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LOOKING AHEAD
20.04.2009

April 9, 2009 (the date of publication in Russian)

Konstantin Cheremnykh

A TRANSATLANTIC SÉANCE OF SUGGESTION

Carrots and sticks: Multipolar manipulation as the essence of Obama's New New Deal

PROBLEMS OF THE CLIMACTERIC PERIOD

"If NATO was a family, you'd have to call it dysfunctional", wrote The Independent's observer Adrian Hamilton on the eve of the 60-th jubilee summit of the Transatlantic alliance, characterizing the Strasbourg event as a far more fractious affair than the G-20 summit in London.

"The Organization is unable to announce a new Secretary General because the Turks are opposing the choice of the Danish PM because of the Danish cartoons satirizing the Prophet Mohammed. The US and Britain are at odds with most of the rest [Europeans] over the level of troop commitment to Afghanistan. The old members from West Europe and the new members from Eastern Europe are at odds over how to treat Russia and whether to encourage Ukraine to join. Spain has withdrawn without consultation from the deployment in Kosovo"...

The author compares the described snafu with a once flourishing but now broken-up business that has doomed itself by reckless over-expansion: "Like the car industry, Woolworths and half the banking industry, it is a model that has passed its sell-by date. NATO was founded with a clear purpose, to contain and challenge the USSR. Once the Soviet Union collapsed it lost that job definition. Instead, its partners and its bureaucracy invented two raisons d'etre: one was to expand in Eastern Europe and redefine its purposes as a promoter of democracy rather than a simple security pact, [and] the second was to redraw its borders of activity, re-inventing itself to an offensive military organization operating outside its normal theatre in Africa and Afghanistan. As a means of avoiding redundancy and preserving jobs, both moves were entirely logical. But as a business plan for the organization itself, it has been a disaster of overreach".

As the old life of the Alliance is not on any longer, the organization faces the prospect of retirement, regarding US President Barack Obama's initiatives of disarmament, or a new start in the capacity of the world's policeman, indicated the author. At the same time, it was evident that at the summit, most painful issues were going to be circumvented: "The reluctant participants in NATO's Afghan venture will be asked to contribute civil advisers and money rather than fighting troops. The argument over new members will be glossed over for another day. Antagonisms with Russia will be put aside. Turkey will be mollified--"

To a large extent, the forecast appeared correct. The failed corporation has not invented any new attractive redefinition for itself, though trying to demonstrate its high capability in the transition into the senile age. What was underestimated was the new White House's talent of playing allied sides against one another, revealed most illustratively during Barack Obama's tour from London to Strasbourg, and from there to Prague and Ankara.

THE PROPHET'S ACHILLES HEEL

Intending to restore Transatlantic confidence, the new US leadership unfolded the NATO summit into a series of international events, diversifying their geography and audience. The pompous jubilee meeting in Strasbourg's Rohan Castle was preceded with a modest lunch in Baden-Baden, Germany. But while German chefs were setting the table, Barack Obama was training his eloquence in an even more democratic atmosphere of the central stadium in the same Strasbourg, before four thousand European students.

It was the youth audience that first perceived the pathos of the new unity of America and Europe that are |in the same boat" in a rough sea of crisis. The new message of the democratic White House was delivered in a most outspoken version at the Strasbourg basketball arena, before the ball sprang across the German border and backwards to the Rohan Castle.

Addressing young students, Obama admitted that America had been "arrogant" and "dismissive, even derisive" towards Europe. This behavior, he said, has aroused an unsurprising anti-America attitude in the Old World. Still, this diffidence is going to be overcome, as Washington is committed to rapprochement with European values. Particularly, the United States is not going any longer to neglect the Kyoto Protocols, and will reduce emission of greenhouses gases. The atmosphere of partnership is going to be also cleared by reduction of offensive nuclear weapons, given Russia's compliance with this endeavor. And thus, both parts of the Western community are going to jointly overcome the economic malady of the civilization, putting an end to reckless speculation the bankers had been engaged with.

