President Putin’s Valdai Speech: Obama’s Legacy Can Be Rectified

President Putin’s Valdai Speech: Obama’s Legacy Can Be Rectified

by Andrei AKULOV | 30.10.2016


At a meeting of the Valdai international discussion club, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped for improvement of Russia-US relationship after a new president takes office in Washington.

According to the president, Russia and the United States should «break out of this vicious circle» and proceed to a new level of relations. He asked the US to abstain from provoking Russia into taking an active stand to defend its national interests. Mr. Putin would welcome reaching agreements with the US on various issues of common interest. The Russian president has dismissed as ‘improper’ the behavior of the US politicians, who put the blame on Russia for whatever goes wrong in the world, including Syria.

Indeed, with Barack Obama’s second presidential term approaching an end, the inability to successfully deal with Russia is one of foreign policy failures to wreck his legacy. Washington’s efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis jointly with Moscow are a complete debacle. From Russia’s point of view the US is an unreliable partner.

On October 27, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published the document called «Comparative Analysis of Russia-US Agreements Implementation» on Syria.

The paper will be circulated as a United Nations document. It lists all the US violations of the agreements reached with Russia on Syria.

From the very start, the administration was divided over the deal with Russia on cessation of hostilities. There was a wide gap between the positions of US Department of State and the Defense Department. The US military did not want to work with their Russian partners. The US has been mulling abandoning all the agreements in favor of military options.

Washington has many times blamed Russia for striking civilians in Syria. Over 60 civilians were killed and at least 200 injured during first three days of the Mosul offensive launched by the US-led coalition. Nobody apologized. It’s not even in the media spotlight!

There are many other areas where the bilateral relationship is almost on the rocks.

Despite Assistant State Secretary Victoria Nuland activities, Ukraine has remained a divisive issue with no progress achieved.

The arms control disintegration continues. Nothing has been done to change the tide during Obama’s tenure.

The 2010 New START (the Prague Treaty) expires in 2020 without any prospects for a new agreement coming into force. The future of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is in doubt.

The Treaty is threatened by ballistic missile defense (BMD) deployment with the use of naval Mk-41 launchers capable of firing long-range cruise missile. It constitutes a violation of the treaty. The US has blatantly breached the bilateral Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PDMA).

The current administration has launched the program of upgrading B61-12 nuclear warheads to be installed on tactical aircraft of NATO countries in Europe.

The upgrade is a violation of Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits the transfer of nuclear weapons from NWS (nuclear weapons states) to other states.

It’s just part of the picture as the US has provoked arms control erosion on global scale. President Obama has done nothing to have the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) ratified 20 years after it was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996. The 2016 Washington Nuclear Summit ended without producing any tangible results. The non-proliferation regime is eroding and nothing is done to turn the tide. Under the administration, no effort has been applied to ratify the UN 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The US political clout in the world is waning.

In Europe, the US faces major setback as Europeans revolt against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Germany and France have already said disagreements have killed off prospects for reaching a deal.

The United States’ policy of pivot to Asia has failed to bring positive results. The prospects for ratification of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) are dim.

The failure to ratify this fundamental agreement will be a great setback undermining the US credibility in the region.

The US Middle East policy is in doldrums.

Iraq has been ravaged by sectarianism, spread of Islamic State (IS) extremist movement, a refugee crisis and economic woes.

The meddling into Libya has resulted in devastation, suffering and chaos with Russia asked for help.

The administration was blindsided by the emergence of the Houthi rebellion in Yemen. The wisdom of US meddling into the conflict is doubted with many questions raised about the violations of human rights.

The relationship between the United States and Egypt has deteriorated with Cairo looking for other partners.

President Obama’s efforts to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians have gone down the drain with new Israeli settlements built, moderate Palestinians discredited and Hamas growing stronger.

The situation in the Middle East has become worse than it was when then US president took office. Under President Obama’s watch, IS has made significant gains in the heart of Middle East. Nothing like a US strategy to fight it exists. The president’s policy in the region has resulted in additional chaos alienating US allies and multiplying enemies. As a result, the Middle East faces its worst turmoil in many decades.

The US has failed to carry out its mission in Afghanistan.

Today, the Taliban fighters control more territory than at any time since 2001. The fighting continues with no end in sight.

Nowhere in Africa has the US achieved any success. Terrorist movements are on the rise, the continent is threatened by instability. North Africa and the Saharan and sub-Saharan zones have seen increased terrorism as a result of the regime change policy in Libya. The situation has deteriorated to make America start war preparations.

One debacle is followed by another. It’s not entirely the responsibility of the president and his team. Mr. Obama was guided by the foreign policy elites – the same people Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is associated with and Republican candidate Donald Trump is criticized by, especially for his readiness to normalize the relations with Russia.

That is the legacy President Obama cedes to his successor, including diplomatic minefield in its relations with Moscow. As the example of Iran nuclear deal shows, normalizing relations with Russia could make possible achievements the Obama administration has failed to reach. Syria’s crisis management could be one if a new administration changes the attitude, reigns in the military and abides by the provisions of deals concluded.

It would be right if the US and Russia cooperated in Iraq and Libya. Looks like they will have to. With all the wrongdoings the US has done in recent years, the Russian president stretched a hand in his Valdai speech. It’s up to the US to decide if further confrontation is better than fruitful cooperation. One thing is clear – a new administration will have to work really hard to rectify the situation with its credibility shattered across the globe. Normalizing the relationship with Russia could be a very tangible achievement. With one thing leading to another, joining together with Moscow could result in other foreign policy successes. It may be a tall order but it’s possible. The new US president will have a chance.



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