Obama, Medvedev and the Big Chill

Obama, Medvedev and the Big Chill

Amidst all the global celebration regarding the election of Barack Obama there is stark news that Moscow is emerging as a serious resurgent threat to the United States. Within hours of Obama’s election Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the redeployment of missiles on the Polish border. A few United States papers are covering the story, but this report offers the fullest picture:

The President failed to congratulate Mr Obama or even to mention him by name during the 85-minute address televised live across Russia.

In a criticism directed at the US, Mr Medvedev said: “Mechanisms must be created to block mistaken, egotistical and sometimes simply dangerous decisions of certain members of the international community.” He accused the West of seeking to encircle Russia and blamed the US for encouraging Georgia’s “barbaric aggression” in the war over South Ossetia in August. He also gave warning that Russia would “not back down in the Caucasus”.

“The August crisis only accelerated the arrival of the crucial moment of truth. We proved, including to those who had been sponsoring the current regime in Georgia, that we are strong enough to defend our citizens and that we can indeed defend our national interests,” Mr Medvedev said.

“What we’ve had to deal with in the last few years – the construction of a global missile defence system, the encirclement of Russia by military blocs, unrestrained Nato enlargement and other gifts . . . The impression is we are being tested to the limit.” The outgoing President Bush insists that the missile shield is aimed at rogue states such as Iran, but the plan has infuriated Moscow, which argues that it threatens Russia’s security.

Mr Medvedev said that Russia had been forced to cancel its plans to withdraw the intercontinental ballistic missiles, which have a range of 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometres). He said: “We want to act together. But they, unfortunately, don’t want to listen to us.”

Mr Medvedev blamed the US for the global financial crisis, saying that the rest of the world had been “dragged down with it into recession”. He said that the era of American dominance after the collapse of the Soviet Union was over. “The world cannot be ruled from one capital. Those who do not want to understand this will only create new problems for themselves and others,” he said.

I spoke with a career State Department official who just retired and his words were ominous. “I know these bastards and they remind me exactly of my early years at State.” I fear that Russia will be as serious a threat to the Obama Administration as Iran or Islamic terrorism. Welcome to the Big Chill.

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I watched Obama’s Friday press conference.  In answer to the question about his reaction to Iran’s friendly congratulations for his victory, Obama’s comments were surprisingly stark for a man otherwise committed to open dialog.  But remembering that he’d just gotten his first security briefing and access to information he did not have in the campaign, I started reading between the lines of his response.  The conclusion I’ve drawn is that the US has intelligence that Iran is still on path to acquiring nuclear technology, and that it’s doing so with the direct support of another nation.  Likely culprit: Russia, whose economy appears to be dependent on oil trading at around $70/barrel, which it’s not been doing lately.


I note you’ve cited The Australian as a source.

I’m always amazed at how the reports of Russian actions differ between Western sources and those, say, at Johnson’s Russia List.

While neither is impartial, it would seem The Australian has here fixed upon one aspect of the address when the bulk of it was benign, or even, as one Western Diplomat has suggested, ‘encouraging’.


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Hopeful Law School Student
Hopeful Law School Student

Dear Professor Alford: Your comments are disappointing. The assessment you are endorsing fails to offer the purported “fullest picture.” The Big Chill you are referring to is a product of the Cold-War style anti-Russian paranoia generated by journalists who are too lazy to get the facts but eager to stir emotion. How dated. Below are some lawschool-style questions that may lead you to a different conclusion. If you answer all the questions and still find this assessment complete– you win. 1) Who was Medvedev addressing in this speech that you are referring to and was it intended for the foreign audience? 2) Did Medvedev fail to congratulate Obama on other occasions, such as in a telegram addressed to the President-elect? 3) What is your assessment of the fact that the West scrutinized Russia’s actions in the Caucasus but turned a blind eye on the independent evidence showing that Georgian government committed ethnically-motivated war crimes against South Ossetians? NYT, front page: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/07/world/europe/07georgia.html 4) Do you think the international community is guilt-free in failing to prevent or stop the conflict on its first day? Would you prefer the Rwanda scenario? 5) Why are you assuming that the United States is entitled to… Read more »


Dear Roger,
Russia is always stark in words. It’s their style: try to scare someone and to blame everyone else for misdeeds except themselves.
However, in this case Medvedevs threats are rubish. They announced that the plans for Iskander short-medium range missiles is 2015. Why so late? Because they don’t have those planned “Iskanders” right now. With the looming economic downfall this might be even more delayed.

But what is most striking, it is their arguments against AMS. They fully agree that AMS poses no threat for Russia. However, in the case if USA will strike the first nuclear blow (!), AMS might be an obstacle to responde and might intercept “responding” missiles. Probably only “Hopeful Law School Student” who outlined russian position crystal clear (perhaps, it’s his job on internet?) might explain this sort of “argument”.