Russian President Vladimir Putin's trip to Tehran should come as no surprise to anyone watching world events closely the past few years. Russia under Putin's leadership very aggressively set themselves up as a diplomatic and economic alternative to doing business with the United States. While the Cold War pitted rival ideologies Capitalism and Democracy versus Communism and Dictatorship, today's emerging rivalry between the United States and Russia is completely different and one in which the Russians have a lot more going for them then they did in the days of the Soviet Union. Putin's Russia is quickly emerging as the focal point of Anti-American foreign policy worldwide. While the American public has been easily manipulated into fearing Islamic terrorists and non-governmental entities like the United Nations and Al Qaeda, the reality is that Russia right now posses massive economic and political threat to American political hegemony, a hegemony we as Americans, liberal or conservative should be interested in maintaining. (This hegemony I feel is a way of promoting true American idealism and values abroad. This administration clearly has dropped the ball on this front, but promoting America is not a bad thing as unfortunately some liberals seem to feel today.)
The biggest factor in Russia's favor right now is the Energy industry which has propelled massive Russian influence over Western Europe's economies and developed a large upper class of Russian businessmen capable of playing and manipulating the Western market. These Russian Oligarchs have increased the stature of Russia in the Business world and many have settled in the west. Russia's control over strategic energy supplies both via drilling for petroleum and through routing oil pipelines through its territory is in my opinion an extremely dangerous development for Western Europe long term. Also dangerous is the influence of oligarchs in London and other business centers who continue to have close ties to the Kremlin and to Vladamir Putin himself. This puts even more Russian political influence over the free markets of the West, a development which should have a great cold warrior like the late Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson rolling over in his grave.
American foreign policy blunders have also allowed Russia the opportunity to make friends with China and Iran, two nations who were strongly anti-Soviet in the later stages of the Cold War. Russian diplomacy has involved setting itself up as a bulwark against American domination of the Middle East and thus far, Putin has succeeded in reducing some of the states of Central Asia, which are heavily Muslim to a semi colonial status which in all honesty undermines the hard fought independence these nations achieved when the Soviet Union dissolved. The continued inept foreign policy of the Bush Administration is allowing Russia a free hand to act as an independent actor in the diplomatic world. Instead of allowing France under Jacques Chirac to fill this void, the White House tried to isolate and berate France while continuing to coddle Putin. This could prove to be a fatal error on the part of the Bush Administration.
Russia has also returned to its traditional Tsarist role of interfering in the Balkans as a protector of the Slavic people. Russia is solely responsible for the delay in an independent majority Muslim state of Kosovo being recognized as an independent entity. Given Russia's treatment of its own Muslim population in Chechnya and Dagestan, it simply amazing that United States has allowed its credibility to be eroded among Muslims so greatly that it cannot point out the obvious to Islamic regimes that are becoming friendly with Moscow. While the United States has upwards of six million Muslims living freely without harassment as normal citizens Vladimir Putin both before and after ascending to the Presidency has a clear track record of working against the interests of Muslims both in Russia and outside the country. Again, the Bush administrations coddling of Putin while getting tough with other nations whose foreign policy was much more in line with the US, has had dire consequences.
The erosion of American moral authority abroad has allowed an actor like Putin, whose human rights record is abysmal and whose followers have been accused of poisoning dissident in the west to emerge as the world's second most powerful head of state, and in some regards he may be the most powerful. Quite frankly, at this point it far too late for the US to stop the Russian train. Control of energy resources, the budding trust between Russia and other leading nations such as China, as well as the general distaste for anything associated with George W. Bush abroad has put American interests on the defensive for the first time in recent memory.
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- I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.