Obama Quiet, But Not Silent on Democracy in Russia
by Bruce Etling
Monday, July 06, 2009 at 01:00 PM EDT
President Obama has landed in Russia for his first visit to the country as Presidentâ€“letâ€™s hope it doesnâ€™t end like the last one as US Senator, when he was detained with Senator Lieberman at a regional airport after a nuclear missile inspection. That was later called a â€˜misunderstandingâ€™ by the Russians; apparently, there are a lot of them according to responses on the New York Times Russian language blog, where Russians were asked to explain what Americans do not understand about Russia. Money quote:
Also according to the Times, Russian TV outlets, whose content is heavily influenced by the Kremlin, have backed off its criticism of the US during the summit, partly by keeping anti-US agitators like Mikhail Leontyev off the airwaves. Still, according to Levada Center polling data, only 36 percent of Russians view the United States positively, while 50 percent view it negatively, a reversal from opinion of the US in the 1990s after the break up of the Soviet Union.
While this meeting is largely about restarting nuclear disarmament talks, it is clearly also meant to move forward Hillary Clintonâ€™s initially bumbled â€˜resetâ€™ of the US- Russian relationship, which many argue is at its worst since the Cold War thanks to lingering tensions over last summerâ€™s conflict between Russia and Georgia. Although Obama has been generally quiet about democracy and human rights issues in Russia, he does plan to meet with human rights and civil society representatives during his trip, as well as opposition politician and former Chess champion Gary Kasparov. Obama also granted an interview to the often Kremlin-critical Novaya Gazeta, which has had four of its journalists assassinated in roughly as many years, including Anna Politovskaya. While most of the questions posed by Novaya Gazeta dealt mostly with the economic crisis and whether the US was to blame (a common claim by Putin), here is part of what President Obama said about whether the â€˜resetâ€™ in US-Russian relations would also include issues of human rights and freedom, in particular resolving the Politovskaya murder:
This article originally appeared on Internet & Democracy Blog.