Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Asia Times: Sen. Lugar, Nunn-Lugar, Obama, Putin & Syria

M K Bhadrakumar writes in the Asia Times:

Now, as a young senator, Obama regarded himself as a protege ("pupil") of Lugar; he had served in the Nunn-Lugar program (which took him on his only visit to Russia before becoming president). 

In fact, the 20th anniversary of the Nunn-Lugar Program was one of the first public functions that Obama attended on December 3 last year after getting re-elected. He made a remarkable speech on that occasion in Washington where he hailed the track record of the Nunn-Lugar "far beyond the old Soviet Union". Obama said, 
Nunn-Lugar is the foundation for the vision that I laid out, once I was elected president, in travel to Prague - where nations come together to secure nuclear materials, as we're doing with our Nuclear Security Summits, where we build on New START and continue to work to reduce our arsenals; where we strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and prevent the spread of the world's most deadly weapons; where, over time, we come closer to our ultimate vision - a world without nuclear weapons. 
Suffice to say, Putin factors in that disarmament is a key policy agenda for Obama. Putin cannot be oblivious of the potential of the Russian plan on Syria going far beyond the resolution of the immediate conflict situation at hand in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

It could be Syria today that Russia is working on alongside the Obama administration. But it could as well be on Iran tomorrow. And incrementally, Obama also would need to think about addressing Russia's core concerns - missile defense, for instance. 

A paradigm shift 
Working with the Obama administration as "equal partner" has always been Putin's core Russian foreign-policy objective and any constructive cooperation over Syria can possibly change the entire alchemy of Russian-American relations. 

The pro-western Russian elites who dominate policymaking in Moscow whole-heartedly welcome Putin's working relationship with Obama. For the majority of Russian people, at the same time, Putin's brilliant handling of the Syrian crisis has enhanced the country's image and international standing. 

To be sure, an interesting paradigm shift is taking place as the Russian leadership identifies with American public opinion, with which Obama also instinctively empathizes, as his speech on Tuesday revealed.