Saturday, September 13, 2008

More Russian Public Relations

Russia is perhaps starting to worry about the backlash of its actions in Georgia--whether the Russians thought them entirely justified or not, they are realising there is little they can do to convince the West of their point of view. Despite the resignation of the hard-line nationalists to trying to create a futile "Eurasian anti-American Alliance," which would include questionable states like Iran, the moderates seem to be taking a more reasonable point of view, and trying to clean up Russia's image. [nb: The "Eurasian Alliance" sounds silly, but there are a few signs: Russia is sending bombers and diplomats to Bolivia, Venezuela, and Cuba, possibly looking for an alliance, as Bolivia cozies with Iran, and both Bolivia and Venezuela expel US ambassadors. The new way to be cool in third-world Socialism is to "stand up" to the United States.]

Anyway, the Russians are at least trying to look like they're playing nice with the West. This might be to prevent an impassioned speech at NATO in December that might give the Ukraine its membership, or to prevent a staunchly anti-Russian John McCain from riding a wave of American anti-Russian sentiment. Either way:

Russian forces are starting to leave "Georgia proper" a few days before their agreed pull-out date, which is a sign by the Kremlin that they're willing to not drag their feet on their agreements.

In addition, Putin has openly predicted that US and Russian relations will improve, which is in part a self-fulfilling prophecy; if a country openly declares that it intends to have a good relationship with another, then it is easier to have such a relationship. It is Putin's way of saying, "don't worry, we're not planning for a Cold War here." Whether he's being honest or not is a whole other story, but it's at least a sign that the Kremlin is sensitive to Western pressure, and not immune to all forms of complaint. This may be a minor comfort to some, but it's better than the alternative.
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