Thursday, March 09, 2006

Putin's progress: A new stage of Russo-American relations

Must-read of the day:

At Newsweek, Michael Hirsh asks the question, "What's Putin's Game?" The short answer: "On the most simple level, Kremlin analysts say, he sees himself picking up the pieces of a failed foreign policy led by Bush, whose confrontation with Iraq has come to grief, whose approach to Iran is all but stalemated and whose democracy project in the Mideast has empowered Islamists." But there's more:

Washington tends to interpret Putin’s diplomatic aggressiveness today as evidence of his growing authoritarianism. But Russians like to put it another way: even while the Russian leader continues to have warm feelings for Bush personally, he’s pretty much had it with the U.S. president’s foreign policy. Putin also knows his independence plays well with the Russian populace, and especially the elite hard-line nomenklatura, the military officers and intelligence colleagues who now represent a majority on many issues in the Kremlin and Duma.

In a certain sense, Bush's loss is Putin's gain. And with Bush losing all over the place at present, with "the vacuum of global leadership left by Bush," there is every reason to believe that Putin's agenda will propel Russia once more to the forefront of global diplomacy.

The neoconservative vision, the one embraced by Bush after 9/11, centered around spreading liberal and democratic values to illiberal and undemocratic states unilaterally, over and above America's immediate national security interests. Iraq was the key battleground, the war that put the neoconservative vision to the test. It may take decades for the results of that test to become fully known, but, for now, that quagmire has severely circumscribed America's ability to use its superpower status to resolve crises elsewhere.

Into the void leaps Vladimir Putin. For better or for worse.

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