Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Condi to Russia

Wonder why Condoleezza Rice was heading to Russia a few days ago? Here's a hint from the International Herald Tribune a few days before that. Russian president Vladimir Putin, in the course of what seemed like a standard commemoration of the 62nd anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, said the following:

"We do not have the right to forget the causes of any war, which must be sought in the mistakes and errors of peacetime. ... Moreover, in our time, these threats are not diminishing. They are only transforming, changing their appearance. In these new threats -- as during the time of the Third Reich -- are the same contempt for human life and the same claims of exceptionality and diktat in the world."

That seems aimed at the United States (although it might not justify the headline IHT gave the story: "Putin likens U.S. foreign policy to that of Third Reich." Sergei Markov, director of the Institute of Political Studies in Moscow, said it was meant to refer to NATO as well as the U.S.

As the IHT writes: "In a speech in Munich on Feb. 10 he [Putin] characterized the United States as 'one single center of power: One single center of force. One single center of decision making. This is the world of one master, one sovereign."

Putin may be doing some of this for domestic consumption. There is great frustration in Russia that Russia is no longer considered a major world power, and the Yeltsin-Putin era hasn't made it so. But whatever the reason, Putin is focused on criticizing the United States, on seeing the U.S. as a disrupter of peaceful patterns. That could be one reason Condi Rice took a trip to Russia; she probably won't be able to reassure Putin completely -- the Iraq war suggests there's something to Putin's "One single center of decision making." But Condi just might remind Putin, if she's willing to be frank enough, that the Iraq war has created a pretty subnstantial backlash against Bush and against neocon efforts to try to run the rest of the world for its own good.

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