Putin for Obama

The US presidential election is coming up soon, less than two weeks away. That means, among other things, that it’s endorsement season now, and lately those have taken somewhat of an international flavor. You might have already heard about al-Qaeda’s “endorsement” of McCain – perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to write more about that soon. As such, that nod of terroristic approval goes counter to pretty much the whole rest of the world, which prefers Obama as next US president by about a four-to-one margin. (But you’d sort of expect that Osama bin Laden and his henchmen would be inclined to go against the grain, now, wouldn’t you?) More conventional is Russia’s choice, or at least Russia’s seeming choice, as reported by Per Dalgård in the Danish opinion weekly Information (McCain asks Russia for help).

“What? McCain looking to Russia for help?” you might exclaim. (I mean, Iceland turning to Russia for some mega-financial help was bad enough. Don’t worry though, the Icelanders have ended up going to the IMF instead.) Yes, but it’s not what you think, even if the incident in question did provide Dalgård with the prompt for his piece and with his headline. You can find the details here, in a Washington Post article by Colum Lynch; basically, because of what seems to be merely an error in screening a mailing database for unsuitable target addresses, Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin received a fund-raising appeal letter from the McCain campaign on 29 September. (“Please know this – we will not concede any region to the Democrats,” the letter vowed, together with other rah-rah language of the usual fund-raising sort.) In reaction, the Russian UN mission simply issued a statement reminding everyone that it is not the policy of the Russian government to “finance political activities in foreign countries.” It would be illegal under US law as well, by the way.

And that should be that – pay no mind to the “European official” Lynch quotes to the effect that “He [McCain] must have been really desperate.” Either this guy is joking, or he seriously misunderstood the situation. But Lynch can’t resist going further to hint strongly that McCain would in all probability not really be the Russian government’s first choice anyway, with the sentence “McCain’s tough approach has infuriated Russian leaders” introducing a series of paragraphs that outline the acrimony between McCain’s campaign and Russian officials.

Not Another Cold War?!

This is the theme that Dalgård takes further. In his eyes, it’s clear that Obama is preferred in Russia from Putin and Medvedev on down – yes, all the way down to the Russian masses, who opinion polls have shown to be solidly pro-Obama. The reason for this preference, at least on the part of the Russian government is clear: they fear the outbreak of some sort of new Cold War, complete with an arms-race, should McCain take the White House, and think that can be avoided with Obama. He reminds us that “We are all Georgians now” was John McCain’s memorable reaction to that crisis of early August, and McCain certainly did not help his relations with Russia when he declared in one of the debates that, when he looked into Putin’s eyes, he only saw the letters K-G-B. (Let’s leave the probable truth of that statement to the side for now.) Dalgård even claims that the Russians believe that Obama is a better bet for solving the raging financial crisis, which has also hit Russia hard (in concert with the plunging price of oil).

Of course, there has not been and there never will be any formal endorsement of any sort coming from the Kremlin. One thing, though, is for certain: the Russians are through with dealing with George W. Bush. According to what Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a recent interview, the Americans had “promised us, in recognition of our concerns regarding the stationing of parts of missile defenses in the Czech Republic and Poland, to send a list of a series of steps for establishing [mutual] confidence and transparency, to ease those concerns. We are still waiting for them.”

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