The following part of the speech contained precisely what the youth audience is glad to hear: that today, we live in a revolutionary world, in which the leading role is to be granted to young people. Arousing applause with reference to John F. Kennedy, Obama drew a romantic parallel between the American and French revolutions, whose ideals, as he intoned, continue to serve as a moral beacon for the mankind.

This sweet ideological carrot, however, appeared to be just a prelude for an alarmist warning about common challenges facing the whole Western community. Next day in the Rohan Castle, Mr. Obama was more precise, reminding that due to Europe's "proximity" to Central Asia, it is more likely that Al Qaeda would choose the next target in Europe.

Mr. Obama's public performance produced a direct impact of psychological suggestion, as it often happened during his presidential campaign: a war veteran was seen weeping; a German schoolboy claimed that he'd never forget the moment of his life when he saw Mr. Obama; an even smaller French girl called him "le grand president du monde". According to journalist reports, this effect of suggestion was prepared not by the power of Obama's words alone but also with accompaniment of a certain musician who preceded the performance with a hymn "He Holds the Whole World in His Hands". "Mr. Obama is going not only to heal America but to save the whole world", echoed an ironical Tim Baldwin from The Times.

In Strasbourg, Obama's prophetic mood was marred only by an intervention from an American lady who inquired whether the family of the US President is going to get a dog. "This is a very important question in the United States", the prophet grumbled in an old man's intonation. The very person who had won the US elections by use of the popular Twitter blog and had just handed a super-modern I-Pod to an embarrassed Queen Elisabeth thus revealed his Achilles heel.

Absence of a pet in the family, explained with allergic problems Mr. Obama's daughter, represents a not less significant flaw of image than the NATO failures in Asia for which he could easily blame his predecessors. In fact, the image of a new prophet of the universe is supposed to be impeccable: either you urge the global audience to "leave fear behind", or your own parental anxiety exposes your haplessness before a banal cutaneous disease.

When parents try to attain psychological rapport with kids, reproducing their manners, catchwords and baubles, kids immediately grasp falsity. Young rock singer Victor Tsoi, agreeing to perform his song "We Wait for a Change" in the popular "Assa" movie in 1989, later expressed his disappointment with the composition with a contemptuous remark: "This is Dad's cinema". The crowd of antiglobalists that blocked the bridge over Rhine, igniting a hotel and a customs office on their way, was carrying a similar anti-message.

THE GRANDDADS EXPECT PURGE

During the presidential campaign, Obama's team overexploited his relatively young age, contrasting the enlightened bidder with the defensive grumbling pensioner John McCain. The charm of youth had since paled after Mr. Obama invited the "dad's" spouse Hillary Clinton to the post of Secretary of State. On the other hand, the "granddads" are furious over the attempts of the victorious Democrat to distance from their political heritage.

Charles Krauthammer, an influential veteran of the neoconservative generation, regards Obama's populist remarks at the Strassbourg sports arena as deception: "When John F. Kennedy arrived in Paris, he didn't attack Eisenhower. If you want to attack the US, you do it at home."

The essence of Obama's "New New Deal" irritates the neocons even more than its verbal expression. While Obama was urging to reduce nuclear arsenals during his campaign, his arguments were perceived as not more than election rhetoric. But now, he appears to be serious in his intentions. "This could be a turning point in US nuclear policy", admits nuclear analyst Joe Cirincione. "It changes everything."

The "escape from the era of irresponsibility" hailed by Mr. Obama in Strasbourg is obviously based on a kind of Utopian idealism. Yet before the G-20 summit, Obama proposed to get not only Europe but also India, China, and Iran involved in NATO's Afghanistan venture; in London, hew promised to Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev that in case the Iranian threat is gone, ABM deployment in Eastern Europe would become unnecessary.

