“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Triumph in Moscow

Sense of Triumph in Moscow
Euphoria over Obama's Decision To Shelve Missile Shield

By Moritz Gathmann in Moscow Spiegel

Moscow is triumphant over Obama's decision to cancel his missile shield plan. But it is no foregone conclusion that Russia will harden its line against Iran. And Poland and the Czech Republic will also expect overtures from the United States.

The decision by Washington not to install a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic has prompted Russians to breathe a little easier on Thursday. It is also fueling a sense of triumph.

The main reason for President Barack Obama's decision was "Russia's uncompromising position on the issue," said the clearly pleased Russian foreign policy expert Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the foreign policy committee of the Federation Council of Russia, the country's upper legislative chamber. And Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Duma's foreign relations committee, said he sees evidence that today's American government has a better understanding of the Russians' concerns.

With his decision, Obama has removed a significant barrier to relations between Washington and Moscow, where the missile defense shield had always been seen as a slap in the face. "George W. Bush wanted to show that he didn't care a bit about Russia's opinion," Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Moscow's Russia in Global Affairs magazine, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. He sees Obama's step as being important primarily in psychological terms. The promised "restart" in Russia-American relations is bearing fruit, he said.

One year ago in August, just after the start of the war between Russia and Georgia over the renegade republic South Ossetia, Warsaw and Prague quickly moved to sign agreements with Washington regarding the installation of the American missile defense shield in their countries. But Barack Obama, who would be elected president a short time later, showed very little enthusiasm for the project -- even during the days of his presidential campaign. After he entered office, Eastern European countries like the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine and even Georgia became less strategically important to him. After all, the US was mainly concerned with finding a way out of the financial and economic crisis.

The question now is what Russia will offer the United States in exchange for freezing the missile program in Poland and the Czech Republic?

Was Shelving Part of a Deal with Moscow?

In March, months before Obama's official state visit to Moscow, the first news leaked of what that horse-trading might include. The Moscow daily Kommersant reported on a secret letter in which Obama apparently demanded a harder course from the Russian president against Iran. In exchange, Washington would freeze its missile shield plans. But officials disputed that any kind of "deal" was being made. Obama did, however, confirm that missile defense appeared to be less important in reducing the threat from Iran. Still, Russia's policies toward Iran have hardly changed: Moscow continues to be in favor of negotiations but opposes tougher sanctions.

It's also unlikely Russia will suddenly adopt a firmer stance towards Iran. "The US will be disappointed," Lukyanov said. "The American idea that Russia holds the key to a solution to the Iranian nuclear problem is a fantasy." At best, he said, Russia could intensify its diplomatic efforts.

Nevertheless, the Russians have made concessions to the US on the issue of Afghanistan. In 2008, Moscow began permitting the transport of American supplies over Russian territory. And on Sept. 6, Russia also started allowing American aircraft to transport military supplies for Afghanistan through Russian airspace. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reached a deal on that issue during the US president's official visit.

4,500 US Overflight Rights over Russian Territory Per Year

The deal, which permits up to 4,500 US Army flights per year, was extremely important to the Americans. The Russian transit routes provide an important alternative to the main routes through Pakistan, where American convoys are often attacked by Taliban insurgents. Russian politicians have also expressed again and again that it is in their vital interest that the Taliban not be allowed to get the upper hand in Afghanistan.

And the freezing of the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic will also doubtlessly improve Russian-American relations. But there are still plenty of problems on the agenda. The START treaty on the reduction of strategic nuclear warheads, for example, expires in December. Lukyanov says he believes that, following Obama's decision on Thursday, few barriers will stand in the way of the successful signing of a successor treaty this year.

The main current source of tension for the relationship between the US and Russia actually lies further away, in Georgia and Ukraine. Both of those nations were supported in their anti-Russian ways by the former American administration headed by George W. Bush, who held out the prospect of NATO membership.

