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Who lost Russia?


The Washington Times today features a troubling editorial,  occasioned by the recent resignation of the outspoken Andrei Illarionov, President Putin's top economic advisor:

More than four years after President Bush looked into Mr. Putin's soul and found a man he could do business with, Russia is sliding into the abyss economically, politically and geopolitically. Soviet-era revanchism is on the rise, economic liberty is in peril, restrictions on civil society are tightening, and arms sales and ill-advised gestures to rogue states and brutalizers are ongoing.

The country re-nationalized about a third of its energy sector. It began routing major oil projects toward geopolitical favorites. It is enacting a new law to force non-governmental organizations to re-register under tightened restrictions. It long ago broke the will of the Russian media. Geopolitically, Russia has renewed ties with Syria with gestures like the sale of anti-aircraft weaponry. It is troublingly cordial with an Iran rushing headlong toward nuclear weapons. It was on the wrong side of Ukraine's Orange Revolution. It participated in first-ever military exercises with China, part of an ongoing effort to cultivate rising authoritarians to the East.

It indeed appears that the historic rapprochement between Russia and the West—which seemed so promising, even as recently as a year ago—has all but slipped from view. The problem has been less one of diplomacy than of Russia's deep-rooted cultural bias toward oligarchy and isolationism combined with a general mistrust of Adam Smith's invisible hand of the marketplace.

Even so, when the inevitable breakdown in U.S.–Russian relations comes to pass, look for Democrats to pose the same question of Russia that Republicans once did of China, back in the Truman era.

And look for the fingers to be pointing—as they always seem to do—in President Bush's direction.

Posted by Rodger on January 3, 2006 at 06:53 PM | Permalink


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