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Nina L. Khrushcheva: The Best Enemy There Is

The fact that Russia is supposedly bad doesn't make America better, or better off now at the end of George W. Bush's presidency-mistrusted by the world, with two wars on its hands and an economy in ruin. In this environment is Russia a threat to the United States? Unlikely, but branding it as dictatorial revives the old fears and diverts attention from the immense problems America faces today. Barack Obama's presidency promises to usher his country into a new era of post-unilateral decisions, international diplomacy, and coherent foreign policymaking. This new era should also, perhaps, end the senseless public animosity towards Russia that has continued since 1991 when the Soviet Union lost the Cold War and, for all intents and purposes, disappeared. Becoming the world's only superpower proved very damaging to the United States. Over-confidence, to no one's surprise, bred hubris. Bill Clinton's administration tirelessly reminded the former Soviets that they, the losers, should unwaveringly follow the lead of all-powerful America. Boris Yeltsin's privatization and marketization programs were not speedy enough, at least as judged in a Washington anxious to spend as little as possible helping Russia. Any thoughts of a Marshall Plan to ease Russia's path were dismissed in Gingrich/Clinton Washington as welfare for communists. In 2000, as a by-product of the all-or-nothing capitalization demanded of Russia by its American advisors, the country returned full circle—the KGB with President (now Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin at the helm gained the ruling hand. Putin's promise to restore Russian self-respect did indeed involve policies familiar from the communist era: jailing "dishonest" oligarchs, clamping down on an "irresponsible" press, and "deceptive" non-governmental organizations, pressuring neighboring countries by increasing prices or limiting Russian oil and gas, as well as flexing a bit of military muscle in Georgia (although Georgia's own irresponsible leader, Mikhail Saakashvili, deserves equal blame for the August 2008 war), or sending training ships to Cuba and Venezuela to show the world that Russian military power was back.

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