The American Interest

Conservative Russia, Imperial America

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s refusal to yield to Western pressure and accept Kosovo’s independence at the G-8 summit in Heiligendamm has prompted a new round of Russia-bashing at both ends of the political spectrum.  Editorial columns were filled with references to Putin’s “posturing,” “bluff,” “intimidation,” and “empty rhetoric.”  His “hard line” may “reignite ethnic violence,” opined the Wall Street Journal, suggesting at the same time that this is exactly what Mr. Putin wants and warning that “now is no time to go wobbly.”

Performing on cue, President George W. Bush declared—during a visit to Albania, of all places—that his support for an independent Kosovo is “solid, firm” and ruled out “endless dialogue on a subject that we have made up our mind about.”  This “firm response to Mr. Putin’s bluster” was praised by the WSJ as “a good model for how to handle the other difficult items on the Russian-U.S. agenda.”

Viewed in light of U.S.-Russian relations over the past decade and a half, those “other difficult items”—the antiballistic-missile shield, oil pipelines and drilling rights, further NATO expansion, the breakaway enclaves, Central Asia, the Ukraine, Georgia, “human-rights violations” and...

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