With whom must Dimitri Medvedev, the president of Russia, deal with as the new president, since he can be assured of victory in the presidential contest with a bigger margin of success than John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona can be assured of being the Republican nominee?
Among the pro-Kremlin political analysts there is a view that a victory for McCain will be the “worst case scenario” compared to a victory for either of the Democrats: Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. This reflects the facile view in American politics that Republicans for the most part are “hawks” and the Democrats “busy themselves with social programs and the economy”. McCain has a fairly bad reputation in Russia. He is vocal in his desire to exclude Russia from the G8. As for Putin’s soul, there wasn’t really much in it; in 2001 in Ljubljana, unlike George W. Bush, he saw only three letters: KGB. In the current presidential campaign he has found time to develop his own “Russia policy” with one phrase. When asked “Will you fight Russia”, he responded with “It depends how it behaves.”
He is a tough politician. With principles, for which he has always fought, including within his party and against Bush. When he was captured wounded by the communist Vietnamese, it is said that he had an opportunity to be released earlier. This he refused and spent five and a half years in captivity. When six months ago his popularity among Republicans was destroyed and no one wanted to give him money for his campaign, he gave a bank his life insurance as collateral for a loan. He’s a very stubborn guy. Oh yes, he has also battled cancer.
On the other hand, our politicians always had an easier time with Republicans. Either because they differed due to their more “contrasting” and simplified world view; because they were feared; “goodness knows what those hot-headed cowboys might do”; or because their tougher style was commanding to our leaders. Thus it was between Khrushev and Eisenhower during the Soviet leader’s visit to America. The relationship was similar between Brezhnev and Nixon when they were signing the basic documents to curb the arms race. And between Gorbachev and Reagan when the Cold War was coming to a close. During George H. W. Bush’s administration the relations between Russia and the US became unprecedentedly warm.
Democratic presidents were always more complicated. Maybe because they saw the world in a more complicated light and tried to bring into it an exceptional American mission in the form of “exporting democracy at the point of a bayonet”, in the manner of the straightforward George W. Bush. Soviet leaders were not ready intellectually, nor more importantly, instinctively for such a multi-planned and multi-dimensional exchange. The Democrat Carter was seen by them as too moralistic; under him the Moscow Olympics were boycotted by half of the world as a reaction to the invasion of Afghanistan. Clinton became extremely clever for Yeltsin’s Russia; under him America achieved such technological and economic power that his successor Bush was able to exploit it for seven years. By the way, it was under Clinton that the present decision about Serbia and Kosovo was taken, worsening our relations with the West.
Some of our political analysts would prefer Barack Obama for Russia. He’s young and could bring a change in American politics and hope for the future. This “bringing of hope”, American style, could turn to a competition for power. It is not by accident that Obama is often compared to John F. Kennedy. He also tried to revive the American Dream in the widest and most ambitious way. In the name of spreading those ideals, the Peace Corp was founded (today these methods of influence are called “soft power”) and the progress of lunar exploration began. Likewise the war in Vietnam started. And it was under the Democrat Kennedy that the US and the USSR came closest to a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
PS. On foreign policy issues, today McCain is the winner of the McCain-Clinton duel, but looses to Obama, like Hillary herself. Recently Ralph Nader entered the presidential contest. He’ll take away votes from the Democrats. It is considered that is is because of him that George W. Bush won in 2001 and not Al Gore. McCain’s chances of having a summit with Medvedev rise.