Russian Experts Talk McCain and Obama

At a meeting in Moscow this Tuesday, Russian experts turned the conversation to presidential politics in the United States, the Sobkor®ru news agency reports. With a fascinating electoral campaign taking place in the US, many Russians have taken a key interest in the competition between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama.

Participants in the discussion, largely Russian experts on the United States, disagreed widely on what the result of the American election would mean for Russia.

The event was held in line with a presentation of The Audacity of Hope, a memoir and policy book written by Obama.

Valery Garbuzov, the deputy director of the Institute of USA and Canada in Russia’s Academy of Sciences, said that people in US have been “living by these elections” for over a year. In his opinion, the active nationwide discussion of the problems facing the US in recent years shows that American democracy is not in crisis. “These grueling, expensive, exhausting American elections still accomplish their goal after all,” he said.

Andrei Kartunov, the president of the New Eurasia Foundation, said the current US presidential campaign was the most interesting he had ever watched. “These days, two Americas have collided,” he said. “McCain is the last major politician of the 20th century. He formed his beliefs under the conditions of the Cold War, and fought in Vietnam, which naturally left a mark on him. Obama is the first major politician of the 21st century. This is a completely different generation and upbringing.”

Kartunov cautioned the audience not to expect sudden changes in US foreign policy, and said no one should assume that relations between Moscow and Washington will immediately improve. An Obama presidency would present Russia with new opportunities and new challenges, he said. “It was relatively easy with Bush. The Republican administration made so many mistakes in recent years that Moscow could easily polemicize against it.” If Obama becomes president, Russian-American relations may become more interesting and more complicated, the expert believes.

Another expert, Alexander Karavanov, proposed that an Obama victory could cause new problems for Russia. Drawing a parallel with president John F. Kennedy, who also had many sympathizers in the US and the USSR, Karavanov suggested this wasn’t enough. Under Kennedy’s watch, the major event in Soviet-American relations was the Cuban Missile Crisis. “The advantage of a Republican president above a Democratic one is that he will not need to prove his patriotism every day,” Karavanov said. “To answer any doubts of his patriotism, John McCain can show the scars from his Vietnam injuries.” Karavanov also noted that the most significant breakthroughs in Soviet-American relations came during the Nixon and Reagan administrations with a Republican in office. Democrat Jimmy Carter’s term, meanwhile, saw a crisis in Russian-American relations.

Responding to Karavanov, Andrei Kartunov remarked that one should not equate all of Russia with the Russian authorities. “Of course, for adherents of ‘sovereign democracy,’ who profess Russia as a fortress under siege, a McCain victory would be beneficial. Because McCain is the confirmation of all their ideas about America, about how it doesn’t change, about how it always conducts anti-Russian policies.”

Voter turnout in the United States is expected to reach an all-time high this year. 36 US states have already begun early voting, while the general election will take place on November 4th.

According to the aggregate of latest polls, John McCain trails Barack Obama by around 7 points.

For more information:

Watch John McCain and Barack Obama discuss Russian during the first presidential debate on September 26th.

Putin the Staunch Republican?

Kasparov-Obama Should Stand Up to Russia’s Regime