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The U.S. and Russia—foes with benefits

Vladimir Putin will return to the Kremlin after claiming victory in the March elections for president of Russia. Putin is shown at left with outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev.
Vladimir Putin will return to the Kremlin after claiming victory in the March elections for president of Russia. Putin is shown at left with outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev. Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

Most foreign policy reportage relates to the Middle East, but Russia is a challenge to the U.S. in world affairs, although you’d never know it based on most Western media coverage. Russia and the U.S. do have common ground, but an apt description of the relationship might be foes with benefits.

The topic of Russia recently resurfaced in media, courtesy of President Barack Obama’s remarks to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. Obama said he’d have more “flexibility” on missile defense after his reelection. The remark was made privately but at least one reporter overheard it.

Conservatives predictably went on offense, with Republican frontrunner Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.) characterizing Russia as a “geopolitical foe.”

Vice-President Joe Biden, famous for often comical gaffes, counter-attacked, saying he didn’t know where Romney “has been” when it comes to Russia. Biden suggested Russia is not an adversary of the U.S.

Biden then credited Russia for permitting the transport of supplies to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

What Biden didn’t mention is that U.S. troops in some parts of Afghanistan are actually fighting a war on drugs on Russia’s behalf. Russia has, according to the CIA World Factbook, long been concerned about the smuggling of poppy derivatives into Central Asia—the product originates in Afghanistan.

Russia also has a relationship with Iran that is troubling. At present Russia is working with Pakistan and Iran on a natural gas pipeline project. UPI cited remarks by a diplomat who spoke to a Pakistan newspaper. The diplomat said that the pipeline would be “advantageous to Moscow since its realization would carry Iranian gas toward South Asian markets so that in the near future it would not compete with Russian gas to Europe.”

Iran has made no secret of hostility towards the U.S. and Israel. In December, 2011, a U.S. District judge ruled that Iran was “behind the 9/11 attacks.” Bloomberg reported testimony in the case, Havlish, et al. v. bin Laden, et al., revealed that with the attacks,“an Iranian contingency plan for unconventional warfare against the U.S. called ‘Shaitan dar Atash’ had been activated.”

Translators were not available, but after much searching on the Web, Examiner learned the following by using Google Translator and Arab-centered blogs:

  • Shaitan is a rebellious jinni who leads men astray or an evil creature
  • Dar means house or country or land
  • Atash means fire

Fars, a news agency in Iran, recently reported that Iran’s relationship with Russia would take a “leap” after Vladimir Putin returns to the Kremlin.

The U.S. and Russia have been trying for years to work out a missile shield agreement acceptable to both NATO and Russia. Russia has held out for joint control of the system, and Obama’s remarks suggest that he may concede to that demand. The U.S. president wouldn’t knowingly say that publicly because it could damage his potential for securing a second term.

Russia’s relationship with the U.S. remains complex despite gains after the Cold War ended. Obstructing U.S. efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons hasn’t helped conservatives accept the view of Russia as friend.

Past conflicts over the country of Georgia’s independence from Russia and the race for natural resources development in the Arctic still ignite debate.

Questions were also raised in the U.S. after the FBI discovery in 2010 of a Russian spy ring aiming to influence U.S. policy from within. Subsequently in March, 2012, news surfaced about a Canadian naval officer leaking U.S. and other allies’ intel to Russia.

The recent past also brought concerns spurred by predictions from a Russian analyst in 2008 shortly after Obama was elected. Igor Panarin said the United States union would disintegrate into sections that could be controlled by foreign countries. Panarin noted there was no doubt over Russia regaining Alaska, saying, “We can claim Alaska after all, it was granted on a lease.”

Romney's views towards Russia stem from mainstream conservative distrust of governments that place strict controls on individual liberty.

Obama, however, can claim a popularity win in Moscow—the Russia newspaper Pravda endorsed Obama for U.S. president in late March.

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