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Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia

Barack Obama Was Dragged into a Conflict with Russia

By Evgeniy Shestakov

Translated By Olga Kerzhner

18 January 2013

Edited by Natalie Clager

Russia - Rossiyskaya Gazeta - Original Article (Russian)

Even the most stubborn optimists are now convinced that the “reset” with the U.S. is completely over. And as we know from experience, if a device is reset too long and too often the system freezes...

Current relations with the White House can be described with Trotsky's famous phrase, "neither war nor peace." He said it at the beginning of the last century, describing dialogue with Germany about a peace treaty. We know well from our history how that story ended.

U.S. President Barack Obama is being drawn into such confrontations that he will no longer be able to pick up the phone to talk to the Kremlin. Two branches of the U.S. government are the cause of this: the legislative and the judicial. First, Congress made a spectacle out of repealing the Jackson–Vanik amendment, which was creating losses for American entrepreneurs, by linking this decision to new sanctions against Russia in the Magnitsky Act. The White House only shrugged, nodding to the will of the legislators.

Last week, a no-less-rehearsed performance played out in America. The court ruled in favor of the local Hasidim and put Russia on a “meter.” Now, for Moscow’s refusal to return the so-called Schneerson Library, the verdict requires Russia to pay $50,000 per day. The decision does not state any limitations on the amount of the debt. Meanwhile, the court had documents from the U.S. State Department, according to which Hasidim demands are contrary to previously signed bilateral agreements and, to put it mildly, politically damaging to U.S.-Russian relations.

But it’s obvious that the Obama administration did little to defend its position, perhaps for fear of a scandal by the lobbyists who were hired by the Hasidim, and accusations against Obama before his inauguration. As a result, the court’s verdict was anti-Russian. The verdict, by the way, did not take into account the opinion of the Russian Hasidic community, which spoke out against transferring the library to its American coreligionists. Formally, the White House once again had nothing to do with it, because this was a judicial verdict.

By the way, I might add that these nods to court verdicts have recently become the American administration’s special style whenever it does not want to go through with an intergovernmental agreement with Russia. The latest example was when Russian diplomats, as spelled out in the adoption agreement, asked for a meeting with a Russian child who ran away from an American family where he was regularly beaten. They were refused, and the decision to deny the meeting was made by an American court. The court justified it by saying that the boy was already in a new foster family. The State Department said that per the agreement, Russian diplomats are entitled to such a meeting, but that it could not go against the court verdict, and so the meeting did not take place.

It’s clear what effect the American court’s decision regarding the Schneerson Library will have. A Russian court will counter with a mirror verdict and in turn will find an excuse to put the U.S. on a "meter.” This guarantees another hot spot in U.S.-Russian relations for years to come.

How strongly will these mutual jabs affect the interaction between Russia and the U.S. in geopolitics? At first glance, no sharp confrontational steps are being taken in this field. But the experts say otherwise.

To summarize expert opinion, after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Americans are interested in creating new tensions in the former Soviet republics. They are even deliberately pushing terrorist organizations operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan to transfer their activities to a new location. Obviously, this seeks to weaken Russia and China's influence in the region, and to create an “arc of instability” near our borders. The strategic plan is to prevent Beijing and Moscow from implementing economic projects in Central Asia. Do these alleged U.S. plans have anything to do with the anti-Russian court decision on the Schneerson Library and the Magnitsky Act that was passed by Congress? At first glance, no. But it’s clear that creating an "arc of instability" in Central Asia logically fits into the anti-Russian campaign gaining momentum in the United States. The White House will not be able to overcome this forthright and very widespread attitude of confrontation with Russia, which replaces the "thaw" of the first years of the Obama presidency.

We can expect a long period of stagnation in our relations with the United States, during which the number of conflicts, local and geopolitical, will increase. Hopefully it will not lead to a cold war. But there will not be new efforts to reset relations in the near future.



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