Presidents Barack Obama and Dimitry Medvedev at their first meeting on April 1, 2009 in London, UK
There is no shortage of solicited and unsolicited advisors and pieces of advice for the upcoming Obama-Medvedev summit this week in Moscow. Some of the advice is pretty reasonable; for the most part it is best ignored. One's first instinct is to stay away from this cacophony and try to moderate one's expectations so as not to be hugely disappointed later.
However, the temptation to weigh in with one's particular advice is very high. Since both Obama and Medvedev are Internet users one does not have to send a letter to the White House or the Kremlin and wait for the routine answer from some clerk. Chances are that both or at least one of them will surf the Net on the eve of the summit and pay attention to some of the items.
While President Reagan was strongly anti-Soviet, he was not anti-Russian like many of those who would seek to claim his legacy
My message to Obama is very simple and straightforward. Some people compare him to John Kennedy. This is fine, Kennedy was definitely a remarkable figure -- but why not try to raise the sights to the level of Ronald Reagan? Why not finish the job that Reagan started but his followers squandered away? Reagan wanted to confine Communism to the garbage dump of history, but at the same time he dreamed of making a liberated Russia an integral part of the West.
The two young leaders will do well to remember the feat performed by their predecessors Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev: they ended the Cold War. Obama and Medvedev must be well aware that if it had not been for "Ronny and Gorby," the Cold War would not have ended the way it did. The U.S.-Soviet confrontation could have extended well into 21st century, and the nuclear option could not have been ruled out. However, the overlapping visions of Reagan and Gorbachev ensured that the collapse of communism was relatively bloodless. These visions met with resistance from an array of forces, but both leaders succeeded despite trenchant opposition of their hawkish advisors.
Unfortunately, the collapse of Communism was not followed by what should have been a logical continuation of the process: Russia's integration in the West. George Bush Sr. administration's talk of transition to a new security paradigm "from Vancouver to Vladivostok" turned out to be just that: talk. Empty rhetoric.
Still, it is encouraging that this idea is not quite dead yet, and 20 years on there are some indications of it entering the reviving mode. President Medvedev's repeated calls for a new European security architecture is a step in the right direction. However, the terms should be changed as soon as possible: America should be added to the equation, and the goal should be Euro-Atlantic, not just European security.
Perhaps Medvedev's original idea was to win European hearts and minds and diminish America's influence on the European continent. If this was the case, it was pretty naive. Europe and America sometime see things differently, but when push comes to shove, they are definitely together, with or without Russia.
Building a Euro-Atlantic security architecture is obviously not an easy job, but I am sure there are enough bright minds in the American, European and Russian military establishments who can handle it. If Obama and Medvedev can at least agree that Euro-Atlantic security is the logical way to go, then they can definitely claim success for the summit -- and we would wholeheartedly agree.
Edward Lozansky is president of American University in Moscow.