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ru 21 Jan 10 The decline of a president's popularity after a year of work is a commonplace occurrence, and in the case of Obama it is also inevitable: No one could have justified the expectations that had been placed on him. Therefore, it is too soon and unfair to judge the success of his presidency. But we can draw some preliminary conclusions about whether the approaches proposed by the administration are working. The interim results of relations with Russia present interesting material for analysis. The anniversary of the "reset" has yet to come - the idea first resounded at the beginning of February, and the symbolic button with the incorrect inscription was pressed at the beginning of March. In April, the presidents met personally, and the culmination came in July, when Barack Obama's visit to Moscow warmed the hearts of even skeptics. In the Fall, there was the impression that the ice was moving: Negotiations on nuclear arms reduction were in full swing, and Russia's position on Iran began to drift in the direction of sanctions. But by the beginning of winter, everything came to a standstill. The new START treaty could not be coordinated by the expiration date of the old one, and when a specific date disappeared, there was no longer a need to hurry. The discussions on Afghanistan, which began with bravura, got bogged down in coordination of specific conditions, especially after Obama publicized his new course - first to drastically increase the contingent, and then to begin a quick withdrawal. At the same time, leaks appeared from somewhere to the effect that Moscow is supposedly consciously sabotaging the process. However, they were refuted by the US Ambassador in Russia. The dialogue on Iran is becoming ever more difficult as there is the realization of the fact that it will not be possible to limit ourselves to general discussions about sanctions, but that they will have to be introduced, which everyone in fact fears. Russia - because it will have to sacrifice relations with Tehran. And the West - because, if the sanctions do not work, it is generally unclear what else to do. In addition to all else, the eternal topic of the chicken legs has also surfaced. What is the problem? It is the lack of a comprehensive understanding of relations. It is hard to formulate who Russia and the United States are to each other. They are not enemies, as they were 25 years ago: The systematic basis of opposition has disappeared. They are not allies - that is obvious. Partners - yes, but the concept of partnership may include anything at all, or it may not include anything. Competitors - in a number of cases, although the competition is asymmetrical due to the different potential of the parties. The confused situation is partly determined by objective reasons. In the present-day world, which is moving who knows where, clear-cut schemes are generally not built. The matter is also complicated by the history of relations of the last 20 years, which have led to a lack of trust and adequate understanding of each other. The very metaphor of a "reset" aptly reflects the peculiarities of the American political consciousness the faith in the ability to turn the page, to begin anew, and thereby to correct the mistakes that were made before. The "repair" of American leadership, undertaken by Barack Obama after the neo-conservative administration, presupposed a renovation of methods while retaining the goals and tasks. The White House Democratic team has realistically appraised the scope of the international problems which it will have to encounter. But, judging by all, it considered the root [of these problems] to be the mistakes and failures of its predecessors, whose correction made it necessary to change the intonation, to freshen the atmosphere, and to revise certain practical approaches. Meanwhile, the real reasons for the crisis in the world system and American supremacy in it are the fundamental changes taking place on the global arena, onto which new players are springing - large and small, and each one is striving to announce something of his own.
Bloc discipline has never been absolute. More precisely, not everyone was included in one of the two blocs of the "Cold War" era. And nevertheless, the ability of leaders of the two main associations to control what was going on was many times higher than it is today. The paradox of Russia-US relations consists of the fact that both parties see each other in the role of "fading" powers. America does not believe in the future of Russia - a country with diminishing population, degrading infrastructure, and one-sided economy, squeezed between centers of economic growth. This was frankly stated by Vice-President Joe Biden last year. Russian aspirations to the role of an independent "pole" are not taken seriously, especially in light of the growth of real giants such as China. Russia, for its part, is finding more and more new indications of the fact that the era of American domination is drawing to a close. The multi-polar world, which long seemed an abstract slogan of the illdisposed America in Paris, Beijing or Moscow, has begun to turn into a reality in the 21st Century. Bush's broad sweeping policy merely catalyzed the process, but did not cause it. Other centers and groups of influence are growing, and Russia is thinking about the prospects of relations with which - the United States or its opponents - it should consider to be the priority in discussing regulation of international problems. Both views - the American view of Russia and the Russian view of America - are correct. But both of them do not so much record the current situation as they outline the vector of expectations, and the policy chosen on their basis turns out to be unintelligible. The US approach to Russia is instrumental. It is no accident that Obama began specifically with Moscow. It was believed that, if he plays up to Russian vanity, compensates the previous lack of attention and respect, he may achieve progress on the really serious questions that America needs - Iran, Afghanistan, and nonproliferation. A few years ago, this would probably have worked: The Kremlin was oppressed by being ignored, and one of the main components of its policy was the consideration of prestige. But at that time, in the mid2000's, Washington was not concerned about Moscow's opinion. But now, lively discussions alone will not be enough: Russia is concerned not so much by recognition on the part of America, as by the opportunity to harm relations with other subjects of politics. Should we meet the US halfway on the question of Iran, if Iranian influence in the Near and Middle East is consistently growing, while American influence in this part of the world is most likely declining? How actively should we aid the American operation in Afghanistan, if the United States and NATO will leave there soon anyway (the strategy announced by Obama is short-term), while Moscow will be left to face all the challenges of the region? There are no clear answers, and so Russia is trying to maneuver. This irritates America, but it cannot reject cooperation with Russia altogether, because the assortment of its fellow travelers is not very broad. China generally does not enter into any obligating relations, and Europe is of little use far from the Euro-Atlantic region. The START Treaty will soon be prepared, and cooperation on transit to Afghanistan will continue in one form or another. But there will be no clarity between Russia and America, because neither Moscow, nor Washington is capable of seriously reinterpreting their own role and each other's in the world of the 21st Century. For now, the parties prefer to either live in notions of the past, or wait to see what happens in the future. And the "reset" is an interim stage, a means of veiling the absence of strategy. And not only in the Russian-American context.