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Bullies Don’t Have Loyal Friends

Joshua Keating often does some great blogging about Russia over at FP Passport. His column today summarizing a number of simmering tensions (the Georgia-Abkhazia escalations to the Czech missile shield deal) underscoring Russia’s meetings on the sidelines of the G8 points out an interesting trend – the Kremlin’s muscle flexing doesn’t always produce the desired results.

In fact, it’s clear Czech leaders are excited to be under the U.S. military’s protective wing, and the same goes for Georgia’s efforts to join NATO. Poland, which the U.S. hopes will also host part of the missile defense system, is still holding out, but that seems to be mostly about the Poles negotiating a better deal. These countries, even if purely for cynical reasons, see cooperating with the U.S. as a strategic advantage. Russia, on the other hand, only seems to influence other nations by undermining their governments or shutting off their energy supplies. This can work in bordering countries like Georgia or Ukraine, but places like the Czech Republic and Poland no longer have to fear Russian tanks rolling down the street. There’s a lesson here: For all the talk of the Putin/Medvedev tandem’s international assertiveness, they seem to lose a lot more battles than they win. And despite everything that has gone wrong in the last eight years, the United States still seems to be much better at making and keeping friends than the Russians.