Salzburg Diary: Cold warriors for McCain

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images What do Russians think about the U.S. electoral campaign? I spoke with two distinguished Russian scholars last night here at the Salzburg seminar I’m attending this week. The first scholar told me that the hardliners and the security establishment are eager to see John McCain in power. He’s more or less ...

595574_080408_mccain2.jpg
595574_080408_mccain2.jpg

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

What do Russians think about the U.S. electoral campaign? I spoke with two distinguished Russian scholars last night here at the Salzburg seminar I'm attending this week.

The first scholar told me that the hardliners and the security establishment are eager to see John McCain in power. He's more or less a known quantity, and his recent statements about ejecting Russia from the G8 will make it easier for them to make the case that the United States seeks to humiliate and corner Russia. A McCain election would be seen as evidence that Americans want to continue George W. Bush's policies, which are generally unpopular in Russia.

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

What do Russians think about the U.S. electoral campaign? I spoke with two distinguished Russian scholars last night here at the Salzburg seminar I’m attending this week.

The first scholar told me that the hardliners and the security establishment are eager to see John McCain in power. He’s more or less a known quantity, and his recent statements about ejecting Russia from the G8 will make it easier for them to make the case that the United States seeks to humiliate and corner Russia. A McCain election would be seen as evidence that Americans want to continue George W. Bush’s policies, which are generally unpopular in Russia.

On the other hand, the scholar said, Republican presidents from Nixon to Ford to Reagan have a much better track record in making overtures to Russia, perhaps because they don’t fear being painted as weak.

Both scholars, who come from the liberal end of the political spectrum in Russia, seemed intrigued by Barack Obama as someone who could offer a “fresh start” in U.S.-Russia relations. They weren’t so comfortable, however, when I told them that Michael McFaul is Obama’s main Russia advisor. McFaul, a past FP contributor, is well known in Russian foreign-policy circles for his harsh criticism of Putin’s democratic credentials.

Clinton would be more predictable, given that her main Russia advisor is Stephen Sestanovich. His 2006 report for the Council on Foreign Relations was read closely in Russian political circles. But Richard Holbrooke, another Clinton advisor and a potential secretary of state, is seen as hostile to Russian interests for his role in the Balkans during the 1990s. When I told them that it’s not inconceviable that Holbrooke would get a top job even under Obama, they weren’t too psyched.

Blake Hounshell is Web Editor of ForeignPolicy.com. He has been blogging this week from the Salzburg Global Seminar session on

Russia: The 2020 Perspective

.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.