Ukraine and Georgia as a Bone of Contention

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, whose attitude to Obama's predecessor was sycophantic, may be on his last legs politically. But in the last few months Yushchenko has steered a confrontational course in regard to Russia. On Jan. 17, 2010, there will be a presidential election in Ukraine. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has already made it clear that he no longer wants to see Yushchenko in the position. Lukyanov is convinced that "it could get very unpleasant for Russia during the election campaign." Some of the candidates will use a pro-West, hard core anti-Russian stance to further their political aims.

Things are not altogether peaceful in the former Soviet republic of Georgia either. A new attempt by the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, to take back the renegade states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia cannot be ruled out completely. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the US is still delivering weapons to Georgia -- something the Russians naturally do not like. In July, the Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin threatened any country that was delivering weapons to Georgia with sanctions.

In Poland and the Czech Republic, they are nervously anticipating what Obama may offer as a replacement. "There will be an American presence but it will take a different form," Lukyanov said. What form that presence takes will determine future relations with Moscow.

"Russia doesn't have any problems with non-strategic rockets," Lukyanov says. "But if the US opens a military base, then we will have the same situation that we had with the missile defense system."


  1. There is no question in my mind that Obama has released this decision to throw some red meat to the left and divert attention away from his health care plan.

  2. It has become obvious to me that MSM is correct about the racial overtones surrounding Obama. Obama is about redistributing wealth to his base. He knows that if he implants it in the federal beauracracy, no one will ever be able to dislodge it.

    Everything else is secondary to the Obama plan of stealth reparations. That includes our national defense.

  3. It is all about race and paybacks.

  4. They are taking over Freddie, Fannie, Student Loans, Healthcare, GM, Chrysler.
    Soon, you will have no access to loans except through the govt, no assurance of an equal break in healthcare unless you are registered Democrat, likewise for jobs @ Govt. Motors. Those that think this is paranoid fantasy should consider all the various activities ACORN has engaged in, and ask themselves if ACORN was ever concerned with being fair, honest, or comporting with the law.

  5. Teresita said...

    Obama announces plans to stop locking White House front door over fears that it was antagonizing Russia.

  6. There's a show about to open on Broadway in which some perv is seen dry-humping a statue of the Virgin Mary at the end of the first act.
    As the second act opens, he is engaged in caressing her.

    Meanwhile Yale won't allow a book to have pictures of Muhammad in it!

  7. It's 83 degrees with clear skies right now in Key West. With no work and no worry.

    Conversely, it's 52 degrees and mostly cloudy right now in Bogota. With more work and more worry than one can shake a stick at.

    We are a little more than 24 hours away from the Mojito stand at Miami Intl.

    Nothing else really matters. The real world (save this little corner of it, because we are still coming back to it and feel responsible for it - funny how that works) can go to hell while we lounge around in our underbritches over espressos and croissants.

    It's been a looooooooooong haul, kids. The last two years the longest leg by far.

    Had I known as a young Army wife what I was in for, I would have hooked up with a nice lawyer.

    Just kidding, Sport.

    Mostly. : )

    P.S. The Russians are still a bunch of drunken thugs who suck massively at just about everything.

  8. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Prime Minister, on Friday said that the Obama administration’s decision to scrap plans for a missile defence shield in Europe was a positive step – but warned that he now expects other concessions by the US to follow.

    In his first public comments since the US announced its decision on missile defence on Thursday, Mr Putin said he now expected the US to back a bid by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan to join the World Trade Organisation.

    “I expect that after this correct and brave decision, others will follow,” Mr Putin said in a speech in the Russian black sea resort of Sochi. He said the measures should include “the complete removal of all restrictions on the transfer of high technology to Russia and activity to widen the membership of the World Trade Organisation to (include) Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.”

    Mr Putin’s call for the US to back WTO membership for Russia will come as a surprise to western diplomats. The US and the European Union have both been strong supporters of Russian membership. But earlier this year, Mr Putin suddenly stopped Russian negotiations to join.

    Even so, Mr Putin’s speech is likely to add to fears in the US that President Barack Obama’s concession on the missile defence shield – a programme Moscow fiercely opposed – is likely to embolden the Kremlin to make further demands.

