Contrasting the U. S. and Russia

The Washington Post explains the difference between the actions of the United States and those of Russia:

The United States, Britain and other nations deposed the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein because he repeatedly violated his promises to the United Nations, after his earlier invasion of Kuwait, to rid himself of weapons of mass destruction and prove that he had done so. They invaded Serbia to protect the people of Kosovo from mass ethnic cleansing and destruction. In both cases, reasonable people can argue that it was wrong to act without U.N. authorization; they can make a case that the campaigns were unwise on many other grounds.

What they can’t argue is that the allies were motivated by a desire for conquest or occupation; as the presidential campaign has shown, the American people can hardly wait to pull their troops out and leave Iraqis to manage their own affairs. NAFTA, meanwhile, was freely entered into by three democratically elected governments. If Canada wants out, the United States will not seize Ottawa.

Russia, on the other hand, is seeking to overthrow a democratically elected government precisely because that government does not want to be subjugated to Moscow. Mr. Medvedev’s claim of a Georgian genocide, after his own government published casualty figures of 200 or so, is deliberately preposterous; he is mocking the very idea of humanitarian intervention. As Russia under president-turned-prime-minister Vladimir Putin has become less and less democratic, it has become increasingly aggressive toward neighboring democracies. The more democratic those neighbors become — see Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia — the more hostile Russia becomes.

I’d dispute the WP’s explanation for Russia’s actions but I’d agree with its premises: there’s no moral equivalence to be drawn between the U. S. and Russia. Claiming that there is is either misinformed or worse.

It’s important to remember that nothing has changed. Russia remains Russia. The impulses and foreign policy objectives that have driven the country won’t change overnight.

But there’s a difference between people or nations and animals in fables. They can change and given time and the proper incentives they will.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. Nikolay says:

    The idea that Georgia is more democratic than Russia is ridiculous and calls into question the rest of the arguments. The country where special forces close TV stations, where opposition leaders are imprisoned on bogus charges, where the President is widely suspected of killing his opponents, is not a democracy. I know I’m describing Russia, but I’m also describing Georgia. The cynicism of turning a blind eye to Georgia’s anti-democratic nature while calling attention to all Russia’s violations bugs even most pro-Western Russians.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    I don’t think the central point in the Washington Post editorial rests on a contrast between Russian and Georgian democracy but on a comparison of Iraq under Saddam Hussein with Georgia today.

  3. spencer says:

    Yeah, I understand Putin learned his lesson about controlling countries in the “near abroad” from Reagan’s invasion of Grenada.