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Russia: What Happens There Won't Stay There

[cross posted, with a poll, at Daily Kos]

As if the world, and our place in it, wasn't volatile enough, here comes the latest update on what's happening in Russia.

From David Remnick, who was the Moscow correspondent for the WashPo and also Pulitzer Prize winning author (Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire):

We should pay attention to what's going on in Russia for any number of reasons. First of all it's a gigantic country, with a gigantic land mass, with nuclear weapons, with enormous economic resources [an oil price nearing $100 a barrel and the high price of natural gas], its importance in geopolitical terms is fantastic — it borders on Iran and Central Asia, it borders Europe — it couldn't be more important. But our eye has been off the ball essentially for quite a long time (a) because the Cold War ended and (b) because we've been so obsessed, for obvious reasons, on South Asia and the Middle East.

Check. But how bad could it be? After all, Bush assured us that he "looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy...I was able to get a sense of his soul." We can do business with him, right?

One of Putin's great tools as a leader... is a sense of mystery. We're now in late November. and we still don't know anything about the shape of the ballot for December parliamentary elections, and we have no idea if anybody will be on the ballot against a either Putin or a Putin-handpicked candidate come March. Just have no idea...

These aren't elections and they don't bear close inspection — whether there are monitors or no monitors — they don't bear close inspection as democratic elections.

So you're saying that Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan are all peanuts compared to Russia? What exactly do you suggest we do about this?

As Americans, [in] Bush's America, we are not going to be very effective advocates, certainly not in Russia, in an era of declining American moral authority, which is one of the most unfortunate consequences of the Bush presidency...

So it is extremely easy and effective for Vladimir Putin to say, "Look, United States, don't lecture me on democracy — look at Abu Ghraib, look at Guantanamo, look at many other things" — and he can say that, by the way, with great effectiveness.

Well, OK, but we can still work with him, right? He'd cooperate with us on the war on terror, right?

Mr Putin [has] emphasised the need for all Caspian nations to prohibit the use of their territory by any outside countries for use of military force against any nation in the region - a clear reference to long-standing rumours that the US might be planning to use Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, as a staging ground for any possible military action against Iran.

Bottom line: at best, all top-tier presidential candidates are going to have to address Russia's place in US foreign policy plans post-Bush. At worst? A pre-election war against Iran -- indirectly involving Russia.

I picked a hell of a day to quit sniffing glue.

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