Will change-of-guard in Moscow soften Russia’s stand on US radar base?
The world media descended upon Moscow on Wednesday where Dmitry Medvedev was sworn in as Russia’s third president since the collapse of the Soviet Union. His predecessor, Vladimir Putin will become prime minister and is expected to retain a tight grip on the political scene. The change-of-guard comes at a time of heightened friction over Washington’s missile defense plans for Central Europe and has raised questions regarding Moscow’s future foreign policy. Daniela Lazarova spoke to Oldřich Bureš, an expert on Czech-Russian relations about the possible impact of these changes.
The change-of-guard comes at a time of heightened friction over Washington’s missile defense plans for Central Europe. It has caused friction between Prague and Moscow, how would you characterize relations at the present time and do you see any potential change there?
Would you say that Czech-Russian relations are at an all-time low over the radar?
“They are certainly frosty when it comes to security issues and especially the US missile defense plan has generated a lot of tension. Of course, one must ask oneself to what extent this may have been a message to Russian voters –in order to smooth the transition from Mr. Putin to Mr. Medvedev and to what extent it could be something that Russia will pursue as a long-term policy goal. But at the end of the day, I think that the Czech Republic simply needs to treat this either as a bilateral issue with the US or as a broader NATO issue and not to worry about Russia too much.”
“I was a little surprised, not by what Mr. Gorbachov had to say, but by the choice of rhetoric. What he said was basically in line with what all Russian politicians have been saying for some time – but given Mr. Gorbachov’s former position I was surprised that he was so strongly opposed to the missile defense plans.”
The strong rhetoric that we have heard from the Kremlin – is that mainly for the sake of the locals or do you think Moscow could get serious and exchange words for actions?
“My interpretation is that it was primarily intended for domestic consumption but ultimately I think that all that Russia needs or wants is a little more pampering from both the EU and NATO and, most importantly, from the US.”