A Difference of Opinion

I’ve just been reminded of why I don’t read Anne Applebaum’s columns. Consider the opening paragraph of her most recent:

There have been high moments: Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, locked in a bear hug; George W. Bush looking into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and seeing “a sense of his soul”; Hillary Clinton pressing the “reset button.” There have been some very low moments, too. But for more than 20 years of Russian independence, a single narrative about Russia in the West has nevertheless prevailed.

I must be out of step. I consider those low moments, epitomizing the worst features of the relationship between the United States and Russia—cult of personality, ignorance, and arrogance on our part.

Is this:

Openly or subconsciously, since 1991, Western leaders have acted on the assumption that Russia is a flawed Western country.

really the animating principle of the last twenty years of relations between our two countries? I certainly don’t see it that way. I think I see it more as treating Russia as a vanquished foe, now irrelevant on the world stage. The first part is true but imprudent. The second is, well, premature. Russia will always be a regional superpower and will be a world power as long as it maintains a nuclear arsenal as large or larger than ours.

9 comments… add one
  • michael reynolds Link

    Both of the above. A lot of Americans see Russia as a failed or failing western nation. (I don’t. I see them as drunken louts.) And they are a vanquished foe. Irrelevant, no, but there’s a strong sense that having had to listen to many decades of their ideological bullshit only to see their system fall down, we can safely dismiss them as having anything useful to offer to the international conversation. And there’s a sense of impatience with them. They’re the slow children, always behind the others.

  • jan Link

    Never underestimate your enemies. The less you have to lose, the less inhibited one is in trying to gain something back. We are the ones who have developed a sense of complacency, which we like to call civility. However, assumptions that we are a great power can easily be undermined by those more devious than us and willing to taking greater risks.

  • Andy Link

    Applebaum’s nostaligia for world leaders hugging might have relevance 200 years ago. The problem there, though, is that Obama and Putin do not have any sons, so an arranged marriage to solve the dispute isn’t possible. Maybe we could get Putin to take Beau Biden in lieu of an Obama son for marriage – that would be a diplomatic coup.

  • mike shupp Link

    The problem … is that Obama and Putin do not have any sons …..

    But this doesn’t make marriage impossible in the modern world!

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