Telegram For Obama, No Mention
Published: November 7, 2008 (Issue # 1423)
MOSCOW — President Dmitry Medvedev appeared in no hurry Wednesday to congratulate Barack Obama on his victory in the U.S. presidential election, sending the senator a telegram after eschewing an opportunity to acknowledge the win in his state-of-the-nation address.
“I hope for a constructive dialogue with you, based on trust and consideration of each other’s interests,” Medvedev said in a plainly worded note sent to Obama and posted on the Kremlin’s web site late Wednesday afternoon.
Despite several references to the new U.S. administration, Medvedev refrained from mentioning Obama in his speech at 12 p.m. — long after it was clear that the Illinois Democrat had won.
The apparent hesitance came despite the fact that Medvedev has said he would prefer that Obama, 47, become the next U.S. president instead of his rival, Arizona’s Republican Senator John McCain, 72.
“It would be easier to work with people with a modern outlook, rather than those whose eyes are turned back to the past,” Medvedev said in February, before he was elected president himself.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday refrained altogether from commenting on Obama’s victory.
Other top Russian officials and politicians were cautious in their predictions of how an Obama administration would affect U.S.-Russian relations, with many predicting changes to U.S. foreign policy but no consensus on their direction or depth.
Still, officials in the Cabinet’s economic bloc welcomed Obama’s win, saying his presidency would be better for the global economy than that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
“The U.S. elections will have a positive effect on the global economy because of the new expectations,” Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told reporters Wednesday.
“Now these expectations are tied to absolutely new principles in politics, which will be directed toward stabilizing the global financial system,” Kudrin said.
Obama’s team of economists will reconsider and refresh the bailout measures being implemented by the Bush administration, he said.
Both Medvedev and Putin have repeatedly blamed the United States for the financial crisis, which has knocked about two-thirds of the value from the country’s stock markets since this summer.
Independent economists have argued that Russian stocks suffered worse than those in other emerging markets because the effects of the global crisis were combined with Putin’s heavy-handedness in the economy and major capital flight after the August war with Georgia.
First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov tied Obama’s victory to a global increase in stock prices Wednesday. “The first reaction of the stock market says that there is hope,” he said.
Russian stocks also jumped in early trading, with the MICEX Index rising more than 13 percent before falling back to close up 1.1 percent (Story, Page 7.)
Medvedev’s top economic adviser, Arkady Dvorkovich, said that under Obama, the United States would engage in a closer dialogue with Europe, Asia and Russia to find a way out of the financial crisis.
“This dialogue will begin in the near future in Washington. We will look for solutions together,” Dvorkovich said, Interfax reported.
Medvedev will travel to Washington on Nov. 15 to attend a summit on the financial crisis. It was not clear Wednesday whether he would meet with Obama during the visit. Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said a meeting was possible.
Obama, he said, must “find courage” to abandon the United States’ unilateral approach to its foreign policy and embrace the idea of collective action.
Kosachyov warned, however, that any change would come slowly because the new president will be influenced by advisers whose vision of Russia differs little from that of the current White House.
The Bush administration has managed to strain ties with Russia more than with any other major country, and Obama’s election “instills hope that a dramatic page in the relations of the two countries will be turned,” Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov said.
Obama’s win will also help soften ties between NATO and Russia, strained by the conflict with Georgia and U.S. plans to build a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe, said Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s envoy to NATO, Interfax reported.
He said Obama’s arrival would also lessen pressure imposed by Washington on its European NATO partners to limit cooperation with Russia.
Alexander Khramchikhin, a defense analyst with the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, said that with Democrats in control of the presidency and Congress, the United States is likely to cut defense spending and will probably lose interest in the planned anti-missile system.
Still, Khramchikhin called for patience to see who Obama picks for key appointments before jumping to any conclusions. The senator has said he would also invite Republicans to work in his White House.