Panel: Next president should engage Russia

By Masha Stul

EU Week panelists said as the international scene shifts away from US hegemony, Obama is better suited to maneuver in the new political environment.

Russian military actions in Georgia have demonstrated that Russia is now a major player in international politics, said international relations expert Roger Kanet, in a discussion focused on U.S.-EU-Russia dynamics. Throughout this week, this was one of several factors discussed by international relations experts suggesting the emergence of a multi-polar world.

Several panelists agreed that it will be important for the next American president to engage Russia.

“McCain seems to draw sharper lines in the sand and Russia is really good at that,” said security expert Robert Brannon. “In foreign policy, Obama seems to be willing to take more risks. In terms of putting pride aside, it wouldn’t cost us much, and Obama is more likely to do that,”

Ambassador of France Pierre Vimont touched on the same theme when he was asked to comment on Obama’s statement that he would be willing to talk with Iran’s President, Ahmadinejad, without precondition.

“We have no difficulty with American dialogue with Iran, as long as there is clear and strong cooperation and exchanging of views between the EU and the U.S. beforehand,” he said. “We thought dialogue could help. We know Iran would like dialogue too.”

With regards to McCain’s proposal to create a separate League of Democracies, the ambassador said the EU wanted more details, and its priority was to make sure international institutions like the UN and the NATO were not undermined.

Brannon said Russia’s main goal is to balance out U.S. hegemony, and that Russia would prefer an international security architecture in which it can participate, as opposed to the NATO.

Although McCain’s experience might make him act more decisively, Obama’s flexibility could be more useful in balancing different international political interests, said political science professor Carol Leff. Obama’s advisors have spoken of how much he does his homework on international affairs to make up for the fact that he is younger, she added.

Noah Dove, part-time LAS student, commented on the importance these issues may bare to American youth.

“Understanding the balance of power and being able to check things far in advance can prevent the roots of war,” he said. “The icy relationship between U.S. and Russia has the potential to turn into something very bad.”