Friday, July 17, 2009

Simple racial hatred the reason for the no-handshake snub?

As Obama returned from Russia many news outlets touted the visit as a positive step with concrete outcomes.

U.S.-Russia summit called 'groundbreaking'
A recent U.S.-Russia summit was "groundbreaking" for relations between the former Cold War adversaries, a senior Russian diplomat said Thursday. The two sides "have managed to stop the degradation of our relations," Russian Foreign Ministry representative Andrei Nesterenko said in comments televised in Moscow.

President Obama in Moscow
Obama deserves a solid ‘A’ for his Moscow trip.

But then photos and videos and other reports started coming out from other media... and people (including myself) wondered what the real story is.

What not to say in Moscow
Obama’s reception in the country this week was, well, chilly. No screaming crowds. No glaring headlines. Icy resentment at the traffic jams his motorcade produced. Perhaps, Russians and Russianists who spoke to the American press speculated, it’s because Obama’s hosts are skeptical of politicians or the sincerity of powerful people who profess to hold high ideals.

Then the other day I posted a video of the Russian mucky mucks refusing to shake hands with Obama and mused about the reasons for the diplomatic snub.

A commenter informed me of the deep racial hatreds in Russia and told me of the violence against blacks in that country. After some digging I found this contention confirmed through media reporting, though it is not widespread reporting, much to our shame.

Reuters: Obama to visit Russia, where minorities live in fear
When U.S. President Barack Obama flies into Russia on Monday for talks at the Kremlin, he will be visiting a country where anti-migrant sentiment means blacks and other minorities must live low-profile lives to avoid danger.

For Russian Blacks, Obama Visit Stirs Special Interest
[F] for Russians of African descent, in particular, the new U.S. leader is a potent symbol of triumph over the same challenges they themselves face in a country where dark-skinned people remain rare and often unwelcome.

So I am left to add to the list of possible reasons for the snub, in addition my musings of diplomatic machinations and shadowy summit meanderings, the simple but monstrous possibility of simple racial hatred. And if that is the reason Russian diplomat after Russian diplomat refused to shake hands with Obama in the welcome line, I truly sympathize with this man.


Anonymous said...

As an American journalist in Russia I'd like to add to your thoughts. Russia racist? To some degree, yes.

However Russians are reasonable people and were aghast that an American president would fly in with a several hundred person staff in addition to security staff. Russians do know how to cook so why the American prez would bring his own chef, why the wife and children traveled along (not done in European diplomatic circles) and other over the top demonstrations of disregard for their Russian hosts.

When Ronald Reagan came he asked permission to bring his wife, granted. When George HW Bush and Bill Clinton traveled, they did so not as assumptive kings, but as grateful guests.

Mr. Obama still has a lot to learn about diplomacy and at this point the Russians doubt he'll ever master the art.

Anonymous said...

Just looked at this carefully and realized it is not a snub at all. Prez Medvedev first brought Mr. Obama into a room and used his hand to gesture to his staff who shook Mr. Obama's hand. When they moved to a room with a large conference table, Obama's staff was waiting. Obama then used his hand to gesture to his staff who shook Medvedev's hand. There was no snub.

Elizabeth Prata said...

Thank you for your comment and your perspective.