Putin’s not-so-special New Year’s message to Obama

There is no change in Russia’s stance on the international agenda. It demands respect, equality and multipolarity

Maria Dubovikova
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If anyone told me that the Russian president’s New Year greeting to the U.S. president would become a news hit and would be widely shared by news agencies, as well as social media users, I would not have believed it. But to my surprise, that is exactly what has happened.

What is so attractive about the greetings sent to the U.S. president? Some see weakness in this ordinary gesture and rejoice over the apparent effectiveness of imposed sanctions. Some suppose that those greetings are the first signs of the upcoming thaw in bilateral relations and that Putin is ready for negotiations and concessions. However, it is more likely they are suffering from the effects of wishful thinking.


Russian greetings

First of all, the primary source of this news is the official Kremlin website. A rather long list of the recipients of the Presidential New Year greetings and their contents were published. The leaders of the post-Soviet territories are among them. An exception was made for Mr. Poroschenko (after banning Ded Moroz – the Russian version of Santa Claus - the only hope he had were greetings from Santa Claus). The Russian greetings were sent to BRICS leaders as well, including Brazil and India. In Latin America, greetings were received by the president of Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba. In Asia, best wishes from Moscow were received by the leaders of Japan and South Korea. Angela and François of Europe, David of Great Britain also received the greetings, as well as the Austrian chancellor, president of Finland, prime minister of Hungary, the Italian PM and president, Monaco’s prince, Serbia’s president and the king of Spain. Pope Francis was not left out either. The Middle East and Africa countries were ignored, with the exception of Erdogan, Netanyahu and the South African president (a BRICS member). For sure the list would not be complete without the Canadian PM and U.S. President Barack Obama. So, the holiday greetings to Obama was just one of many, however, it became headline news.

In his congratulations President Putin stressed that in the coming year the two countries will celebrate the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II, which they brought about by fighting alongside their allies in the anti-Nazi coalition. The key message of the greetings was a reminder of the “shared responsibility” of maintaining international peace and stability, countering global challenges and threats. Putin stressed that Russia and the United States can build a successful partnership based on the principles of equality and mutual respect. There was no sign of a change of rhetoric, no sign of concessions. It conveyed a desire to be respected and to be recognized as an equal, as a partner not a rival. Last year, Obama got practically the same message. At that time the president of Russia stressed that “acting in the spirit of partnership and on the basis of respecting one another, Russia and the United States are capable of making a real input into supporting global stability, resolving some of the most difficult international problems.” The desire to maintain a constructive dialogue and continue joint work to strengthen trust and mutual understanding in Russian-U.S. relations was also confirmed. The list of recipients of the New Year greetings at the time was much the same as now, with the exception of Ukraine – Yanukovich unlike Poroshenko got warm greetings in 2014 with declarations of hope for the intensification of cooperation between the countries and their brotherly peoples.

Fruitful cooperation

If we were to look through the summary of this year’s greetings, they are formal as usual, in some cases summing up the results of the year, expressing the hopes for fruitful cooperation in the next year and wishes for a prosperous year for the nations. Wishes to the Belorussian president look as though they were written in the mid-summer, long before Lukashenko’s hysterics over the drop of Russian rouble, his demand not to trade in roubles but in dollars or euros and his call for the re-establishment of customs checks on the Belorussian side of the border with Russia. We should be reminded that all this took place in the framework of the Custom Union, the Union State of Russia and Belarus, and the newly established (on January 1, 2015) Eurasian Union.

In absentia of news making-events in relations between the U.S. and Russia, the media is ready to stir up and speculate on any tiny occurrence.

There is no change in Russia’s stance on the international agenda. It demands respect, equality and multipolarity. The West remains Russia’s needed partner. Whatever the tensions between the sides, Russia will never close the doors of the opportunity for de-escalation. The absence of the U.S. or European countries on the greetings list could be a bad sign, but their presence is an absolutely ordinary phenomenon. The Middle East, despite its absence in the list of recipients of New Year Greetings, is a very attractive dimension for the Russia’s foreign politics and 2015 will be very fruitful in this sense. BRICS countries are Russia’s strategic partners needed for building multipolarity, so disliked by the West. The post-Soviet territory remains an area of vital national interest. This was the case in previous years, and this will be the case next year and for decades to come.


Maria Dubovikova is a co-founder of IMESClub (International Middle Eastern Studies Club), IMESClub Executive Director and member of the Club Council, author of several scientific articles and participant of several high level international conferences. She is a permanent member of the Think-tank under the American University in Moscow. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia) (honors diploma), she had been working for three months as a trainee at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) in Paris. Now she is a PhD Candidate at MGIMO (Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia). Her research field is Russian foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, the policy of France and the US towards the Mediterranean, theory of international relations, humanitarian interventions and etc. Fluently speaks and writes in French and English. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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