From the new Economist, a few excerpts below… (the artwork summarizes the jist of the article).
Few things give Russians as much sense of their own importance as a spat with America. “They like to counter America. It makes them feel good,” says one senior American official. Russia’s self-esteem has long been inseparable from its relationship with America. To have America as an enemy in the cold war gave the Soviet Union a sense of urgency and purpose. The end of the cold war deprived Russia of a vital adversary. It is only logical that Russia should now demonstrate its resurgence by sparring with America again. America’s troubles in Iraq make this an apt moment for Russia to return to the world stage. … The danger is not that Russia will prevent the independence of Kosovo or the placement of American missile defences in eastern Europe (both will go ahead, whether Russia likes it or not, Ms Rice said in Moscow). Nor is it that Russia will pull out of arms-reduction treaties. The bigger fall-out will be in Russia itself. Hatred of America gives cover for growing authoritarianism, nationalism and concentration of money and power in the hands of former and present members of the security services. If this continues, Ms Rice’s successor may need to review what constitutes the real threat to America’s security.