Russian 'menace' is overstated

Better for U.S. to pursue constructive relationship with Putin than economic sanctions

Jim Rosapepe and Sheilah Kast's commentary, "How dangerous is Russia?" (Dec. 22), sets up some straw men and creates a specter of menace over the current twist in Russian relations versus the West. But Russia never invaded the West while historically both Napoleon and Adolf Hitler invaded the giant nation — with disastrous results for France and Germany. Now, the neocon wonks in Washington are conceiving and incubating plans for "regime change" in Moscow, as if the American public has already forgotten their calamitous experiment with Iraq.

If there is anyone dangerous, it is the adventurists in Washington who are going to lengths to demonize Vladimir Putin. It shouldn't be surprising with a history of paranoia about invaders into their country for the Russians to be nervous about the constant encroachments from the West by NATO. Savvy western diplomats should be wiser to these sensibilities. The jitters over the Ukraine should remind us that this region is right in Russia's front yard, and the Ukrainians and Russians have a long mutual history together.

While the fall of oil prices does hit Russia hard, as do western sanctions, I have to question whether these developments are really good for the world. As a producer of vast natural resources, Russia's response as a supplier of petroleum is like any other's — they have been trying to satisfy world demand for the product, but their economy is not diversified enough to absorb the price shock. Sanctions only make things worse, and we should be questioning whether this is the right thing for the U.S. and other nations to do.

A lot of the rationalization for these actions is that Mr. Putin is appearing to be a dictator or actually is one. But the Russian president is elected. The Russians also have a long history of authoritarianism that was in place for centuries with the czars and communists, so we should not be surprised by the reappearance of this tendency. At least Mr. Putin stepped down at the end of his second term as president and waited another four years before running for president again. Have we forgotten that an American president, Franklin Roosevelt, ran for and won four straight terms not so long ago?

There are many positive things that can result from a more constructive relationship between Russia, the U.S. and the West. Russian experience in dealing with states in Asia and the Middle East is an important complement to western diplomacy and may be helpful in tackling thorny international problems. The other aspect about Russia is that this huge nation should be presenting the West with numerous economic opportunities which would help to improve the lives and livelihoods of peoples in both the East and West should we find more and better ways of working together.

Christopher Boardman, Joppatowne

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