U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin exchanged refusals. Putin will not attend NATO Summit in Chicago and Obama will not attend the Summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Partnership in Vladivostok in a couple of months.
What is this? A new start of Russia-U.S. conflict, the end of “restart” policy, or temporary steps dictated by prospects and not the moment?
Putin reasoned his refusal to attend Chicago by forming of the new government. Is this a grounded explanation? Hardly so. But on the other hand, perhaps there are not enough grounds to think that Putin is going to toughen Russia’s policy towards the West and NATO.
It is possible that Putin does not want to leave for Chicago because the situation in Russia is very bad for such a speech.
Still on 4 December 2011, right after the parliamentary elections in Russia, a wave of civil-political protest started in Russia, an unprecedented wave for the Putin’s Russia which still continues. The Russian extra-parliamentary opposition forces are again active, forcing Putin to deploy the Police forces.
For the newly-elected president of Russia, it is perhaps undesirable to appear among Western leaders in case the situation aggravates at home, as they will not miss any opportunity to make hints on Putin’s domestic issues.
Obama’s move is also interesting. We know that Republican Mitt Romney will be Obama’s opponent in the presidential elections. One of the focuses of Romney’s election campaign is a tougher policy on Russia.
This may be the reason of Obama’s refusal to attend the summit in Vladivostok, trying to show during the election campaign that he is not going to flirt with Putin’s Russia. Obama will perhaps try to play down the effect of his rival’s campaign and he will “dialogue” with Putin only after re-election November.
What will Armenia do? The U.S.-Russia or Russia-West relationships are important for Armenia since they are reflected on the relationship of these poles with Armenia. Consequently, Armenia should be ready for any possible development.
In this context, official Yerevan is perhaps trying to choose something intermediate, announcing its orientation towards Europe. Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan’s article in the Russian Vedomosti was about this.
Europe is perhaps the most optimal option which Armenia could choose, pointing out the economic interest and trying to avoid accusations of political orientation which can come from Moscow.
On the other hand, it is clear that the European policy in the South Caucasus is under formation, and Armenia will have to balance Russia with the help of the U.S. for a long time. Moreover, the European policy may not be formed as such, being just a stream of the American policy though there are countries in Europe which are eager to have independent European policy.
Nevertheless, the formation of this policy should arrive to a key haven and it is a question whether it will ever reach it. Consequently, by stating to face Europe, Armenia should certainly think that Europe is just a weak counterbalance to Russia and here the balancing role of the U.S. will be an alternative. Consequently, Armenia should try to set up strategic relations with the United States through economic-political systemic reforms to ensure transformation of Armenia from a “pond” for Russian field to a free field for investments.