"We Can't Negotiate Nukes with a Black": Why the Kremlin Prefers McCain
by brit, Thu Oct 09, 2008 at 03:25:12 PM EDT
As McCain campaign tactics sink back to gutter level, and our attentions turn to the next smear or attempt at voter suppression, this great diary by Ivan Krastev on The Motley Moose should remind us that there are bigots abroad who also want to see Obama fail: among these Putin and the Russian Oligarchy.
Yes, that's right. Whenever someone tells you that Obama will talk too much to enemies, and be soft on America's competitors, hear what a leading European political scientist has to say:
the Kremlin's elite with whom I have been discussing the coming American election are hard-core McCain supporters.
The well-known fact that Soviets have always preferred Republicans to the Democrats is not enough to explain "McCainmania" in the Kremlin. Russia's elite preference for McCain has different sources but four of them are worth mentioning: namely, race, class, strategic calculation and a love for lobbyists.
Based in Bulgaria, Ivan Krastev knows his stuff (he's the executive director of the International Commission on the Balkans, and Director of the Open Century Project) and he pins down these four elements brilliantly.
1.Race: The provocative title of this diary is taken from a comment made to Ivan by a senior Russian official. The quotation in full.
"You should understand - this is not serious, we cannot negotiate nukes with a Black".
If anyone doubts that Russia harbors such bigoted opinion at senior levels of government, they would be well advised to take a trip to St Petersburg or Moscow - or rather NOT well advised if they had dark or Armenian coloring like I do. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and his false image of multi national harmony, racism has mushroomed in many Russian cities and towns. St Petersburg, as an Armenian colleague of mine recently told me, is one of the most racist cities in the world, and he was in constant danger.
2. Class: here Ivan's diary makes an even more startling point about the convergence of interests between the hyper rich, jet setting elites in both Russia and the US.
Post-communist Russian elites who made their money mainly through corruption are extremely sensitive towards any criticism of the existing status quo. And for them any appeal to more egalitarian policies is nothing else than an expression of dangerous populism that, they fear, can spread all over the world. What the Kremlin does not like about Obama is his egalitarian rhetoric and the fact that he makes an issue about the rising inequalities of income.
3. The Love of Lobbyists. As a recent Nation piece makes clear, there is a revolving door of interests and personnel between the McCain campaign and Russia's oligarchs.
And if you think all this chimes against McCain's professed support for Georgia during the recent war, even his alleged encouragement of Georgia's initial reaction, think again...
4.Strategic Calculations. As we saw so vividly between Serbia and Croatia over a decade ago, there is sometimes a convergence of interests between bellicose nationalists, even if they seem to be on opposing sides. Not only can they carve out smaller weaker nations between them, the leaders can also shore up domestic support in times of conflict, not to mention the money to be made on the side. As Ivan puts it:
Russia's strategy is to re-gain its status as world power through rhetorical confrontation with the West. In this sense, McCain's tough rhetoric plays into the Kremlin's hands, both domestically and internationally.
Domestically it helps Putin to convince the public that Russia is under siege, and internationally McCain's toughness helps Russia to position itself as the challenger to America's global hegemony. At the same time Moscow does not need to pay a price for its anti-Americanism, first, because America is overstretched and second, because in the current financial turmoil McCain's toughness is nothing but rhetoric.
Above all, McCain's election would further weaken the already wounded transatlantic alliance, and splitting the US from Europe is the Kremlin's ultimate strategic objective.
Ultimately, that's what terrifies the Kremlin about an Obama presidency more than anything. It's not just that his image and his history would revitalise the American dream for the 21st century, his policies would also strengthen the US through diplomacy, co-operation, and all the panoplies of soft power that kept the US as the leader of the free world for half a century.
If I was a former KGB operative, I'd be having sleepless nights about Obama's victory, because only he can restore America's standing in the world