Russia remembers that it lost the Cold War. The United States needs to be reminded that it won.
In the mid-1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall faded from immediate memory and talk of a “post-Cold War era” became prolific, the United States began to forget about Russia. Afghanistan and Iraq cemented our amnesia. A new generation of policymakers and thinkers became captivated with “emerging threats” and “global challenges” that required “international cooperation” and “collective solutions.”
When the United States did pay attention to Europe or Eurasia, it sought to expand NATO, bolster the European Union and extend democratic norms often against Russia’s wishes. When our strategic adversary was weak, we exploited the power vacuums that emerged and made sure that Russia became, in fact, a “regional power.” Most of this action was done without a nuanced understanding of Moscow’s goals or ambitions. Putin remembers all of this – along with most of the twentieth century – as follies that must be corrected.
So here we are, surprised by Russian actions in Ukraine. But we shouldn’t be. The Kremlin takes no notice of our “new eras.” Putin’s Crimea snatch reminds us that territory, power and influence still matter. Hence the Washington DC circuit has been reinvigorated in recent weeks by old men waving their long-ago written “I told you so” policy tracts. Listening to them is unbearable but serves us right. Read more “An Opportunity to Respond”