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Russia: U.S. Elections Unlikely To Affect Relations

(RFE/RL) U.S. policy toward Russia is likely to change very little even if the Democratic Party gains control of one or both houses of Congress, says the head of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee.

PRAGUE, November 7, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Konstantin Kosachyov, the chairman of the Russian Duma's International Relations Committee, has predicted that there will be few changes in U.S. policy toward Russia regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats control U.S. Congress after today's elections.

He told Radio Mayak on November 6 that, if changes are in store, they mainly will come from Russia itself as it turns farther away from the United States and the West.

MORE: Coverage of this topic in Russian from RFE/RL's Russian Service.

Pros And Cons

Most Russian analysts believe that the Democrats gaining control of one or both houses of Congress will pose more problems to Russian President Putin's regime, as the Democrat Party tends to concentrate more on human rights, the status of democratic institutions, and other issues that are unpleasant to the Kremlin.

Clashes between a Congress controlled by Democrats and a White House controlled by Republicans could be "comfortable for Russia."

Traditionally, Soviet and Russian leaders prefer to deal with Republicans, considering them more straightforward and pragmatic. However, Kosachyov told Radio Mayak that this rule of thumb is not universal, as in many cases -- for example, on the issue of North Korea's nuclear program -- the position of U.S. Democrats is much closer to Russia’s.

Kosachyov also said that as far as U.S. foreign policy toward Russia is concerned, there is more or less a consensus between the Republican and Democrat parties. He said he could not say which parties' politicians are more critical of Russia.

Little Difference

Relations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart, George W. Bush, have become increasingly strained (CTK)

Therefore, he said, even if the Democrats gain control of Congress, any changes in policy toward Russia would primarily be symbolic. If the elections leave the Democrats with control of Congress, Kosachyov said, Russia will probably lose any hope of joining the World Trade Organization anytime soon. True, Russia itself does not show too much eagerness to join the organization.

Kosachyov also said that potential conflict between a Congress controlled by Democrats and a White House controlled by Republicans could even be "comfortable for Russia."

Still, there are areas -- such as combating international terrorism and the in the resolution of regional conflicts -- in which bilateral cooperation is indispensable, and U.S. politicians will look for compromises regardless of their party affiliation.

Evolving Political World

Finally, in line with the Kremlin's new, assertive policy, Kosachyov stressed that the main change will not come from the U.S. side, but from Russia itself as the international political environment evolves. Russia, he said, is getting stronger and a continuation of the relationship the two countries had in the 1990s is impossible.

Kosachyov is right. Russia's attitude to the United States has changed dramatically since the periods in the 1990s during which Democrats held power in the United States at the same time Russian liberals were steering the Kremlin's political course.

Today, Russia has not only stopped looking at the United States, and the West in general, as the model for its own development, but is turning away from it.

Instead, in looking toward its future, Russia is reawakening the demons of its imperial past.

That is why Republicans and Democrats alike are watching with rising concern the political processes inside Russia and how the Kremlin is using its growing political and economic clout to pressure its neighbors and to suppress democratic institutions within its own borders. This also explains the Republicans and Democrats' newfound consensus on Russia.

RFE/RL Russia Report

RFE/RL Russia Report

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