In Aron’s words, “The Kremlin remains unyielding on further sanctions against Iran, and, despite Obama’s entreaties, has hardened its position on Syria”. Russia was on the same side with the U.S. during the adoption of previous round of sanctions against Iran. But it opposes a new round, why? Because it is aware that the real reason for further sanctions is not only to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons (such decision has not even been made by the Iranian leadership), but to devastate Iranian economy in order to make this country vulnerable to foreign pressure (and military intervention as the last resort) whose goal is – what the U.S. administrations yearn for during more than last three decades – a regime change. Even if Iran wanted to acquire nuclear weapons, what then? What could these weapons be used for? A year ago, one of the greatest American international relations scholars ever, Kenneth Waltz (deceased in the meantime), published an article in the same journal, in which he explained why the one and only role of nuclear weapons in a world where several nuclear powers already exist is – deterrence. There is already one nuclear power in the Middle East region – Israel; if Iran joins the club, the logic of mutually assured destruction will be established, and the regional stability with it, so let Iranians have their nukes. Nevertheless, Obama’s administration won’t listen to Waltz. It is exactly deterrence what makes nuclear-armed Iran unacceptable for the United States, because of Washington’s offensive intentions towards Tehran – without nukes, this country is an easy target to external pressure and possible military intervention; with them, the military option is off the table. So, what is Russia’s sin in this matter? That it does not give in to pressure to help Americans in achieving their goal of a forced regime change in a sovereign country, and installment of a puppet government instead? And what is the problem with Russia’s position towards Syria? That it does not share the American view of Syrian conflict, which portrays it in a Hollywood fashion, where one side (Assad’s regime) is essentially evil, and another one (the rebels) is made of angels? Instead, Russia treats both sides equally (like they really are, as in almost any civil war), and prefers a compromise solution. But compromise is the last thing that Obama’s administration wants, because it is uncertain that such solution will provide them with a new loyal (puppet) government – which is, like in Iran, the real U.S. goal in Syria.
Aron says that “Russia has continued to zealously guard its nuclear superpower status against the perceived threat of a European missile defense system”, as the result of which “there has been no progress in the further reduction of strategic nuclear arms”. What is the problem with Russia’s desire to keep its nuclear superpower status? The United States is also a nuclear superpower. And what is wrong with Russia’s perception of the American missile defense plans as threatening, if it is quite strange that this system is to be based in Eastern Europe (close to Russia’s borders) for the alleged protection of the West from possible Iran or North Korea’s missile attack? How would the United States react if Russia revealed its plans to place missile interceptors in Cuba or Venezuela? And, is missile defense issue the real reason behind the lack of progress in further reduction of nuclear arms? This issue already existed at the time of the New START conclusion, yet it did not prevent it. Maybe Aron wants to say that the real problem lies in Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal, which is far greater than the American one. Why Russia’s won’t give up on this arsenal? Because it is the most credible deterrent it possesses against the threat of the overwhelming NATO conventional forces on its Western borders. And Obama’s “nuclear zero” call is exactly aimed at depriving Russia of this deterrent, so that it becomes vulnerable to the U.S. military pressure which could threaten its territorial integrity, independence, and the great power status. Why Obama’s administration does not try to reassure Russia by accepting its former president Medvedev’s proposal of the legally binding European Security Treaty, which would establish true comprehensive and indivisible security system in Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space? Because it would mean that the United States accepts Russia’s great power status and independence, and this obviously does not fit into the American New World Order project.
Further, Aron says that “Putin has continued to seek political and economic integration of the great stretch of former Soviet territories, reaffirming his commitment to a Russia-dominated ’Eurasian Union’, whereas “Russia has refused to move an inch toward accommodation with Georgia on the de-facto Russian protectorates of Abkhazia and South Ossetia”. Americans obviously have a problem with Russia-led integration of the post-Soviet space, seeing in it Russia’s intention to dominate this space as it is its exclusive sphere of influence. It is quite interesting that Russia is being criticized for hegemonic aspirations in its neighborhood by the power which has been treating the whole Western Hemisphere as its own backyard since the Monroe Doctrine, way back in the first half of the 19th century, while nowadays it treats almost the whole world in the same fashion. And remarks regarding South Ossetia and Abkhazia are even more interesting when we recall unilateral declaration and the U.S. recognition of Kosovo’s independence (just a few months before Russo-Georgian War), which was made possible by the illegal NATO’s military action against Serbia several years earlier.
Finally, Aron devotes much space to the analysis of internal political circumstances in Russia. “The repression and marginalization of Russia’s political opposition continues in the context of a broader assault on civil society, much of it from the urban middle class, which increasingly and daringly opposes the regime in public”. While it is beyond doubt that we are witnessing a more authoritarian trend in Putin’s Russia, is it really authoritarianism what bothers Americans? Can you imagine political changes in Russia which result in a new, a hundred percent democratic government, who then continues Putin’s policy on the mentioned issues (except the repression of the opposition, of course)? Would it satisfy the United States? Of course not, because their problem is not the absence of democracy in Russia, but the absence of government in Moscow which would be loyal to the United States. If a new government is not loyal, then it still won’t be considered as democratic by the U.S, because by Washington’s definition of democracy the one who opposes the American-led New World Order project and wants to retain its independence from the world’s only superpower, cannot be a democrat.
So, in reality, who is responsible for the reset failure? Is it Putin, who remains attached to his doctrine, whose elements were also more or less continuously present during the Medvedev’s presidency? Or is it Obama, who loudly announced the reset back in 2008/9, but then did very little to accommodate the U.S. foreign policy to the changing reality of international relations? There is a strategic pause in Russian-American relations. But it is not the Russian pause, for Russians never said they would give up on their principles and practices. It is the American pause, actually it is two Obama’s pauses – first in 2009, when he made a verbal break with the previous Bush’s doctrine, and then again in 2011, when he made a real break with his own. Putin did not stall the reset; Obama reset it.