For antiglobalist pacifists, ABM deployment in Poland and Czechia is an imperialist conspiracy. For US corporations, this project is daily bread. Not surprisingly, the "granddads" tried to endorse their colleague Peter McCay, Canada's Minister of Defense, to the post of NATO General Secretary. However, Mr. Obama rejected this candidature, while another bidder, Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, refused to run for the post as soon as guarantees of ABM deployment in his country were put under question. Thus, Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen lost two strong rivals.

Obama's sympathy to Mr. Rasmussen is regarded by US neocons with natural suspicion: the European official is keen is rightist-liberal austerity policy, but has no experience in military leadership. Similar suspicion was expressed by a part of the Russian military community towards Anatoly Serdyukov, head of Russia's Federal Tax Authority, when he was appointed Minister of Defense.

The US military industrial establishment has grounds to expect that the new General Secretary will focus not only on coordination of the Afghan campaign but also on purge of the NATO apparatus, as well as on an austerity reform of the Alliance's system of financial supply. This aspect of the new White House's "idealism" is likely to generate as much resistance in the US military circle as the proposal to radically reduce nuclear warheads.

OBAMA SNUBS PARIS

"If Gorbachov is the father of perestroika, then Brezhnev is its grandfather", said liberal dissident Vladimir Voinovich in the times when the new General Secretary announced his sweeping economic reform that in fact institutionalized much of the real shadowy (including Soviet-Western trade) relations shaped in earlier decades in the shade of propaganda of "a new historical quality of society" of "developed socialism".

During his tour across Europe, from London to Ankara, Barack Obama could not help revealing that the real grandfather of his policy was Gorbachov's counterpart Ronald Reagan.

The arranged march of the NATO leaders' delegation along the bridge across the Rhine river obviously symbolized not only surmounting the recent tensions in the Western community, but to a larger extent, the heritage of the XX century. Most illustrative was Obama's reluctance to pay a visit to Normandy on the occasion of the oncoming D-Day anniversary. Obama's advisors made clear that D-Day is a "Dad's day" that should not be speculated upon, in order to avoid any shade of diffidence between Britain, France, and Germany.

In a similar way, the Gorbachov-Reagan accord, resulting in dismantlement of the Warsaw Pact, reflected a bilateral commitment to overcome the post-war order.

However, Mr. Obama's approach, pursuing a new quality of multilateral intra-Western confidence, was very sensitively perceived by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who obviously viewed himself as "le grand vice president du monde" in case Barack Obama has acquired the role of "le grand president".

Despite France's media-hyped return to the NATO military organization, Paris was explained that its influence in Europe, relative economic strength in the times of crisis, as well as the ambitions of the Mediterranean Alliance are not going to serve as justification of any special role of this particular nation. Before Nicolas Sarkozy concentrated his indignation to react, his exotic spouse – who remarkably refrained from appearing in London Ц exposed the neurotic mood of the ambitious French leadership, publicly avoiding Obama's kiss and looking as if she had just swallowed a sour lemon.

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, who had just tried to position himself as an essential liaison between Washington and Moscow, looked similarly uninterested in Strasbourg, missing the celebration ceremony on the occasion of an important phone talk. He later explained that his collocutor was Turkey's PM Erdogan, which was a good excuse: he thus allegedly contributed to Turkey's compliance for Rasmussen's candidature for NATO General Secretary.

In fact, this contribution was unnecessary: Ankara had already caved in to Rasmussen's bid in exchange for US support of Turkey's entry in EU. Before Obama reached Ankara, the newly-elected General Secretary Mr. Rasmussen had already spent two days at the Alliance of Civilizations in Istanbul, being treated with an enough excessive lunch to tumble down from the stairs. In the times of Brezhnev's USSR, such confusions used to happen with fresh-appointed First CP Secretaries of Soviet Socialist Republics.

At that very time, Mr. Obama was demonstrating his especially warm attitude towards the Islamic community. His commitment to closely cooperate with Moslems, as soon as it was first expressed in Prague, much irritated Israel and Armenia. In the latter case, the disappointment was greater, as Yerevan's expectations for a higher influence of the Armenian lobby in Washington did not correspond with Obama's sudden flirt with Turkey.

