U.S.-Russian Differences Brought Into Sharp Relief In Munich (RFERL, Feb. 2)

Differences between the United States and Russia have gone on sharp display at the annual Munich Security Conference.

U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden told the international gathering of top diplomats and defense officials that Washingon and Moscow “have serious differences on issues like Syria, missile defense, NATO enlargement, democracy, human rights.”

As Liz, who circulated this item, said: “Well, well, why wouldn’t Moscow be all for ‘NATO enlargement’ and for Russia being encircled by NATO’s missiles?” As for Syria, our differences can be summed up by Russia being concerned for the fate of Christians, while we help the Islamic terrorists take over. And as for democracy and human rights, I don’t think Russia has ever waged an aggressive war claiming it to be for “‘human rights.” Nor has it called tyranny or law of the jungle “democracy.”

“These differences are real,” he said at the start of the second day of the event, “but we continue to see opportunities for the United States and Russia to partner in ways that advance our mutual security interest and the interest of the international community.”

[We’ve been closing that window narrower and narrower.]

Speaking just days after the new U.S. administration began its second term, he also restated Washington’s position that it does not recognize spheres of influence. He cited the case of two breakaway Georgian republics whose independence Russia recognized following its brief war with Georgia in 2008.

“The United States will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states,” Biden said. “We will not recognize any nation having a sphere of influence. It will remain America’s view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances.”

What??? What??? Didn’t we bomb Yugoslavia out of a fear that it might eventually even think of choosing an alliance with Russia over us? (“Behind this action is Germany’s and the USA’s fear that Yugoslavia will ally itself with Russia and other former Soviet states once Yeltsin is replaced by communist and nationalist forces in the near future.” Which we made sure he was.) What Biden is saying is: ‘We will have a sphere of influence, but Russia will not. In fact, we’ll also have Russia’s.’

…[H]is underlining of differences suggested a different mood than four years ago, when Biden called at the same conference for a reset in U.S.-Russian relations at the start of U.S. President Barack Obama’s first term.

Good of the writer to point this out. But if he’s confused by it, I’ll help: After shitting on Russia for a decade-and-a-half, we called for a “reset” in relations, asking Russia to start afresh in its attitude toward us as if we hadn’t been shitting on it but had “mutual” problems. Which would then buy us more time to keep shitting on it before it notices we didn’t really mean the friendship button, and gets mad in a serious way.

Recent months have seen rising tensions between the two countries as Russian authorities have taken new initiatives cracking down on pro-democracy groups [i.e. pro-”West” agitators (West not being West, of course; otherwise it wouldn’t be so bad]. The initiatives include putting an end to civil society initiatives supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Russia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, too, stressed differences between Moscow and Washington and its allies as he addressed the conference.

He charged NATO with having a “bloc-based” security policy in Europe. He said NATO was seeking to improve security “at the expense of others” and that a bloc-based mind-set contravenes “open systems and security for all.”

“Russia proposes a simple and constructive path,” Lavrov said, “to agree on strict guarantees that the United States’ global missile-defense system is not aimed at any member state of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and to work out clear military and technical criteria to assess whether the missile shield’s capability matches its stated purpose, which is neutralizing missile threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic region.”

Biden said he would meet later in the day, on the sidelines of the conference, with leaders of the Syrian opposition.

He said Washington would continue to support the Syrian opposition and that the United States currently provided it more than $50 million in nonlethal assistance. He predicted that the “days ahead will be difficult” for Syria but that the “Syrian opposition continues to grow stronger.”

That’s just great! Now I know how the world — bereft of an America — will be forced into redrawing alliances such that we will have moved Russia, India and China closer together, leading eventually to the apocalyptic biblical vision of a million Chinese soldiers on America’s borders.

Lavrov said Moscow has many questions about the Western approach to the Middle East, including the Arab Spring and Syria.

[Liz: All sane individuals should have ‘many questions about the Western approach to Arab Spring’, Summer, Fall and Winter. ]

Moscow has frequently criticized western support for the Syrian opposition and its calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally, to step down as a prerequisite for peace talks. […]

The fact that these Russia-U.S. “differences” were highlighted in Munich is of course symbolic. One might wonder, as Russia has for a long time now, why the U.S. decided to side against it and with the Axis, when Russia was doing everything we wanted it to (see 1990s).