Monday, September 11, 2006

Tough Talk from Putin

My colleague Paul Saunders reports on his meeting this past weekend with Russia's president Vladimir Putin:

Putin said Russia would not work against U.S. interests, but Moscow would uphold its own interests. Relations will only be effective, he said, “if our interests are taken into account.” And while he values his ties with the United States and President Bush, and wants to enhance those ties, the relationship is bogged down with “many peripheral problems.” Specifically, Putin charged the State Department with discouraging U.S. legislators from having official contacts with Russian officials.

In short, while Putin is clearly eager to work with the United States, he is prepared to do so only on terms that do not damage what he views as Russian interests. Putin also has his eye on Russia’s other options—China—and even the capacity to play a central role in alternative institutions outside the West. Putin may well be miscalculating the utility of those “other options” and Russia’s ability to play this role—but any attempt to do so could nevertheless be a significant threat to U.S. interests.

Speaks for itself.

Certainly true,

and props to Paul for clearheaded analysis. I appreciate the Nixon's Center's both ideological and legacy-related interests in taking the bright side of Russia, but one cannot fight blood in the water.

Any further increase in Russia's authoritarianism will only increase its preference for illiberal regimes that America is frequently at odds with. Between this trend and inherent peer-competitor impulses, the whole dynamic of the U.S-Russia relationship risks a further trend downward.

Things may get better in the next Russian election...

Jordan W. '02
Dr. Gvosdev:

Did you see Andrei Zolotov's comments on the Valdai dinner, particularly what he wrote about what was said off the microphone? That Bush's aides are his "enemies" (and that the mirror view exists for Bush, that Putin is alright but surrounded by bad people)?
Putin is right to emphasize relationship with China and to build lasting ties with Beijing. Perhaps Russia in future could be outer barbarian vassal state of a new Chinese empire, but its position would be secure. Meanwhile US continues to find ways to irritate China--and those slights will be remembered decades later.
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