Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama's First Test?

"Many Americans seem convinced, based on scanty evidence, that Barack Obama is the better choice for managing the economy. Maybe they also think he has the right stuff to manage the next arms race, and can handle a showdown with a snarling Russian bear, emerging from hibernation."

That's an excerpt from my blog post one week ago.

Here's an excerpt from a Washington Post story published Wednesday:

Russian President Sharply Criticizes U.S. on Missile Defense

Medvedev Threatens to Deploy Tactical Missiles Near Poland if U.S. Pursues Shield in Europe

By Philip P. Pan

MOSCOW, Nov. 5 -- Sharply criticizing the United States while offering to rebuild relations with its new leader, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned in a nationally televised address Wednesday that he would deploy short-range missiles near Poland if the Obama administration pressed ahead with plans to build a missile defense shield in Europe.

Kremlin officials have threatened before to target Poland by moving tactical missiles into the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, most recently after Poland agreed in August to host a U.S. interceptor base. But Medvedev's threat "to neutralize, when necessary" the American installation was the most explicit and public endorsement of the plan by a top Russian leader yet.

The warning appeared intended to signal the Kremlin's priorities to the new American president-elect and could serve as an early foreign policy test for Obama, who has said he supports missile defenses against Iran and North Korea but has also criticized the Bush administration for failing to consult with allies about the shield, exaggerating its capabilities and rushing deployment for political purposes.

Medvedev's remarks came in his first state of the nation address since taking office in May, a wide-ranging speech in which he held out little hope for democratic reforms and also proposed amending the Russian constitution to lengthen the presidential term to six years -- a move condemned by critics as part of a plan to allow his predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, to return to office.

Medvedev emphasized that Russia remained ready to work with the United States if it abandoned its "mistaken, egotistical and sometimes simply dangerous" policies.
"It is true that these relations are not going through the easiest period today," he said. "But I would like to stress that we have no problems with the American people. We have no inherent anti-Americanism."

Russia's finance minister suggested Obama's election would give a boost to the global economy, and the Russian ambassador to NATO said he expected Obama to improve the alliance's relationship with Moscow and lift the limits on cooperation imposed after Russia's war with Georgia.

"I think the emergence of the new U.S. president, the young, energetic black leader, can lead to those bans imposed by the previous U.S. administration between Russia and NATO being lifted," said the ambassador, Dmitry Rogozin.

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