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America November 6, 2007
 
Devil's Night Debate: Is Russia America's Enemy, Again?
Six Russia watchers battle over how to smash the Putin-o-lantern. By Mark Grueter Browse author
 
Page 2 of 2
 

The Carnegie Endowment's Mark Medish, really going after those up-for-grabs debate points, made the argument that Russian cannot possibly become our enemy "again" since Russia has never been our enemy: the Soviet Union, not Russia, was our enemy. The way the night was going, it's amazing he didn't pull out an old Encyclopedia Brittanica to make his point. Medish stated this seemingly crushing blow at least five times. Medish was likeable enough though, and moderate. He described the U.S.-Russian relationship as "sub-optimal" but argued that a manufactured rhetorical "friend/foe distinction will become a self-fulfilling prophecy." Legvold added that many of the crimes charged against the Kremlin (i.e. Politkovskaya) haven't been proven and that the criticism of Russia in general is oversimplified while the conclusions are "monochromatic."

Then there was Nina Khrushcheva, on the Against side. She was bland, unfortunately, but tried to explain to her American audience that Russians believe that many problems in Russia are the result of actions inflicted upon them by the West. And though she didn't come right out and say it, she hinted that Russians are tired of being lectured on the theme of democracy by a U.S. government that doesn't practice democracy. Russians admire Putin for standing up to America, she noted. And why shouldn't they?

J. Michael Waller condemned Russia and Putin for creating enemies (such as the U.S.) in order to consolidate power--without apparently bothering to think critically about his own government's actions in the same regard. Likewise, he criticized excessive Russian nationalism and patriotism. Huh. And while the For side warned of Russia's military expansion, Legvold countered that the US spends $430 billion per year on the military, compared to Russia's $30 billion.

You really don't even have to defend Russia in such a debate with self-righteous Americans. All you have to do is point out the glaring hypocrisy of the U.S. government and its apologists on most of the themes discussed: democracy, human rights, media consolidation, military abuse, etc. Is the U.S. really much better on those issues? How can a country that has almost no moral or intellectual credibility in the world continue to lecture and harangue countries like Russia? The stridently anti-Russia, pro-American hawks are oblivious to how the world sees their country. I have an idea for a future debate to be held at the Asia Society: "America is Becoming Our Enemy Again." What do you think? Who would we have on the panel?

As for who "won" the debate: 47% of the audience voted For, 41% voted Against, while 12% left undecided. A perfectly mindless end to a mindless evening.


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