Monday, March 06, 2006

Constructive Attitude on Russia

At a time when people in Washington seem eager to out-do each other in telling us how bad Russia has become, a constructive position from Steve Clemons over at The Washington Note.

We need to move away from the paradigm of the U.S.-Russia relationship requiring lockstep engagement or having to be hostile and confrontational; we also have to kick the habit of assuming we can have a la carte partnerships and relationships where we expect the other party to work closely with us on a few selected issues of importance to us but with no quid pro quos. The world doesn't work that way.

I think we can have a productive relationship with Russia, one that doesn't require us to whitewash Russia's faults and problems but at the same time doesn't have to be irritating--and one that prioritizes what U.S. interests are.

Putin in Russia, Musharraf in Pakistan--these are leaders you have to do business with. You can have a correct and proper relationship without being all warm and fuzzy. Look at how Merkel has reoriented Germany's relationship with Russia--no closeness as in the Schroeder days but still keeping the partnership on track.
Be that as it may, it's imperative that we recognize our interest is in Russia joining the West. History is clear as the blue sky: an isolated or nonaligned Russia is conducive to world disorder, and an anti-Western Russia is virtually a guarantee thereof.

Russia needn't transform itself into an enormous Holland in order to side with the West; but until Russia does side, eventually instinctively, with the Western democracies, we are engaged in a dance of doom given the schema of threats we face now and for the foreseeable future.
But there is also the question about Western "democracies" wanting to align or side with Russia. US gives impression and the Council on Foreign Relations report seems to say Russia must cooperate on some issues with the West but otherwise can and should be siolated. Russia has options now other than US.
The West cares more about how Russians live than whether they live, and this attitude is not at all conducive to gaining a Russia that sides instinctively with the West.
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