. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Vital No More to U.S. Vote

From a Muscovite's perspective, there is a certain reassurance in the fact that Bill Clinton has been returned to the White House. At least the Kremlin and Foreign Ministry know for sure that there will be no bundles of unwelcome surprises coming from Washington in the coming months.


But the truth is that U.S. election extravaganza was remarkable for how little relations between the two former military superpowers mattered.


First of all, despite some isolationist rhetoric, the losing Republican candidate Bob Dole, a life-long coalition builder, almost certainly would have smoothed the corners off most of his tougher positions on foreign policy had he been elected. Moscow probably had little to fear from Dole.


But equally important was the fact that -- for the first time in decades -- Russia barely figured in the U.S. election campaign at all.


In the past, one of the Republican party's defining positions was its tough stance with regard to the Soviet bloc and therefore on defense spending and policy. This was the party that boasted it was best able to protect the American voter from the communist threat. Now that there is no longer a threat, that particular plank in the Republican electoral platform has disappeared.


This must, ipso facto, be cause for celebration. Americans are known even less than most electorates for their concern over foreign policy, and it is only the dual threat of a nuclear holocaust and communist aggression that has kept relations with Moscow in the frame during previous election campaigns.


Business, in other words, is back to usual after an aberration that lasted several decades.


But there is a rough lining to this silver cloud, namely that Russia, perhaps more than ever before, needs close attention and sensitive handling. This is because Russia remains strategically an extraordinarily important country with both huge creative and destructive potential -- and it is now stumbling and feeling its way to a new identity.


The temptation in the next few years, now that the initial post-communist euphoria has well and truly faded away both in Russia and the United States, will be to let Moscow manage as best it can and not worry too much about its wounded Great Power pride.


This would be a grave mistake. And oddly enough the one chance that Russia will be recognized as such in Washington -- where International Monetary Fund and most other international policy is decided nowadays -- is that if ever Russia does become an electoral issue again in America, it will be because there has been some disastrous turn of events in Moscow. At that point the accusatory question will be asked: "Who lost Russia?"