30 June 2014, 16:51

US strategy for Russia: new ambassador, old war?

US strategy for Russia: new ambassador, old war?

While the US awaits Moscow's approval of its new ambassador to Russia, experts unanimously predict that the candidacy of John Tefft signifies no compromises between the two, the abandoning of any reset and a further deterioration of mutual relations.

Earlier on June 30, Russia's Daily online Kommersant quoted sources in the US Department of State: "The White House has finally decided on its politics with regard to Russia. There will be no new reset, and in the remaining two and a half years Barack Obama's administration will be trying to minimize the cooperation with the Russian Federation."

The newspaper also described John Tefft as a "hardline negotiator, disinclined to compromises, who often criticized Russia during his diplomatic career."

Though summoned out of retirement, Tefft's diplomatic career is also somewhat interesting. Under Barack Obama's presidency, from 2009 through 2013, he was US Ambassador to Ukraine. Under George W. Bush, from 2005 through 2009 – to Georgia. These two countries have recently signed association agreements with the EU, one of the main points of discord between them and Russia.

Experts unanimously believe the new appointment will bring no improvement to relations with Russia. In fact, Dmitry Suslov, deputy director of comprehensive European and International studies at the Higher School of Economics, says many already call it a new cold war.

"I think that relations are at their lowest point since the end of the cold war. Many observers in the US and Russia are talking about a new cold war," he told Radio VR.

"But this is a very different cold war from the one we had known before," argues international affairs analyst, Mark Sleboda. "It is not one primarily based on ideology, although there are definitely values and cultural differences that are coming to the fore, the geopolitical horizons of this cold war will be much less than they were and the focus will be the post-Soviet space. I think that this contest will be about containing Russia but this of course is a doomed prospect. We have an emerging multiple world, whatever the West might wish otherwise. The West is not the world."

Both experts, however, agree, there are no possible grounds for a further reset of relations.

"Now we see not just a reset but actually going 180º in the opposite direction back to outright hostile relations," says Mark Sleboda.

However, just last year, three former US Ambassadors to Russia and previoiusly, the USSR; Thomas Pickering, Jack Matlock and John Beyrle, convened in the Moscow department of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, to mark the 80th anniversary of US-USSR diplomacy. The diplomats unanimously called for further cooperation and ruled out any parallels with a cold war as "Irrelevant".

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