New Yorker editor David Remnick, who once worked at the Washington Post bureau in Moscow and has written a book and many articles on the country, made a special appearance on NBC Nightly News, with even more content made available online. Blogging on Huffington, Rachel Sklar writes “Remnick’s succinct, brilliantly simple yet detailed explanation of Russia’s critical importance felt like an indictment of the Bush administration, which, in addition to eroding U.S. moral authority also happened to ignore the fact that Putin’s Russia has nuclear weapons, borders on Iran and is run by an autocratic, power-driven leader whose soul may not have turned out to be so easily assessed.” About time for people to start calling attention to Russia’s importance. See her text of the interview after the cut.
What’s very important to understand, is: Not only does Russia have going for it an oil price nearing $100 a barrel and the high price of natural gas, it also has going for it the horrible decline of U.S. moral authority, that the price of this presidency, for all its errors, moral and otherwise, has been that the United States does not have the moral authority in a kind of worldwide discussion. 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.One of Putin’s great tools as a leader — and he’s extremely effective at what he’s doing — 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. Imagine that. I mean, we’ve been talking about the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary for half of our adult lives. They 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. But again: As Americans, as part of what’s seen as 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.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, 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 .It would be foolish to predict the future – I couldn’t tell you and nobody could tell if he’s going to remain president somehow, by constitutional means or extraconstitutional means, or whether he’ll be Prime minister or whether he’ll be a kind of puppeteer of Russian politics. What is certain is he will remain an extremely important figure, maybe even a singulary powerful figure, it just remains what are the means of doing that. And whether he’s figured that out or not, he hasn’t quite announced.