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Russia’s weakening economy, its slipping natural-gas grip on Western and Eastern Europe, its oil income halved — all that might have made a vulnerable Putin somewhat receptive to being of some help, now and again, with a few common concerns.
Privately, the United States might have recognized that Russia saw post–Cold War NATO expansion as a threat, because a few of its former Soviet republics were being realigned with old rivals.
In theory, the United States, in realpolitik fashion, could be playing Russia off against other rivals and enemies to our advantage — now seeking temporary shared agendas, now in keen rivalry over irreconcilable differences.
The fact that Russia is the sole country in the world that always could destroy the United States has, since 1949, proved an incentive to U. administrations, particularly Democratic ones, to find some sort of wary realist accommodation with the Russians.
Russia’s semi-Western heritage, its Christian Orthodoxy, and its fears over unassimilated Muslim populations in theory might have offered shared incentives to check radical Islam.
Its worries that its border regions were being populated with nuclear powers — China, India, North Korea, Pakistan — might have made it interested in triangulating against nearby Iran, a would-be nuclear nation.
So was born the progressive “reset” with Vladimir Putin —over the objections of much of the Republican congressional establishment.No one doubts that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is no ally of the U. But rivalry is quite a different notion than returning to the Cold War, when enemies faced each other down with arsenals of nuclear missiles.Quite strangely, the supposedly pacifist Left now seems to welcome that dangerous polarity.Yet we enjoy all sorts of cultural, political, and economic bipartisan relationships with China, whose nuclear patronage of North Korea has done more damage to U. security than any plot from the dark mind of Vladimir Putin.In terms of Russia’s macabre history, Putin is a piker compared with Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, who may have orchestrated the deaths of 20 million Russians.