Massachusetts Daily Collegian

U.S. and Russia: Provocative diplomacy

By Suyash Tibrawalla

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Courtesy of The White House

Even in the post-Cold War period, relations between the United States and Russia have been uneasy. Since Vladimir Putin’s return as president of the Russian Federation in 2012, foreign policy tensions have risen within the Obama administration. Under Putin, anti-American rhetoric has gained ground in the country, human rights violations have increased and no progress in national security matters like missile defense and nuclear reduction has been made.

In addition, the most recent point of tension in the two nations’ bilateral relationship that has left Washington in a fury ever since, was Putin’s decision to grant temporary asylum to Edward Snowden. Snowden is, of course, the man who dared to expose the NSA’s digital surveillance program designed to encroach on the privacy of practically any American who has a cell phone or an email account.

For Obama, Putin has always been a tough character to deal with. His attitude toward proposed U.S.-Russia policy dealing with national and regional security concerns has been like the “bored kid at the back of the classroom.” As a hardcore realist, Putin believes that confronting U.S. power is the path to Russia’s national security and development.

He has slyly taken advantage of any and all instances he found in order to hurt the United States, be it Snowden, Syria, human rights or any kind of social unrest in Russia.

Moreover, the despotic nature of his government has unnerved the United States even more. Growing human rights violations under Putin, like the passing of anti-gay laws or the prosecution and imprisonment of two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot for singing a religiously offensive prayer at a church, are despicable deeds in the eyes of a country that firmly believes in the fundamental values of liberty and justice for all.

Obama’s first term Russian compatriot, then-President and now-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was relatively progressive and softer toward Russian-American relations than Putin. Medvedev and Obama enjoyed great diplomatic progress on issues like arms control and supplying NATO troops in Afghanistan through Russia.
Since Putin’s return to the presidency, anti-American rhetoric and provocative diplomacy has picked up in Russia. Putin’s decision to grant Snowden temporary asylum left Congress furious, with some members even suggesting a complete rethinking of the U.S.-Russia relations or a dangerous return to U.S. Cold War policy.

The Kremlin, however, bluntly announced that this was too insignificant an event to undermine bilateral relations between the two states. So what could be the reason behind Obama cancelling his private meeting with Putin? He expressed that disappointment over certain issues that Russia had not responded to as the reason for the cancellation, but it would just be naive to ignore Snowden as the immediate cause.

Syria has been another pressing issue that Putin has watered down every time the West made efforts to bring the war to an end. And with the recent escalation of the war with the use of chemical weapons, which Obama condemned, Putin has instead warned the U.S. to not intervene militarily in Syria without United Nations approval.

What sort of man supports a regime that is hell-bent on staying in power by annihilating its own population?

It is quite clear from Putin’s antagonistic attitude toward the United States and Obama’s recent actions intending to punish Russia have created a Cold War-like relationship once again between the two world powers.

Twenty-two years since the end of the Cold War, this new relationship that exists between the two countries can be described as a controlled but confrontational one, containing a mix of cooperation and competition. And as Washington continues its quest toward hegemony by strengthening its power and influence over the world, Moscow believes in multipolarity and is concerned about its own security and geopolitical interests.

Suyash Tibrawalla is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]

 

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