MT: UN, G20 but No Dissidents During Medvedev's U.S. Trip
22 September 2009
By Nikolaus von Twickel
President Dmitry Medvedev will address the UN General Assembly on reforms to international relations, discuss how to end the crisis with leaders of the world’s leading 20 economies, and sit down with heads of state during a visit to the United States this week.
But Medvedev should remember that his country is nowhere near to being the superpower of Soviet days and lags far behind other countries in terms of importance on global financial markets, analysts said Monday.
On a related matter, a Kremlin spokesman said Monday that the president had to cancel a planned meeting with U.S. dissidents because of time constraints.
“Sadly, it was simply impossible to set up such an event within the president’s tight schedule here,” Kremlin spokesman Alexei Pavlov told The Moscow Times by telephone from New York.
Medvedev caused a minor stir last week when he told Western experts on Russia in the Valdai Club that he wanted to speak to dissidents during his U.S. trip.
“Let them tell me what problems the United States has,” he said, in an apparent dig at the habit of visiting U.S. officials to meet with the opposition in Moscow.
In his address to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Medvedev will stress Moscow’s views on how to make the system of international relations more fair and balanced, the Kremlin said in an e-mailed statement.
Medvedev has made reforming Europe’s security architecture one of the major themes of his presidency, reflecting the Kremlin’s dislike of NATO’s expansion to include former Soviet bloc countries.
He also recently assailed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for addressing “nonessential issues,” in line with Moscow’s frustration at the organization’s frequent criticism in its role as a human rights and democracy watchdog.
Medvedev will attend a UN Security Council meeting Thursday that will focus on Iran and the nonproliferation of nuclear missiles.
The event is seen as a crucial test for U.S. President Barack Obama, who will for the first time in his presidency chair a Security Council meeting and who has threatened harsher sanctions for Tehran if it does not accept good-faith talks by next week. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ruled out UN sanctions against Iran last week.
The Obama administration’s decision to scrap the missile defense shield in Central Europe has been widely seen as a signal to the Kremlin to offer concessions on the Iran issue, and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Moscow on Friday to help put diplomatic pressure on Iran not to develop nuclear weapons.
Medvedev has offered nothing concrete so far, merely saying Tuesday that it was not only the West that was concerned about Iran.
In New York, Medvedev is expected to hold one-on-one talks with Obama. He will hold separate meetings with Chinese leader Hu Jintao, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Japan’s new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, the Kremlin said. It did not say which of the meetings would take place in Pittsburgh and New York.
While Russia’s permanent seat and veto in the Security Council might give it the comfortable feeling of being a great power, the ensuing Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh might prove more sobering, analysts said.
In outlining Russia’s goals for the summit last week, Kremlin economic aide Arkady Dvorkovich said Moscow primarily hoped to push for the reform of global financial institutions, including more clout for developing countries in organizations like the International Monetary Fund. Medvedev echoed this when he said during a visit to Switzerland on Monday that the G20 should speed up its work on reaching globally binding agreements on financial market regulation, Bloomberg reported.
Dvorkovich suggested that Medvedev would take a constructive line at the G20 summit, saying the gathering must focus on implementing previously agreed bailout measures and should not be burdened with a lengthy new to-do list.
He also downplayed Medvedev’s statement on Sept. 14 that “one country’s ill-conceived financial policies” were to blame for the crisis, a thinly veiled jab at the United States. Dvorkovich stressed that Medvedev has also noted that Russia’s own shortcomings had worsened the domestic meltdown.
Dvorkovich also said discussions of a new world reserve currency to replace the dollar, once a key Kremlin initiative, would not be high on the summit agenda.
Analysts said Medvedev would have to take a back seat in Pittsburgh after Russia’s attempts to carve out a role as spokesman for developing economies went nowhere. “Russia will again be an audience participant rather than a key player,” said Chris Weafer, chief strategist with UralSib.
Weafer said the crisis has starkly revealed just how far behind Russia is in terms of importance on global financial markets.
“Russia is the world’s biggest energy supplier and a major military power, but that has not yet translated into global financial muscle. We are still very far from that,” he said.
Hans-Henning Schröder, an analyst with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, said Russia was just a middle power economically, politically and militarily.
“Politically, they are on par with, say, Italy, but many in Moscow have problems accepting that,” he said by telephone from Berlin.
According to World Bank data, the country’s GDP per capita stood at just $9,620 in 2008, at No. 75, below Mexico and above Chile. In contrast, the United States is in 14th place with $47,580.
GDP is set to plummet by 8 percent this year, and analysts estimate that the country needs up to $2 trillion to renovate its dangerously outdated infrastructure.
Schröder said that despite being a nuclear power, Russia lacks the military potential to project power outside its own region. He said Obama had been “very polite” to Medvedev during his visit to Moscow this summer and that, despite denials from the Pentagon, the scrapping of the missile defense plan was a major concession.
“Washington and Europe are now waiting eagerly for Moscow to make a move in their direction,” he said.
SEPTEMBER 22, 2009