Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
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This week the Kremlin has started experiencing some serious and most unwelcome consequences of being the "informal" leader of the anti-Iraq war coalition and having convened a "summit of losers" (Russia, France and Germany) in St Petersburg on April 11-12. First, Washington quite clearly hinted that it might no longer consider Russia as a member of the so-called G8 club; then Russia found itself tossed overboard from the now trilateral negotiations on the North Korea nuclear issue to be launched in Beijing on April 23.
The latter, as well-informed sources in Moscow report, was considered by the Russian ruling elite as a painful slap in the face. First of all, Moscow believed that as one of the best foreign buddies of North Korea's Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, Russia could count on an honorable place at the negotiating table if Pyongyang finally agreed to multilateral consultations. Moreover, it was keen on playing a leading role in future wider multilateral negotiations focusing on regional and global security concerns over North Korea's violations of the non-proliferation regime, and involving not just China, Russia and Japan, but probably even Australia and the European Union.
Easily as unpleasant a surprise for Putin is the fact that the White House also changed its position and - instead of insisting on not just China, but also Japan, Russia and South Korea at the table - quickly agreed to hold "multilateral talks", but at this stage only with the participation of China.
Unlike the contemporary "Kremlin dreamers" who sit around waiting for someone to come along and finance their Utopian plans to unite the Korean peninsula by building a trans-Korean railroad connected to the trans-Siberian line and modernization of North Korean industries created with assistance of the former Soviet Union, the Americans are realists and pragmatists.
The Bush administration knows very well that because of its economic, military and political might at present, China is the only important independent political player in the Pacific. China is also the only country in the world that renders real economic assistance to the Pyongyang regime and, besides, has a military treaty with North Korea.
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