Feature

Obama's Russia problem

Can the president-elect avoid another Cold War by finding new ways to handle Moscow?

President-elect Barack Obama "needs a new approach to Russia," said Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times, "if we want to avoid a new cold war." One necessary change is for us to "get over our crush" on Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. His country was "mauled by the bear in the brief August war," but Georgia under Saakashvili "isn't quite the shining beacon of democracy that Americans sometimes believe."

The tricky thing for Obama is figuring out how to handle Russia's "official president, Dmitry Medvedev," said Garry Kasparov in The Wall Street Journal, and its real leader, Vladimir Putin. "Obama can treat them like fellow democratic leaders or like the would-be dictators that they are." His decision will say plenty about "how seriously he takes his promises of change."

It's best to tune out the propaganda war over Georgia, said Anne Applebaum in Slate. Saakashvili provoked Russia by storming into semi-autonomous South Ossetia, but Moscow had goaded him by shooting down his planes and shooting Georgia's policemen. So Obama and other Western leaders should "support Georgian democracy—not particular Georgian democrats—and prepare a unified response to the Russian military escapades to come."

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