  9. Have fun Red....Be good to Sir Red, in all the ways that you are so endowed.

  10. I fully intend to do just that.

  11. Feed the beast and the beast demands more....

    Comrade Obama will soon lead the UN and get a standing ovation from most of the world's leaders...

    Of course the leaders of columbia, honduras, israel, poland & japan (to name a few) will all be arrested on war crimes and judged by the new human rights council headed by syria, iran and venezuela...

  12. What is "Occupation" said: Comrade Obama will soon lead the UN and get a standing ovation from most of the world's leaders...

    That's because the UN is a place where dictators opposed to free speech (Castro, Putin, Ahmedinejad, Mugabe, Obama, Chavez, Kim Jong Il) demand to to heard.


    Happy Friday.

  14. we basically got scared by Russia's pit bull, Iran. They'll keep them on a leash for now but will always remain extremely dangerous. This tactic helps Russia to get others to see thier "view point" on things.

  15. Somebody at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. got scared maybe. This is the home of the brave. I'm an American Legionaire.

  16. The Western Tradition flew 24 men to the moon. The Muslim Tradition flew 19 men into three buildings. Way to go, Mo.

  17. "Betrayal! The U.S. sold us to Russia and stabbed us in the back," the Polish tabloid Fakt declared on its front page.
    Polish President Lech Kaczynski said he was concerned that Obama's new strategy leaves Poland in a dangerous "gray zone" between Western Europe and the old Soviet sphere.

  18. You guys are overthinking it. Obama's a Marxist; that's all.

  19. If he had the power, I'll guarantee you, he would sign the papers to make the U.S. a State in Russia.

  20. It should be no secret now that a massive political warfare campaign is underway that is intended to push the United States into war with Iran. Pat Lang, 17SEP09

  21. President Obama said this week that his health care plan won't cover illegal immigrants, but argued that's all the more reason to legalize them and ensure they eventually do get coverage.


  22. And if he doesn't get his health care "reforms" this years he can make 100 million new Democrats with amnesty and do it that way.

  23. Here comes the second wave.

    According to the World Health Organization, even if the current pattern of usually mild illness continues, the impact of the pandemic during the second wave could worsen as larger numbers of people become infected.

    Will it be in time to nudge Barry and Rufus's great humanitarian program over the finish line? Stay tuned.

  24. C'mon now, much as I despise Jimmy Carter, he was referring to the young Barry. "The young black boy who grew up..."

  25. trish said...

    Happy Friday.


    You better not list us as a reference when you apply for Music Director at the Annex.

    I thought you went to Key West a week ago.

  26. : )

  27. Aw, geez, Edith!

    The immortal Archie Bunker.

  28. Scratch a "Greenie," you'll find a "Eugenist" every time.

  29. I think Bob is having trouble with his Internet.

  30. Rush had audio of a Dem lady assuring us that language stripping ACORN funding would quietly be removed in reconciliation.
    All's well that end's well.

  31. Hey, I expect everyone to have a nice week.

    That means you, too, Rat.

    The Federal Socialists so will it.

    I mean, what's the point of being Federal Socialists if we can't at least do that, hm?

  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

  33. The NY Times on ACORNGATE:

    Weekend Opinionator Acorn Falls, the Web Rises - The Opinionator Blog -

    Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski at Politico aren’t holding their breaths until the suit gets filed:

    ACORN’s unavoidable problem, however, is that suing Fox News would give Fox — or any other media organization — the ultimate Christmas present: a legally enforceable way to compel ACORN to give up all its secrets.


    Conservatives are so mean:

    A. Serwer of Tapped thinks that it all comes down to conservatives disliking anyone who helps the poor:

    Conservatives have no standards:

    Whether big-time media outlets will care much about the criticisms of right-leaning bloggers remains to be seen — after all, The Times and most other papers would never allow reporters to misrepresent themselves in the way O’Keefe and Giles did.