Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Putin’s Munich Outburst

Russian president, Vladimir Putin, recently issued a scathing rebuke to the United States. Speaking before an international security conference in Munich, he decried US unilateralism, declaring that the world’s lone superpower had “overstepped its national borders” and had imposed its national economic, political and cultural policies on other countries. Surprisingly, the Europeans were not receptive. One would have thought that the European Union might have jumped on the chance to “band-wagon” against the United States. The reason it did not, is simple. The Russians of late have been acting as “bad boys.” Their continued refusal to ratify an energy agreement together with their blocking of any meaningful sanctions against Tehran are viewed by many as part of a comprehensive national strategy to use oil and natural gas as foreign policy weapons, which has not endeared them with the energy-dependent Europeans. Moscow’s vehement opposition to the US deployment of a missile shield in East Central Europe to protect against Iranian missiles further worries the Europeans, who do not wish to be held hostage either to Iranian nuclear weapons or to Russian (and Iranian) oil.

There are other reasons why Putin’s appeal to work to deconstruct US power in a bid to build a multilateral world in which Moscow would have a greater say fell on deaf ears. Not the least of them is continued European worries over the state of human rights and democracy in Russia. The record is so bad that the United States has been forced to publicly (and one suspects privately) pressure Moscow. Indeed, that may well be the reason for Putin’s outburst over US efforts to dictate “economic, political and cultural policies” to other countries (ergo, Russia).

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