By Maria Stoyadinova
Americans aren't the only ones smirking at Sarah Palin's claims of expertise in Russian affairs. The Russians are cracking a smile, too.
The authors of a recent article in the Russian daily newspaper "Izvestia" questioned the dubious logic linking the Alaska's proximity to Russia with Palin's foreign policy know-how. They concluded, rather sarcastically, that the former alone is enough to qualify the Alaskan governor as a global politics 'specialist.' The article further discussed Palin's publicity stunt of visiting the Minneapolis Museum of Russian Art in early September and noted that journalists present at the scene somehow failed to probe her familiarity with Russian artwork.
Another highly unflattering article in the daily Moscow paper "Pravda" was even more scorching in its discussion of the Alaskan governor, calling her "A Mrs. Nobody Know-it-All" and classifying her threats of initiating war with Russia as "the most irresponsible thing anyone could do at this moment in time."
What's worse, journalists aren't the only ones in Russia expressing concerns about Governor Palin's foreign policy credentials. The Moscow Times quoted a statement by Sergei Markov, a representative from the Russian Duma, who called a potential win by the McCain-Palin team in the elections this November a "catastrophe" and referred to the vice-presidential candidate as a "housewife, chosen by mere chance."
In fact, Russians feel so strongly about her that their criticisms have spilled over from foreign policy into other arenas. At the end of last week, the Russian daily newspaper Izvestiya published an article deriding the VP candidate claims of belonging to the American middle class. The article discussed in detail Palin's family financial resources and concluded that the Alaskan governor must have been "modest" when she placed herself as part of the working class. A few days later, the same newspaper published another piece related to Palin's claims that Barack Obama had ties to terrorists. The author commented that the Republican vice presidential candidate had embarked on a personal attack against Obama because she was unable comment on the crucial issues facing America today, like the ongoing financial crisis.
Unsubtle as these comments are, they do point to an important implication for Palin: she needs to back up her claims with facts if she expects to be taken seriously in the U.S. or abroad. Unfortunately, to date the governor has done little to quell concerns. When Katie Couric confronted Palin in what became a proverbial interview, about Palin's claim to understanding Russia, Palin's response was vague and elusive: "We have trade missions back and forth."
That kind of elusiveness, if it continues, will only exacerbate powerful wave of outrage and sarcasm that Alaska's close neighbors--the Russians--have been exhibiting lately.
Maria Stoyadinova is a graduate student in the IR/International Law program at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C. She is a Bulgarian national.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Johns Hopkins University.