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The U.S. Election -- Views From RFE/RL's Region


It's only U.S. citizens who'll be casting votes this week to choose a successor to President George W. Bush.

But the rest of the world will be watching with avid interest to see if voters elect Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama, the first African-American nominee from a major party.

As the United States heads into the November 4 election, RFE/RL asked analysts from Iran to Moldova what the vote might mean for their countries.

Iran

Political scientist Sadegh Zibakalam of the University of Tehran:

Sadegh Zibakalam

"If Mr. Obama is elected, depending on reactions from Iran towards possible U.S. flexibility on negotiating with Iran, we may observe certain changes in Iran-U.S. relations. Obviously both sides will move very cautiously but, overall, I don't think the situation will be worse than what it is now.

"If Mr. McCain is elected, we will probably observe a sort of continuation of the last two terms of President Bush. That means, for example, pressure on Iran on the nuclear issue will rise and more sanctions will be applied."

Iraq

Analyst Omar al-Mashhadani:

"I think U.S. foreign policy remains consistent irrespective of who may be the White House resident. What we have is a state run by institutions rather than a personalized administration. It is neither George Bush nor Obama or McCain but strategic and organizational institutions that run the country, especially in foreign policy. As for Iraq's interests and what may be harmful or favorable to these interests, there is no doubt that U.S. interests are above all else regardless of the nominees' or the president's position, which is quite appropriate.

"I think that even statements made by Obama about withdrawal from Iraq [to withdraw troops within 16 months of taking office] are meant for the media and it will be different once he sits in the Oval Office. The security pact being talked about these days [under which U.S. troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011] is a case in point. The coming administration will be bound by this agreement. Neither Obama nor anyone else can change what George Bush has signed."

Russia

Economist Mikhail Delyagin:
Mikhael Delyagin

"With any president the U.S. president will no longer be a 'lame duck.' America will show its elbows, it will pursue an active policy, which has been forgotten about. The United States will return to the direct struggle for global leadership. And for us it will be quite a significant problem for the ideology under which Russia has been getting back on its feet.

"Whatever happens, Pakistan will be chaotic and there will be destabilization of the world order in general. Whatever happens, there will be opposition between China and the United States, in which Russia will have to find an intermediate position. We will have to lead or at least become members of a new nonaligned movement, in order to be friends with both parties. But making friends with the two rival parties will require quite a bit of skill and great energy, which we still, unfortunately, do not have."

Kazakhstan

Independent political analyst Aydos Sarym:

"There are mistaken assumptions among [the Kazakh] authorities that if Obama wins then it will be easier for the Kazakh government and if McCain wins then it will be tough for the Kazakh government. But all of these assumptions are wrong. They are simply mere words. The United States is a country where the government has been implementing a consistent foreign policy, and it does not matter if the Democrats or the Republicans come to power. As far as human rights and democracy are concerned, I think that it would not be easy for our regime in any case."

Tajikistan

Political analyst Abdughaffori Kamol:

"For many years, power in the United States has changed between Democrats and Republicans. But except for some domestic economic problems or other domestic problems, in foreign policy they have pursued the same strategy. Two years ago George Bush said that the policies of the United States were determined 25-30 years ago and that the administration is only implementing them. Therefore I don't think that for example Barack Obama will introduce some changes in relations with such a small country as Tajikistan. The current political policy of the United States will be continued [after the presidential election.]

"They could make only very small changes in the field of investment, like to increase or decrease its level, and that's all. But if we take into consideration that Barack Obama supports the policy of increasing the level of troops in Afghanistan with the aim of destroying the nest of terrorism and eradicating drug cultivation in that country, if we look from that point, I think they could give more attention to Tajikistan and the security measures in Afghanistan would be strengthened."

Armenia

Analyst Richard Giragosian:

"The U.S. presidential election is widely interpreted as a turning point in U.S. foreign policy. This contest, in many ways more than any U.S. election in many years, promises to usher in a significantly new period of challenges and choices for America, no matter who becomes the next U.S. president. After eight years of the Bush administration, the next president faces a difficult inheritance -- a massive deficit, a serious financial crisis, and lingering problems in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Richard Giragosian

"In this way, no matter who wins the election, it is clear that the new leader will have to embark on a serious course correction simply to contain the damage already inflicted on U.S. power and credibility. While such a shift in U.S. foreign policy will include a broad reassessment in all areas, U.S. policy regarding the South Caucasus will also need to address the recent reassertion of Russian power and influence, a trend that has only been reinforced by the aftermath of the Georgian conflict this past August. From a narrower perspective, however, the post-Georgia shift in the regional landscape will necessitate a modification of U.S. policy toward Armenia, based on a new recognition that domestic politics and economics matter much more than the grander context of geopolitics.

"And for the incoming U.S. administration, the case of Armenia will pose a new challenge between more aggressively pressuring the embattled Armenian leadership, which is also seriously hobbled by a lack of legitimacy, and the more traditional emphasis on gradual, evolutionary change. Yet the imperative for the United States is to no longer remain silent or timid in the face of unacceptable deficiencies in democracy in countries like Armenia or even Azerbaijan, especially because the real key to lasting stability in these countries lies in holding their leaders more accountable to their own people and to meeting international standards and norms."

Ukraine

Oleh Bilorus, chairman of parliament's Foreign Policy Committee and a former Ambassador to Washington:

"We expect that the United States, as a superpower, the global leader, will influence other countries, including those that refrained from supporting a MAP [NATO Membership Action Plan] for Ukraine. There is no doubt that the United States supports Ukraine, but there is Germany, and other countries that have doubts. I think that in December this issue will be reconsidered. After [NATO's April summit in] Bucharest there is no choice but to offer Ukraine a MAP."
Oleh Bilorus


Moldova

Communist Vladimir Turcan, leader of parliament's Judicial Committee:

"U.S. foreign policy is very stable so I do not think that elections will bring any fundamental changes. We hope that the United States will continue to treat us and our position in a fair way; the same attitude we expect from Russia. including in the Transdniester problem [Moldova's Russian-speaking breakaway region]. We've already said that by now this conflict is a regional one, it is even a conflict at the crossroads of geopolitical interests."

Oleg Serebria, an opposition leader in parliament:

"A victory for Republican McCain will put the countries in our region in a better position because McCain knows very well the problem of the Black Sea region, he has a very well defined and strict position toward Russia and its policy in the Black Sea region and generally in Southeast Europe. I think Obama will have different priorities in foreign policy, Southeast Europe will not be part of it; he already signaled that his policy towards Russia will be more conciliatory and that one of his priorities will be North-South, not East-West, relations; as a consequence our country might be put aside."
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