No warming in US-Russia ties under ‘tough’ Clinton: analysts

Source (AFP)
Moscow’s rocky relationship with Washington is unlikely to improve with US president-elect Barack Obama’s selection of the "tough" Hillary Clinton as his top diplomat, analysts said Tuesday. "This is a tough politician and not a convenient negotiator for Russia," said Yevgeny Volk, a Moscow-based political analyst with the Heritage Foundation, a US think tank. "Russia cannot expect anything good in terms of Russian-US relations," Volk told AFP. "During the election campaign Hillary made a number of tough statements about Russia."

Moscow had yet to offer an official reaction 24 hours after Obama announced that Hillary Clinton, a senator and the wife of former US president Bill Clinton, would be his nominee to head the US State Department.

But in a sign that Moscow saw little reason to cheer, a senior Russian lawmaker criticised her selection as well as the reappointment of current Pentagon chief Robert Gates as defence secretary.

"These nominations inspire no optimism whatsoever," Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the foreign relations committee of Russia’s lower house of parliament, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency on Monday.

Clinton and Gates are "staunch supporters of the idea of United States’ domination of the world and of a firm defence of American interests, using whatever means they see fit," he said.

"Neither will be easy partners for Russia. Bilateral dialogue will not be any less complicated than under George W. Bush’s administration."

Relations between Moscow and Washington hit a post-Cold War low in August when Russia fought a brief war with its US-allied neighbour Georgia.

That came after years of mounting tension over President George W. Bush’s push to admit Georgia and Ukraine into the NATO military alliance and to build elements of a controversial missile shield in Eastern Europe.

Analysts noted that NATO expansion and missile defence, both of which Moscow fiercely opposes, had their roots in Bill Clinton’s administration.

"The eastward expansion of NATO was a big part of the Clinton family’s policy," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs.

And with high-powered Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state, Obama is likely to delegate Russia to her while he deals with more pressing foreign policy challenges, Lukyanov said.

"Obama will not play a big role for us. He will be more focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said. "There is a big chance that she will determine Russia policy."

Andrei Kortunov, head of the Moscow-based New Eurasia Foundation, agreed that Clinton would be a forceful secretary of state but argued that some softening of Washington’s position was possible.

"We can count on more flexibility on issues like missile defence in Europe. It is possible there will be some change in the position on rapid NATO expansion," said Kortunov.

Meanwhile, Russian ambitions to play a greater role in world affairs will be hampered if Obama and Clinton succeed in improving the United States’ battered image abroad, added Kortunov.

"In areas where the United States has been weakened, like the Middle East, Latin America and Europe, energetic efforts will be made to restore US influence, which will create problems for Russia," he said.

"The Bush administration made many mistakes, so it was easy with them. With Hillary Clinton it will be harder."


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