Cultural Revolutions

Hardened Line

Vladimir Putin, prodded by a reporter’s question regarding the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime, remarked that Russia, for “economic and political” reasons, “has no interest in the defeat of the United States.”   Putin’s comments were seen by Russian media observers as a sign that the Kremlin had come full circle on the Iraq question.  In late January, Putin had hinted that Russia might agree to a new U.S.-backed resolution on Iraq and even back U.S. military action.  Then, during a February trip to Germany and France, Putin endorsed the Franco-German plan to prolong U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq and even threatened a Russian U.N. Security Council veto of a proposed U.S.-backed resolution—a resolution that, in Putin’s words, opened the door to an “unreasonable use of force” against Baghdad.

The United States had expected that Russia would not attempt to block the U.S. war against Iraq.  In exchange, Russia would play a postwar role in the development of Iraq’s rich oil deposits, and a U.S.-backed post-Saddam government would repay Iraq’s eight-billion-dollar debt to Moscow.  

In February, as the Kremlin hardened its line on Iraq, Moscow Kremlin watchers noticed that the Boris Yeltsin “family,” the dominant Russian clan, which favors a more U.S.-friendly foreign-policy line, had begun dropping hints that...

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