Moscow (CNSNews.com) – Russian politicians and analysts voiced optimism Wednesday that Barack Obama’s election victory would usher in improvements in bilateral relations, even as the Kremlin fired a new volley of criticism of U.S. policies.
In a sign of troubled waters ahead, President Dmitry Medvedev -- in a state of the nation address Wednesday -- blamed the U.S. for both the global financial crisis and the Russia-Georgia war last August.
Medvedev’s state of the nation address, the first he has delivered since taking office in May, was postponed several times in recent weeks, prompting speculation that he was awaiting the outcome of the U.S. election.
Whatever the case, his tone – echoing that of former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – was harsh, as he accused the U.S. administration of being “arrogant [and] intolerant to criticism.”
The war in the Caucasus was the result of “selfish” U.S. policy. It had been used as a pretext to send NATO warships to the Black Sea and to foist the proposed American missile defense shield on Europe, Medvedev said, adding that this would bring “retaliatory measures” by Russia.
He said Russia would use naval and radio-electronic measures to counter the missile defense facilities, which are planned for Poland and the Czech Republic.
In another response to the missile shield, Medvedev said Russia would deploy Iskander short-range missiles in the Kaliningrad region, the country’s westernmost territory located between Lithuania and Poland.
A new cruise missile adapted for the Iskander launcher and tested in May 2007 is reportedly designed to fly a radar-evading trajectory and to easily overcome air and missile defenses, while having a limited range and so remaining permissible under the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
While attacking U.S. policies, Medvedev insisted that Russia does “not have problems with the American people.”
“We hope the new U.S. administration will make a choice in favor” of better relations with Russia, he added.
Other Russian politicians argued that the next administration may pursue a more conciliatory foreign policy.
Although Obama criticized Russia for supporting the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia – which Moscow, virtually alone, now recognizes as independent – he refrained from supporting such strong measures as Russia’s expulsion from the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations, a stance taken by Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the international relations committee of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, said an Obama presidency may see efforts to interact with Russia.
Alexander Baibakov, the Duma deputy speaker, voiced hope that an Obama administration would end the military campaign in Iraq.
Sergei Markov, head of the Institute of Political Studies, said Obama would be better for Russia. He and Medvedev belonged to the same generation, he said, noting that both were Internet users. This would help them to establish a personal connection.
Sergei Rogov, head of the U.S. and Canada Institute in Moscow, predicted that Obama would seek agreement with Russia on Iran and other important international issues.
Taking a different tack, Guennady Zyuganov, head of Russia's Communist Party claimed the White House would continue pursuing unfriendly policies towards Russia. He charged that Obama’s foreign policy advisers were Russophobes.
In another ominous signs for future relations, the pro-Kremlin youth movement, Nashi, held a mass rally early this week near the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, with some 15,000 participants protesting what they described as aggressive American policies.