An American Gorbachev
for the Russian Reagan
By Boris Mezhuev
Translated By Rina Hay
13 February 2013
Edited by Laurence Bouvard
Russia - Izvestiya - Original Article (Russian)
On Tuesday, 44th U.S. President Barack Obama delivered his annual speech on the State of the Union to Congress. This speech usually takes place in January at a joint session of the two chambers of Congress. However, in an inauguration year, the president's speech is transferred to February.
In this year's speech, there was nothing sensational from the head of state. But there were two intrigues. On the previous night, the media had leaked that Obama would devote a significant part of his speech to the issue of nuclear disarmament. However, the president's speech did not run along these lines. The second expected intrigue, however, did happen. Obama spoke not as a unifier, not as a creator of endless compromises, but as a consistent liberal and firm opponent of the conservative majority of the Republican party. He demanded tax increases, insisted on the preservation of important social programs, called for a restriction to the free access of weapons, listing the names of some victims of the Second Amendment, and, lastly and most importantly, promised to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in 2014 and practically drew a line under the 12 year war against global terrorism.
It isn't even that Obama said that “al-Qaida,” or another organization with similar aims, no longer poses a threat to the U.S., but the president did make it clear that there was no longer any need for the U.S. to intervene militarily to prevent the terrorist threat. On other issues, Obama might even conclude that pressure on the Syrian regime will have an exclusively diplomatic character, and intervention in the Libyan civil war on the side of the insurgents will not become a precedent for a similar resolution to the Syrian situation.
In general, Obama has already gone far enough to earn the hatred of neo-conservatives and imperialists at home, and those abroad who had hoped for external help. We can give credit to the Nobel Peace prize or to the president's own convictions, but it seems that Obama really does deserve the title “American Gorbachev” which, for some reason, stopped being used at exactly the same time that the comparison seemed to become appropriate.
Indeed, the comparisons are striking. Gorbachev withdrew his troops from Afghanistan in the fifth year of his term in power, and Obama is about to do the same, also five years after he was first inaugurated as president. Gorbachev called for a reduction in nuclear capabilities, starting a number of unilateral concessions to the United States. Obama, of course, has not made such concessions, as who would allow him to do it? Nevertheless, he has even initiated a difficult dialogue with Moscow on the topic of armament reduction.
Obama is obviously not very impressed by Putin, but Gorbachev hardly liked Reagan much more. Reagan always wanted to see Gorbachev not as a secular Marxist, but as a faithful believer deep down. It is possible that Obama is too liberal for Putin, in the sense that he is too secular. I also think that he has many reasons to be wary of Obama and suspect that his “reset,” which is coming more and more to resemble our “perestroika,” is some hidden “unwiring.”
But Gorbachev at first took Reagan's Republican environment in exactly the same way. As American political journalist James Mann writes in his excellent study “The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan,” all the gurus of so-called Realism — Kissinger, Nixon and General Scowcroft, everyone who so excellently found a common language with conservative Brezhnev – called on Reagan to be wary of the young, popular Gorbachev, not to join him in far-reaching negotiations and especially not to succumb to the sinister charm of a liberal general secretary. Reagan rejected all this advice, carried out a revolution in his own environment, grew closer to Gorbachev's USSR and in the end won the Cold War.
Today, Putin is also being advised from all sides to fear some terrible provocation from the “retreating” Obama, encouraging him to see a cunning maneuver in the retreat, which would mean that just giving way to him would lead to the immediate collapse of Russia and the coming to power of a “swampy” opposition. Interestingly, some of those who are today so “afraid” of Obama were yesterday calling for détente with Bush Jr. as the lesser evil when compared to the Democrats, the Soros union, Fukuyama and Zbigniew Brzezinski.
We were so afraid of the repetition of our “perestroika” at home that we did not believe in its beginning abroad, due to the same reasons as in the USSR — imperial overreach, the need to curtail military needs to address current economic and social problems. “Colonel Vasin came to the front with his young wife, Colonel Vasin gathered his regiment and said to them: Let us go home,” Boris Grebenshikov has sung, and whatever the author said afterwards, everyone understood exactly what he was speaking about. “This train is on fire, we have nothing more to reap,” they sang, in this same famous song of the perestroika era. We have reached a moment when America has “nothing more to reap” and the time has come to “retreat” so as not to get bogged down in an unending war over a more and more unobtainable image of unending peace. This does not mean that U.S. territory will break up, or that they should expect economic collapse or that they will no longer be a superpower. It is still only a temporary retreat to a ready-made position, and not into panic and disaster, into which we turned our “time of change.”
Today the leader of our country is presented with a great chance — to play the role of the Russian Reagan — not to push away the extended hand of the slightly weakened partner, who is no longer embarrassed to admit its own weaknesses and infirmities.
If you allow yourself to indulge in fantasy, it would be appropriate to drown the American president in an atmosphere of overwhelming love for him in Russia, if only in order to make him... more kindly disposed to our country and more sensitive to our interests. How useful “Obamamania” would be for Russia can be concluded even if only from the fact that America and Europe extracted such great benefits from the “Gorba-mania” that engulfed them. Of course, Russia is not able to love on demand, and so here we cannot tolerate hypocrisy. Here we need sincere feelings, as they would be useful today.
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