The 2012 U.S. presidential election presents a contrast to the 2008 election in terms of their perceptions by the Russian elite.
In 2008, then-President Dmitry Medvedev expressed a desire to work with a “modern” U.S. leader rather than one “whose eyes are turned back to the past.” He was referring to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. But influential Russian elites voiced their support for the Republican candidate, John McCain, despite McCain calling President Vladimir Putin a KGB spy who has no soul and calling to expel Russia from the Group of Eight leading industrial nations.
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Even though McCain was more critical of the Kremlin, some members of Putin’s entourage favored McCain because they believed he was more predictable than Obama. They insisted that Russia was doing well economically, whereas the United States was losing one position in the world after another. Therefore, when confronted with the U.S. threat, Russia might only get stronger and consolidate its status as a great sovereign power. The elite’s main concern is with rebuilding power and geopolitical influence. If McCain were in the White House, the thinking went, Putin would have a convenient anti-Russian bogeyman whom the Kremlin could exploit for domestic political reasons, giving it another pretext to ratchet up its anti-Americanism, increase defense expenditures and crack down on the opposition.
Yet it seems that the Kremlin’s support for U.S. hawks is shifting. In March, Medvedev took issue with U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s characterization of Russia as the “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” He said the view “smelled of Hollywood stereotypes” and suggested that it was rooted in the Cold War.
But it wasn’t only Medvedev and his pro-Western supporters who became critical of the Republican’s views. Although President Vladimir Putin recently thanked Romney for his openness regarding the “No.1 foe” comment, he also indicated that it would be hard for the Kremlin to work with Romney as president, especially on sensitive security issues such as the missile defense system. During Putin’s interview with RT state television, he also called Obama an “honest man who really wants to change much for the better.” This comment was widely viewed as Putin’s most direct endorsement of Obama in the presidential race.
Read More at themoscowtimes.com. By Andrei Tsygankov.