Still, Mr. Obama's neglect of two small nations which had got used to attract major powers to the essentially insolvable regional conflicts is not surprising at all. A political leader, seriously committed to transform the whole global system of relations, is naturally more concerned with partnership with larger states. The promptly publicized list of infringement on human rights committed in Turkey is less significant for this leader than the ally's size, geographic location, and military capability.

Being stunned with this "hypocrisy", British liberal media hurried to expose the new White House's double standards. The Guardian's editorial reminded Mr. Obama that while the United Kingdom agrees to slash one fourth of submarine nuclear capacities, Washington does not hurry to curtail the offensive nuclear potential of between 200 and 350 warheads deployed in Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, and remarkably, Turkey. Dismantlement of these weapons would make the demands to observe non-proliferation, imposed on other nations, more convincing, writes The Guardian. But Mr. Obama's administration has "overlooked" this piece of the Cold War heritage, displaying the same unilateral approach that was typical for Ronald Reagan.

FAREWELL TO ROMATIC EXPECTATIONS

The abovementioned double standards suggest that the broad smile, addressed to Moscow by Mr. Obama, reflect not particular sympathy but just an element of a thoroughly calculated balance of "multipolar manipulation", an alternative to the "multipolar world system" that had nearly been recognized by George W. Bush's White House. Quite naturally, broad smiles in Prague and Ankara were addressed to other poles of influence: namely, to Eastern Europe and the Islamic community.

The essence of the New New Deal's foreign policy aspect was guessed and highly appreciated by the reputedly primitive-minded Georgia's president Mikheil Saakashvili. He had grounds to triumph: in Prague, Mr. Obama Ц unlike Bush Ц publicly identified Russia's August 2008 military counter-operation in the Transcaucasia as "aggression", and promised NATO membership to "an integral Georgia" Ц which means Georgia with the two breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose sovereignty is officially recognized by Russia. Mr. Obama was similarly sympathetic to the idea of a Transnational Energy Council Ц the idea expressed by Lithuania's President Valdis Adamkus as an alternative to Russia's initiatives that the G-20 summit had been reluctant to discuss. This reinvention of the old concept of the Black Sea-Baltic Corridor, along with granting NATO membership to Croatia and Albania, is not at all inspiring for Moscow, and the hopes for a new quality of US-Russian cooperation that have spread in the liberal wing of the Russian establishment are thus facing heavy disappointment.

It is noteworthy that Moscow had been paying serious attention to political relations with Turkey, and particularly in Erdogan's concept of Black Sea cooperation. Instead of maintaining the role of Russia's ally in oil and gas pipeline projects, Turkey is likely to elevate to a key element of Washington's new system of "multipolar manipulation", or "smart power" strategy, as identified by US Vice President Joe Biden in Munich.

A special smile of Mr. Obama was deserved by the EU Eastern Partnership program. Obviously, this additional gesture towards Germany was supposed to serve as an exchange for the problems related to Turkey's entry in the EU. For Moscow, the approval of the program, involving a number of former Soviet states, is viewed with understandable suspicion.

Not surprisingly, Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's Representative in NATO who had been looking forward a more cordial relationship with the Alliance, now comments on the US and NATO policy in more salty expressions than in earlier times when he, in the capacity of chair of Congress of Russian Communities, was reputed as a Russian nationalist. In fact, the re-establishment of the NATO-Russia Council which he Ц shamefully Ц had just hailed as a political breakthrough Ц cannot balance the multiple snubs delivered to Moscow first in London (where Russia was not included into the Group A of the G-20 nations) and later in Prague. The fact that all the poles of the supposed multipolar world are similarly treated with carrots and sticks, does not add pleasure to a public whipping.

