Russia Prefers Obama Administration

The Georgia conflict has reduced hopes that a Barack Obama presidency could help mend U.S.-Russian ties, but the Democratic candidate would still be a better partner for Moscow than his Republican rival, John McCain, a senior lawmaker said.

Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the State Duma's International Affairs Committee, said the fact that Obama's stance on Russia has moved closer to that of McCain's since the war with Georgia would complicate relations with the next U.S. administration.

"Both Obama and McCain took a very hard stance … and this will certainly be an abiding factor for developing ties with Russia for any winner of this race," Kosachyov said in an interview last week at his office in the Duma.

Both candidates assailed Russia in their debate last Tuesday, with Obama saying Moscow had engaged in "evil" behavior in the war with Georgia over South Ossetia and McCain saying Russia was "maybe" an evil empire.

Kosachyov, also a senior official in the pro-Kremlin party United Russia, said that before the latest deterioration of U.S.-Russian ties, driven by events in the Caucasus, he was convinced that Obama would be the better partner for the Kremlin.

This conclusion had more to do with the candidates' biographies than their respective parties, Kosachyov said. There is "no big difference" between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to international relations, he said.

Obama's lack of foreign policy experience might actually be an advantage, Kosachyov said. McCain's political career began during the Cold War, while Obama was free of such a historical mindset and could take a fresh approach at rebuilding U.S.-Russian ties, he said.

"As a politician, McCain's formative years were during the standoff with the Soviet threat," Kosachyov said. "He still does not see a substantial difference between the Soviet Union and modern Russia."

Both McCain and Obama have repeatedly said they have no desire for a new Cold War.

Kosachyov also said Obama's softer stance on the planned U.S. missile-defense system in Eastern Europe makes him Russia's preferred candidate.

The key problem in U.S.-Russian relations is the absence of any real business interests, which act as an "insurance policy" in international relations, Kosachyov said. "In the United States, nobody is afraid of destroying ties with Russia," he said.

Russian-British relations have also come under increasing strain in recent years, though top officials in both countries have highlighted their burgeoning trade ties as an example that countries can do business despite political disputes.

Kosachyov praised the country's relations with European countries such as Germany and France, with which Russia has deeper business ties than the United States.

Moscow, however, will work with whoever wins the Nov. 4 U.S. presidential election, Kosachyov said. Both candidates need "to understand that it is necessary to work with Russia," he said.