In a recent post, I covered the many about-faces Russia has done concerning its WTO accession in recent years. Things took an interesting turn with Putin proposing that Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan put in a joint bid for WTO membership as a customs inion--something that hasn't been done before. However, Russian Premier Dmitry Medvedev was apparently keener on Russia maintaining a unilateral bid and made little of the idea.
We now have a potentially unique situation in which there is a substantive difference of opinion between Putin and his political protege, often derided as a puppet. For, here Putin goes again bandying a tripartite accession process for his pals in Belarus and Kazakhstan--two central Asian republics that have kept relatively cordial relations with their erstwhile overseers in Moscow. In any event, Putin is taking Obama's goodwill gesture as one to be built upon by making way at the WTO table.
From our other favorite official news agency, RIA-Novosti:
Russia's prime minister said on Friday he expects the United States to back a joint bid by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan to join the WTO after its "brave" decision to scrap missile defense plans for Europe.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Thursday it was dropping plans to deploy elements of a missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland as Iran is perceived a lesser threat.
Moscow, which fiercely opposed the plans as a security threat, welcomed the move as part of efforts to "reset" ties strained by a host of issues under the Bush administration. "I expect that this correct and brave decision will be followed by others, including the complete removal of all restrictions of high technology transfers to Russia and more active efforts to enlarge the World Trade Organization to include Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus," Vladimir Putin said at an investment forum in the Black Sea city of Sochi.
Russia has for years been trying to have the United States lift Cold War-era restrictions on technology exports to the Soviet Union and other Communist-bloc countries. The restrictions have been a major irritant in relations with the United States.
Russia is also the world's only major economy still outside the WTO. President Dmitry Medvedev earlier blamed Washington for blocking its accession in the trade body. Ex-Soviet allies Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan agreed in early June to form a customs bloc and seek joint accession to the WTO.
Is it more posturing or an actual wish that the Yanks will actually consider working towards? I may be mistaken but I really think it's more of the former as the other two countries haven't really shown much engagement with the idea being bandied by Putin. Plus, Russia itself has not really withdrawn its bid. It may even be a coordinated good cop (Putin), bad cop (Medvedev) routine to make Medvedev look better.