Russia simmers after Obama’s gloats

Obama’s leadership and confidence may turn heads, but the consequence of this triumphal dizziness is usually very sad

Maria Dubovikova
Maria Dubovikova
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After the failure of the Democratic Party in the 2014 U.S. Senate elections, Barack Obama delivered a victorious State of the Union speech demonstrating that despite the defeat of his party and obvious problems, he is leading the country in the right direction through the stormy waters of contemporary international affairs. He is riding the wave of a U.S. economy that looks even better in contrast with the average economic situation across the world.

The U.S. has become less dependent on external players, especially in terms of energy resources. Its supremacy was confirmed. The U.S. is the strongest and can decide to do whatever it likes with the world from a distance while managing not to become embroiled with the problems on the ground. Boots on the ground, according to Obama, is a last resort in 2015. The U.S. has become a warden judging who behaves well, who behaves badly and who must be punished and put into an isolation ward. Between the lines, the U.S. president has practically declared a monopoly on truth, the ability to decide unilaterally what is black and what is white, what is good and what is bad and impose the vision on the rest of the international community, or at least on its allies.

The pillars of American leadership enumerated by the president for the most part turned out to be the nails in the coffin of the free world based on equality, mutual respect, independence of states in terms of their international and external policies and free cooperation. Even the thesis that the U.S. “upholds the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small ones” arouses surprise, as the history itself is full of examples of the U.S. bullying the smaller nations.

Russia, the key criticizer and opponent of the U.S., did not remain indifferent to the speech. Russia, against which many claims can be made, made rather reasonable remarks. Sergei Lavrov, stated that the president’s speech shows that U.S. philosophy is based on one thing: The notion that it is number one and all other parties must respect that. According to Lavrov, Obama’s speech shows that the United States wants to dominate the world and cannot merely be a first among equals. Lavrov added that he would prefer all countries to adopt the philosophy of co-operation, not dictate.

Russia’s expert community has mentioned above all that declaring that America “stands strong and united with [its] allies, while Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters,” Obama's list of his successes included the idea that he put the world on the brink of Cold War - in so many words - however the failure of communication cannot be perceived as a success of U.S. foreign policy. The mantra about Russia’s isolation has oft been repeated from one speech to another. However, having frozen its ties on numerous issues, the U.S. had no intention of curtailing bilateral cooperation in the spheres where its national interests are concerned - as in nuclear and space spheres. Then, the U.S. supports the intra-Syrian meeting that takes place in Moscow. Furthermore, the U.S. forgets that the world is not confined to the so-called West, but there is Latin America, Africa, Middle East and Asia. It forgets that Russia successfully develops its ties with its partners, who find it possible not to yield to external pressure. It won’t be out of place to remind Obama – who said in the context of Russia’s opposition, that now they are “demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy.” So, do sanctions have nothing to do with diplomacy or U.N. approval?

The weak state of Russia’s economy is apparent, but it is not the achievement of Western sanctions led by the U.S.. What is going on is an expected recession due to inefficient management and the years of expensive oil spent in vain, as modernization and innovation were mostly made on paper. The oil price drop played an important role too. Furthermore the humanists in Washington, “respecting human dignity” as it was stated by Obama, imposed sanctions that primarily hit ordinary civilians. But Russians, especially after the intense work of the state media generously providing its audience with the quotes of the hawkish Western leaders, won’t have much love for the U.S. and its allies and are inclined to blame Washington and Brussels for their troubles, rather than their own leaders. Furthermore, it’s quiet clear that sanctions won’t work and won’t push the bear back to its lair.

However, the problems the international community faces now are not limited to the Russia, the Ukrainian puzzle, and the U.S. triumph and aspirations of global leadership. The key problem is that the United Nations is collapsing. The international law and international system regulation don’t work properly. This leads to the problem that the international community transforms from the community of equals to a hierarchical system, with one who wants to rule, decide and punish, so-called second rate countries. This doesn’t correspond to the aspirations of the people who have their own national pride and national interests. Obama’s leadership and confidence may turn heads, but the consequence of this triumphal dizziness is usually very sad for the surrounding countries as well as for the power-drunk leader himself. The world is becoming less safe than ever.


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

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