The future of U.S. – Russian relations

Of all the dire consequences that war critics claim are in store for us, the one that worries me is the effect of the war on our relations with Russia, a far more important power, long-term, than France. Here, Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation, writing for National Review Online, explains how fragile the relationship between Moscow and Washington has become since Moscow sided with Paris, Berlin, and most of the Arab world in opposing the war against Saddam Hussien. Cohen notes that it is in the clear interest of both countries to end the acrimony over Iraq and focus on the future. But he stresses that this cannot occur unless Russian President Vladimir Putin cleans house of those who have sold weapons to Saddam and expands cooperation with the U.S. in preventing sales of military and dual-use technologies to countries on our terrorism watch list.
Unfortunately as the Russian journalist Masha Lipman, points out in this Washington Post piece, Putin operates under a serious constraint — strong anti-American sentiment among the Russian public and parts of the elite. For example, an informal poll television poll showed that most Russians, some 80 percent, want the U.S. to lose the war. Russian leaders ordinarily can ignore public sentiment, according to Lipman. However, with the parliamentary elections set for the end of the year, and with support for the Communists running strong, Putin ignores Russian anti-Americanism at his peril. The good news is that, unlike Chirac in France and Schroeder in Germany, Putin has tried recently to shape public opinion in a positive way through moderate pronouncements. And Lipman doesn’t think that Russian anti-Americanism runs very deep. Still, the rift between Russia and the U.S. remains worrisome.

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