Russia and the Middle East
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Black PR in U.S. Congress

21.02.2005
Every time high-level U.S.-Russian negotiations are set to take place whether in the context of the annual G-8 meeting or an official U.S. visit by Putin various individuals, think tanks and lobbying organizations in Washington quickly shift into attack mode, resorting to anti-Russian smear tactics to earn political points for their clients and, simultaneously, enrich themselves
handsomely.
During previous summits, Berezovsky took out full-page ads impugning Putin in the worlds leading dailies. Some Washington think tanks, not least ones receiving generous financial support from Yukos, organized round table
discussions, inviting leading Kremlinologists who branded Russia as a nation quickly headed toward totalitarianism.
On the eve of the Bratislava Summit, many lobbyists and PR firms, hired by Putins adversaries, are again bombarding Western media with articles painting a dismal picture of Russian reality; and are using their contacts in the U.S.
Congress to organize influential committee hearings. The purpose of such hearings is to pressure congressional members into passing legislation unfavorable for Russia.
And so it was last week, when the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a session of hearings dubbed Democracy in Retreat in Russia. Considering who was
invited (Yukos attorneys and managers dominated), there is little doubt about who organized the event. And while, in the past, witnesses with differing viewpoints have occasionally been asked to testify for the sake of appearances, this time Yukos lobbyists went all out to avoid such irritating mishaps. In other words, Soviet-style democracy was instated, complete with unanimous
condemnation and demands for harsh measures to be taken, including Russias exclusion from the G-8 club.
Hence, after failing to buy political power in Russia, Yukos is now seeking it in America. Accusing Russia of breaking the law and other mortal sins, Yukos representatives went so far as to falsify legal documents to advance their case;
Deutsche Banks attorneys, however, caught them in the act. It will be interesting to see what the judge in Texas makes of this new turn of events.
Fortunately, there are many reasonable people in Congress and other U.S. political institutions who understand from whence the wind blows. In the past, under pressure from the same lobbyists, Representative Tom Lantos and Senator
John McCain with a plug from chess giant Gary Kasparov, sought to push through a resolution calling for Russias exclusion from the G-8, but the attempt failed. And it will fail again, as long as George Bush remains in the White
House.
No matter what the worlds media, including Russias, say about the Texas cowboys lack of stellar qualifications or alleged incompetence, Bush clearly recognizes that Russia under Putin has become one of the most important
countries for the advancement of U.S. geopolitical interests. Both nations share the view that the war on terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation are of utmost
importance. Moreover, only access to Russian energy sources will help the U.S. reduce its dependence on oil from the Middle Easts unstable regimes.
Putins opponents are calling for a return to Cold War-style confrontation, allowing themselves to be guided by myopic, selfish objectives to the detriment of U.S. national interests. However, judging by the signals emanating from the White House, the Bush administration is still following a pragmatic approach, refusing to give in to the anti-Russia lobbys unprecedented attacks.
At the same time, we should point out to a number of troubling developments in Russian foreign policy. The American intelligence community has obtained irrefutable evidence that Iran and Syria have been involved in terrorist
activities in Iraq. In this context, the open demonstration of warm relations and cooperation in nuclear energy and weapons development with such countries is enough to worry even Russias most devoted friends and supporters of
rapprochement with America. Likewise, such developments will do little to counter arguments directed against Russia.
Its clear that by following this policy, Russia is pursuing its economic interests and, at the same time, seeking to recapture lost influence in the Near and Middle East. However, it wouldnt be a bad idea for Kremlin strategists to
determine to what extent such geopolitical competition with America corresponds to its long-term national interests.
As 100 prominent American and Russian experts declared recently in an open letter, the mandates gained in 2004 by presidents Bush and Putin entitle them to set a course for rapprochement, to overcome the objections of the establishment burdened by Cold War complexes and representing special interest groups who are opposed to closer relations with Russia.
We call on both presidents to recognize the historical importance of the upcoming summit in Bratislava. We ask that as a result of the negotiations both sides endorse embarking on a course toward realistic U.S.-Russian military-political strategic partnership as well as mutually beneficial
cooperation in the areas of economics, business, science, ecology, culture and education.
*President of the American University in Moscow

Edward Lozansky*
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