What Has Russia Done for Europe Lately?

Simon Tisdall of the Guardian checks in on the whole NATO-Europe-Russia rapprochement, asking what, exactly, the Russians have done to earn so much goodwill and reversal of positions among French, German, and of course, the Washington policy communities.  This one quote he grabs from an anonymous diplomat provides a good summary of the dominant thinking:

Moscow peers south as well as east. “The Russians are what they are,” the diplomat said. “We don’t like their record on human rights, on governance, on the Politkovskaya case, on Chechnya. But look at their Muslim south. There are 25 million Muslims in Russia. Russia has no interest in a nuclear-armed Iran. In the long run, they [Russia] want what we want. In the long run, they are allies. We are rejoicing they are coming to Lisbon.”

The problem is that it has never worked out very well in the past for the West to assume they can define what Russia will see as its own national interests, much less how a corruption-riddled, institutionally impoverished government is capable of pursuing these assumed national interests as a rational actor over the goals of the clans and interest groups.