Putin also believes that he has a remaining debt to collect from Obama. In the much-debated “reset” in relations, in Moscow’s view, Russia has agreed to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, helped the United States maintain a supply route to Afghanistan, and cooperated on Iran’s nuclear program. The United States has helped Russia join the World Trade Organization — although from the Russian point of view, that may help American businesses more than Russian ones. But otherwise, in Putin’s telling, the United States hasn’t kept up its end of the bargain, not on missile defense or on the Middle East. And that debt would presumably become uncollectable with a Romney victory.
At a conference Saturday in the Black Sea resort of Yalta, Russian officials were eager to take shots at the GOP candidate. Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said a Romney win could launch a new arms race. “We may have to enlarge the defense budget,” he said — although big increases are already planned.
German Gref, the head of Sberbank, asked, according to the Interfax news agency, “How is it possible to cooperate when the prospective leader tags a country as an adversary?”
Fyodor Lukyanov, a foreign policy expert with a good understanding of the Kremlin’s position, argued in a recent essay that Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) as his running mate created a slate with no foreign policy experience. Even for a country with little interest in the world it dominates, he wrote, this is an alarming development.
In the latest Transatlantic Trends poll, a sampling of European and American public opinion that was conducted by the German Marshall Fund, 38 percent of Russians said they approved of Obama’s handling of relations with Russia and of the way he deals with the fight against international terrorism. Fewer supported him on Afghanistan and Iran. Overall, 36 percent of Russians had a favorable view of Obama; 59 percent said they had no opinion about Romney, or declined to answer. Asked whom they would vote for if they could, 27 percent of Russians chose Obama, as opposed to 12 percent who opted for Romney. (In France, the split was 89 percent to 2 percent.)
Nineteen percent of Russians said that American leadership in world affairs is desirable.