9 September 2010, 15:57

Hillary Clinton praises better relations with Russia

Hillary Clinton praises better relations with Russia
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Wednesday’s speech at the Council of Foreign Affairs, with all the usual pathos characteristic of such high profile proclamations, really signified some important changes that the present administration is making in its foreign policy.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Wednesday’s speech at the Council of Foreign Affairs, with all the usual pathos characteristic of such high profile proclamations, really signified some important changes that the present administration is making in its foreign policy.

Being a wide ranging speech covering all spheres of American policy in all parts of the globe (with the only exception of the Antarctic), in many parts it contained simple declarations. As one of Ms. Clinton’s critics, an expert of the Heritage Foundation Brett Schaefer has put it, the speech contained “worthy aspirations to be sure, but they are ultimately empty words without evidence of achievement or at least progress toward achievement. That is where the questionable nature of the Administration’s foreign policy becomes evident.”

But, on the other hand, the speech definitely gives some substantial signals to the rest of the world. Ms. Clinton started with outlining the most crucial areas of American foreign policy – all of them concentrating in the Middle East. These include Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and, of course, Afghanistan.

Then she proceeded with claiming that the world still needs American leadership and that “the complexities and connections of today’s world have yielded a new American Moment, a moment when our global leadership is essential.” She also reiterated the importance of US ties with its closest allies and stressed the role of NATO which “remains the world’s most successful alliance.”

But what seemed different from the still well remembered past, was the often repeated need for joining efforts with other countries, building new alliances outside NATO and other traditional domains.

In that context, what seems important is the evident change of rhetoric in respect of Russia. “With Russia, when we took office, it was amid cooling to cold relations and a return to Cold War suspicion,” said Hillary Clinton. “But anyone serious about solving global problems such as nuclear proliferation knew that without Russia and the United States working together, little would be achieved. So we refocused the relationship. We offered a relationship based on not only mutual respect, but also mutual responsibility.”

Among other global issues where America’s cooperation with Russia seems crucial Ms. Clinton mentioned the new arms reduction treaty (START), cooperation in the UN Security Council (also with China) on tough sanctions against Iran and North Korea, an agreement on transit in support of American military operation in Afghanistan, a new bilateral presidential commission and civil society exchange.

And even criticizing Russia for what she called  the “occupation of Georgia”, the Secretary of State stressed the need for enhanced comprehensive cooperation. “Our goal is to establish productive relationships that survive the times when we do not agree and that enable us to continue to work together,” said Ms. Clinton.

Even critics of the present Democratic administration acknowledge that the Russian vector of US policy was among the few indisputable successes, drastically lowering the level of confrontation which existed only 18 months back. And that such issues as the START which is now under consideration by the Senate surpass partisan lines. As she herself put it, “I hope at the end of the day, the Senate will say, “Something should just be beyond any kind of election or partisan calculation,” and that everybody will pull together and will get that START treaty done, which … is seen as a really important symbol of our commitment to continue working with the Russians.”

Of course, the “Russian issue” may still be a hot topic in American partisan politics, especially on the eve of the mid-term elections while the fate of Senate majority is still undecided. But, as it always happens, when the elections are over and there is no more need for harsh rhetoric, even the most “hawkish” politicians tend to acquire a more pragmatic line. And hopefully the need for comprehensive cooperation with Russia has settled itself in the minds of  the US establishment.

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