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Where Have All the Russia Experts Gone? | Posted by Jillian - March 7, 2014 |

Although the US might wish to move on to different issues for a different century, Russia refuses to go away. As the largest country in the world, with the 6th largest economy, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and in possession of a third-term president who is very vocal and extremely defensive of Russia's "near abroad" (ближнее зарубежье), its post-Soviet sphere of influence, in some fairly aggressive ways, the international community can't help but notice Russia. While Putin's leadership style might not win any awards in the West, recent independent polls of Russians show that a majority still approve their president's actions**. Rather than accept Putin's administration of Russia, the US has continuously vilified him in the media as a "KGB thug", pigeon-holing him in this role. This, unfortunately, leaves little room for positive relations to develop between Russia and the US in the foreseeable future, despite Russia's contributions in persuading Bashar al-Assad to eliminate his chemical weapons or creating openings for the US in Iran.

Ukraine's Orange Revolution in 2004-2005 represented a shift for modern Russia, as its neighbour began to pull away and look towards the West for the 21st century. Russia perceived the US support of the protestors and new government and subsequent attempts to draw Ukraine into NATO (coupled with EU offers of association agreements in competition with Russia's offers to join its Eurasian Customs Union) as efforts to impinge upon Russia's sphere of influence. US proposals to build radar/anti-missile installations in Central Europe, nominally targeted at Iran but much closer to Russia, further inflamed relations between the two countries.

Despite the proposed "reset" under the Obama administration, the anti-Putin rhetoric amongst US media and policymakers has continued. There are many demands on American foreign policy today, and one would not expect Russia to be its sole focus. Yet given Russia's continued global relevance, especially in relation to US national security (given its proximity to countries like North Korea, Afghanistan, and Iran), the US cannot afford ignore it, particularly if it is interested in avoiding 19th century solutions to 21st century problems (as John Kerry described Putin's belligerence in Crimea). It is therefore all the more important that US government agencies, NGOs, and media outlets continue to hire and cultivate Russia/Eurasia analysts, because failure to understand Russia in context will at best continue to lead to crises like the one occurring now in Crimea and at worst result in a hot war beneficial to no one.

Rep. Peter King: Obama is being outsmarted by KGB thug Putin | 2 jul. 2013 |

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sat Jul 2nd, 2022 at 12:16:53 PM EST

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