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July 2, 2009, at 8:42 pm — Blogs /


CNN posted a bit of rather cynical commentary by Paul Starobin on Obama’s potential challenges with Russia on his trip there in the coming weeks. Mr. Starobin says “But if Obama, more ambitiously, hopes to win over the hearts of the Russian people — along the lines of his recent Cairo address, pitched over the heads of the governments of the Islamic world and straight at their citizenry — he can expect to leave disappointed.”

Such a cynical view is why our international and even domestic relations never improve with great speed. That great distrust. The xeno-phobic relationship we all have with anyone who is not literally us.

Mr. Starobin paints a rather gloomy picture of the Russian people. He says of these people : “For Russians, life tends to be lived in the bittersweet key of tragedy.” And though I doubt anyone looking at Russian history would argue that it isn’t one wrought with tragedy and tension – but he almost seems to argue that they like it. Although he does say that they are not “gloomy pessimists”. Either way his portrait of a gloomy Russian shivering in the cold with a shot of vodka is rather 1980’s of him. The world has changed Mr. Starobin.

Mr. Starobin, and to his credit many others, seem to share the gloom he paints the Russian people in and perhaps has his lens set with a permanent Cold War filter attached. One thing most in the media and the like are missing is that technology has changed the world – in spite of the world’s leaders. The Iranians are not suffering in silence – we hear their cries in every Tweet and YouTube Video despite the silliness of the technology’s name. The Russian people have for the last nearly twenty years gotten to know the west and vice versa – and it’s accelerated now with the internet. We are no longer strangers to each other.

It is unfair to act as if Russians all look at the world with a singular view just as it is unfair to think all Americans shared the vision of former Pres. Bush. It simply is not so – we are far more complex creatures than that.

And considering the Russian governments’ influence over the media in that country I’m sure many there do not feel they can speak out against the decisions being made. The Russian people have a lot in common with those Iranian protesters.

He is right that the Russian government (the word government was only used once in his writing) would probably like the U.S. out of it’s “neighborhood” and would like an end to our missile defense plans – or part of them. But that has nothing to do with how the Russian people themselves think nor what they want. Russia is not the Soviet Union – despite it’s current leadership’s desires – Russia is a young, very young Democracy.

What Obama can and will most likely do in his trip is plant seeds for future talks and actions with the Russian Government – and if he does a Cairo like speech to the Russian People – he won’t be speaking about territorial lines, oil, the KGB, the Russian Mafia nor the missile defense – he will speak of freedom and the common chord we all share – the desire to speak our minds and follow our hearts.

That grand universal right to freedom.


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