Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

"Samovar, ikra, Obama" or what is the status of the Russian-American ties

Adelina Marini, July 8, 2009

After the first day of the visit of Barack Obama in Moscow the mood in media expressed hope, change, long-term warming of Russian-American ties, that went through a lot of hardships after the Cold war and that reached almost the freezing point in the last years of the second term of George W. Bush. We have to note though that the first day of Obama's visit in Moscow his host was his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev. The fact is important because the second day of his visit has been reported by Western and Russian media in a much more sober way and in way retrospectively. A probable reason could be that the host of the second day was the former Russian president and current prime minister Vladimir Putin.

The "New York Times" reports that president Obama kicked off a new chapter in Russian-American relations with significant progress on several fronts during a two-day visit and about a year after the relationship ruptured over the war in Georgia, the two sides are now back at the table and doing business. But while Mr. Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia declared a reconciliation, they did so partly by agreeing to disagree on important issues and by selectively interpreting the same words in sharply different ways, the newspaper says. For example Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev announced an agreement to open a joint early-warning center to share data on missile launchings.

And interesting fact is that Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris N. Yeltsin announced the same agreement in 1998. Mr. Clinton then announced it again with President Vladimir V. Putin in 2000. Mr. Putin and President George W. Bush recommitted to it as recently as 2007. In the end of the day, as you might very well know, none of them ever actually built the center.

The same way Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev renewed their nations’ mutual commitment to getting rid of 34 tons each of weapons-grade plutonium, another initiative started in the 1990s and never completed for numerous reasons, which roots, in fact, have always been some global tension that made Russia and the US take totally different positions.

And the Russian media focused on the friendly atmosphere of the talks which did not help the numerous bilateral issues to be solved. The title of one of the most influential newspapers "Izvestia" is: "Samovar*, ikra**, Obama". The title says nothing more than the fact that in Russia there will always be samovars and ikra just the American counterpart would be different. Today Obama, yesterday - Bush and before that - Clinton.

In this regard it would be very interesting to see how the G-8 summit will go through in L'Aquila where Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev will once again meet but this time not f2f with each other but with global challenges and the interests of the other leading world powers.

*Samovar is a traditional device for making tea

**ikra is one of the most famous brands of Russian caviar