Monday, March 22, 2010

The Quotes That Didn't Make It

Simon Shuster gives us a view of how sausages - er - magazine articles are made. Here's the final product, and here are some of the quotes (not full transcripts, which accounts for some lack of continuity) that didn't make it.

The thing about raw quotes is that there's a number of ways to interpret them. I disagree, for example with Shuster's takeaway:
What’s really striking in these interviews is how the two sides are so completely at cross-purposes in the ex-Soviet Union, and how Obama’s views as expressed by the official begin to look naive or even hopeless when juxtaposed with what the Russian government wants.
The quotes are from an anonymous senior US administration official, a conservative Russian member of parliament, and the Russian envoy to NATO. A bit of a strange mix, but when you're working under deadline, you go with what you've got.

To juxtapose the roles, it's a bit like taking quotes from Eric Cantor (R, VA) on the political side, or perhaps Zbigniew Brzezinski on the analyst side, and Rahm Emanuel versus someone in the Russian Foreign ministry. What this does (and perhaps was Shuster's purpose) is illuminate the internal divisions on one side versus the official view on the other. So yes, what the senior administration official has to say is a bit flat, but there's naivety and hopelessness in the Russian quotes too.

Sergei Markov, the parliamentarian, has some of his facts wrong (is this a conservative disease?) and is naive to think that spheres of influence are going to persist in today's world. It's interesting, though, that he is willing to see Russia as a regional, rather than world, power, although this may simply be code for his desire to go back to a system of spheres of influence.

Both Markov and Sergei Rogozov cede initiative to the United States, Markov insisting that Washington can decide Russia's status and Rogozov, that because the US is stronger, it must offer something. It's not clear what that something is.

The final article seems to take these two viewpoints as the only ones typical of Russia, but that's unlikely to be the case. And everyone likes a nice wrapup for the end, but (as usual for Time) the case seems to be more complicated there, too. The bluster that greeted Hillary Clinton in Moscow may well be the internally-required price of a START treaty. I guess I'll wait until I see what the treaty says.

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