Coalson for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.  Ukraine’s government has chosen to reject the European Union and join a Russian-sponsored customs union instead.

Turkey: Not Making Eyes at the Eurasian Union—For Now on EurasiaNet.

Shifting Focus: Impact of Iran Nuclear Deal by Al Jazeera English.

U.S. and Iran: Seven Questions Beyond the Nuclear Deal by Marwan Bishara for Al Jazeera English.   An agreement between the United States and Iran could change the political configuration in the Middle East.  But the agreement hasn’t been signed yet and there’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.

Karzai Gives No Date To Sign U.S. Security Pact by Al Jazeera English.

Revised several times 11/25/13.

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