As the first post in the Opinions blog, it only makes sense for this to be a quick discourse dashed off in the wee hours of the night. The presence of pajamas and an unshaven visage only sweeten the deal.
Remember Russia? Back when you were reading Time for Kids, when the extent of your world news came from a four-page leaflet handed out in your social studies class, and perhaps the grumblings from your father against that charlatan Bill Clinton? Back then, Russia was the bad guy who vanished into ambiguity and 80's action films, led by an adorable, bumbling red-nosed supposed drunk. The bear had been tamed, and was giving every impression of having but one goal in mind; to dance about feebly for the entertainment of the victorious United States. Oh the nineties, when Nike's factories were viewed as the most oppressive dictatorships in the world and the attitude of, "Well, we won...let's get on with that utopia thing!" pushed away any fears.
Well...in case you haven't heard, Russia likes to throw its weight around, due entirely to that fake-tiger-fighting Putin, whose cojones rode atop skyrocketing oil prices and a populace that is, despite any claims otherwise, classically European. Sure, oil isn't flying so high anymore, and the deficiencies of the commodity-based Russian economy are quickly becoming clear as the government scrambles to salvage its early lack of action in response to the economic crisis, but the cojones? The balls? They're still there.
Obama, as he promised, reached out with an olive branch, offering to end the missile defense shield (another instance of a Democrat forgetting Poland I suppose...) in exchange for assistance in disarming Iran. Russia's response was to take the letter, read it carefully and then crush it. Current "President" Dimitry Medvedev was quick to point out the niceties of Obama's offer. But with curt dismissal, he dismissed Obama's actions as the equivalence of "haggling."
Soft power, that golden idol that sits beside the world map in the White House, means nothing in the face of a country that doesn't care. Nor does military action when said country is also armed to the teeth with nukes and knows that we don't have the means or will to do anything to them. How is a President supposed to deal with such a trouble spot?
Let it be, let it stumble over its own elaborate schemes. Creating a dictatorship is all well and good when the economy is making steady headway, but Putin has hard times ahead. His government fumbled the ball when the economy pitched downward, and the Russian people are anything but stupid. Loyal? Maybe, they do seem to be fond of Stalin, but he had the advantage of a personality cult. No matter how many shirtless pictures he may stage, Putin isn't a new Stalin, he's no man of steel, he's a school bully who discovered he's been held back a year. He's still tough-as-nails, but the rest of the class has moved on. And Obama? No matter how many olive branches he may extend to the Motherland, the chances of them being met with anything but laughter in Moscow is slim unless it comes attached to a bomb.