No matter who becomes U.S. president, relations with Russia are headed downhill, political analyst Sergei Rogov told Novye Izvestiya in an interview. The two countries disagree on “a great number of issues,” including missile defense in Europe, what to do about Iran’s nuclear programs, and whether NATO should expand to former Soviet republics. Still, it makes a difference to Russia which of the U.S. candidates becomes president. Democrat Barack Obama is probably the best choice, because he “recognizes the necessity of a dialogue with Russia more than other candidates do.” The next best would be Hillary Clinton, because at least she, like Obama, opposes installing missile defense systems in Europe. Worst, of course, would be the Republican, John McCain, “under whom U.S. policy might revert to a dependence on brute force.”
That’s the conventional wisdom: that Democrats play nice while Republicans threaten war. But historically, it is simply wrong, said Georgi Bovt in Moscow’s Izvestiya. In reality, “our politicians always had an easier time with Republicans.” Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev signed significant arms reduction treaties with a Republican, Richard Nixon. Mikhail Gorbachev may have had differences with the archconservative Ronald Reagan, but at least he found him easy to deal with: You knew exactly where Reagan stood. Democrats, by contrast, have been nightmares for Russian leaders. Jimmy Carter led a devastating boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Bill Clinton backed Kosovar independence from our ally Serbia, paving the way for Russia’s “worsening relations” with America and Europe today. And let’s not forget that John F. Kennedy nearly started a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
This time, though, it doesn’t really matter whether a Democrat or Republican lives in the White House, said Mikhail Rostovsky in Moskovsky Komsomolets. The policy of our new president, Dmitri Medvedev, will be the same regardless: He will limit his confrontations with the West to rhetoric. Medvedev will talk about the wicked Americans and how they are trying to thwart Russian power all over the globe, because “the image of a powerful external enemy” will be useful in uniting Russians behind his domestic goals. But he won’t do anything about American enmity—because it doesn’t really exist. The U.S., these days, is preoccupied by its war in Iraq and its growing rivalry with China. It doesn’t care much about Russia.
For proof of that indifference, said International Herald Tribune editor Serge Schmemann in The Moscow Times, just consider the matter of name pronunciation. During the Cold War, Americans did a reasonably good job of saying Krushchev or Brezhnev. These days, though, “Russian names are just not something most Americans can do.” For the past seven years, Americans have been saying VLAH-di-meer Putin instead of the proper Vluh-DEE-meer. Now comes Medvedev, and verbal chaos reigns. Poor Hillary Clinton, cornered in a debate and forced to name Putin’s successor, simply mumbled—yet her error cost her no points and in fact probably won her some sympathy. For the record, here’s a handy guide to English-speakers who would like to get the name of the new Russian leader right: “Launch with ‘med’ as in ‘he’s off his meds’; put the accent on the ‘VEH’ as in ‘venomous’; and trail off with a lazy ‘dev’ with just a hint of ‘z’ and ‘i’: ‘dziev.’ Altogether now: ‘Med-VEH-dziev.’ Whatever.”