The nomination of Ivo Daalder, ideologist of the "League of Democracies" as an alternative to the UN, for the post of US Representative in NATO, serves as an additional evidence of Washington's reluctance to play with Moscow on equal terms. Days after Moscow, in a chorus with NATO, congratulated Macedonia with successful presidential elections, a pre-election public riot, with a recognizable hue of a "colored revolution", broke out in Moldova Ц in case of success, serving as a pretext for a NATO intervention for control of Transdniester-deployed Russian weapons. Russian analysts have to admit that Moscow will be treated with sticks both in Transcaucasia and at the EU borders and that appellation to respect towards national sovereignty won't sound convincing in this case.

Unlike George W. Bush, who appreciated personal dialogue with Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama is not inclined to informal relations with the new President of Russia. He is conveniently satisfied enough with Russian guarantees of humanitarian shipments to Afghanistan across its territory. Still trying to hammer out some kind of exchange, Mr. Rogozin hurries to assure that Moscow had not prompted Kyrgyzstan for the decision to demand withdrawal of the US military base from Manas. However, his argument that the United States and Kyrgyzstan (the poorest of the post-Soviet Central Asia nations) should solve the issue on an "equal basis", sound ridiculous for sober analysts. Romantic expectations in dealing with Washington are going to be replaced with cautious defensive thinking.

THE REAL TEST IS STILL AHEAD

A US reader of The Daily Telegraph has proposed an ostensibly plausible explanation for Washington's easy distribution of "sticks and carrots" among nations during his tour across Europe, timed to the consequent G-20 and NATO summits: "What this crisis has really done is blown through the tigers of the world economy to show them what they really are: paper tigers. Europe: toothless; Ireland: prostrate; Russia: backward and dependent on oil; China: no oil and dependent on exports to US; Japan and rest of Asia: dependent on US to buy their goods. It's only the US, with a large and youthful immigration policy and consumers who are willing to buy, that is able to stand up on its own".

However, this interpretation is hardly exhaustive. The "toothlessness" of the EU establishment is largely explained with the internal tensions which Obama tried to play at the culmination point of the disarray in Prague echoing in Brussels. Mean while, China has just demonstrated its independence in economic strategy, and the strongly anti-American book, ironically entitled "The Unhappy China", has become a bestseller in the Celestial country. The potential of Russia, though much smaller, is not restricted to oil and gas alone.

Obama's tour definitely represented a successful séance of suggestion, to a large extent addressed to the domestic audience in which his popularity had melted down to the level of Bush's in 2005. The immediate social effects of the disarmament, as well as "alternative energy" initiatives are unlikely to contribute to the belief in the "new prophet". Meanwhile, efficiency of "multipolar manipulation" greatly depends on a well-fortified rear. The choice of Rohan Castle, the once-residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, for the NATO summit, does not guarantee this success, as posturing as Napoleon is not the same as to be Napoleon.

Obama's European tour was supposed to alleviate Transatlantic tensions, imposing a new balance of relations. However, recent public expression of disappointment in Washington's policy, originating from Paris and even from Tbilisi, reveals that the trip has not brought a long-term effect. Obama's reference to the Russian "aggression" could be thus seen as not more than a surrogate for a non-existing new determination of the North Atlantic Alliance.

A witty Nicolas Sarkozy mentioned in Rohan that the oncoming elections in Afghanistan are going to become "the major test for NATO". Meanwhile, it is far harder to perform a séance of psychological suggestion before the Talibs (Arab. disciples) in Kandahar than before students in Strasbourg. The failure of this test is going to be immediately used by Paris for elevating France's role in NATO and in the Western community.

Meanwhile, the argument that Europe is a more likely target for the fabulous Al Qaeda than the United States can be taken for granted by well-to-do students but not by their poor coevals from the outskirts of Paris. Obama's tour has demonstrated that the mass of protesters does not react to the American smile. The resource of protest is presently ill-organized and therefore weak Ц but only while the celebrated "smart power strategy" is not yet confronted with an adequate "counter-strategy".


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