Russia Seeks “Power, Respect, and Fear,” not Revolution

Conservative commentator Paul Greenberg has posted a column on Vladimir Putin’s Munich speech over at, which argues that Russia’s lack of an ideology is a distinct improvement from the Cold War. In the same column, he applauds the sacking of the administration’s most belligerant voices, Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton, and return of the rational “old conservatism of quiet good sense.” (For my thoughts on U.S. partisanship and the Russia debate, see this previous post.) From

Russia’s new autocrat has a point. Freedom, democracy, fair elections of course they’re in America’s national interest. But they also benefit those nations that adopt them and the world in general. Because a freer world would be a safer world. Democracies may have their differences, but free and slave societies tend to have wars. As familiar as all this Cold War rhetoric is, something’s missing. Where’s the call for international revolution, for the masses to rise up in revolt? There wasn’t a trace of anything like that in Vladimir Putin’s polemic. Because now the United States and the West in general are being assailed by a Russian leader, not a Soviet one, and Russia no longer represents a dynamic, revolutionary ideology. Today its leader speaks only for, to borrow a phrase, “the foreign policy interests of one country.” The Russian bear has reverted to its 19th Century role as one more great power playing the Great Game of realpolitik, nothing more. Winston Churchill’s old theory about what motivates Russian foreign policy is acutely relevant again: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” As the ideological wrapping comes off Russia’s actions, they are revealed as those of just another imperial power seeking to assert itself. Now free of the Marxist dogma and the impulsive decisions it inspired – like deploying nuclear missiles in Fidel Castro’s Cuba – Russia’s actions become less dangerous, more predictable. This not-so-new Russia is basically asking only for what the old, czarist one sought: power, respect, fear. Not worldwide revolution. That’s a definite improvement.

And here is Greenberg’s argument that the Bush administration is becoming more multilateral:

The idea that conservative rhetoric should show a decent restrain is being revived. The Ann Coulters are still valued, but only for their entertainment value. The old conservatism of quiet good sense, even good humor, is making a comeback, the neo brand is being phased out. The realization dawns that there’s no need to respond in opposite but equally strident tones to every vitriolic attack on American policy from a Putin or Chavez or Ahmedinejad. That, too, is a decided improvement. This republic, unlike Russia’s resurgent autocracy, is too powerful to have to emphasize its power. One keeps hearing demands from this president’s critics that he change his ways, adopt a more multilateral approach, and generally moderate his foreign policy. Let’s not spoil their fun by pointing out that he has already done so.