Despite tensions over missile deals and NATO expansion, the West's ties with Russia are far more nuanced than in Soviet days.
Two weeks into the Georgia crisis, Russia maintains leverage, adroitly playing a great game of obfuscation and tit-for-tat – both militarily and diplomatically – with a disunited West struggling to determine whether this is a new cold war.
Vladimir Putin's idea of the 21st century appears different from that described by President Bush in calling for Russia to withdraw. As NATO officials this week fought to show strong support for Georgia without irreparably damaging ties to Russia, the "new world order" described by Mr. Bush's father as the Soviet empire collapsed seems a faint memory.
Yet while Russia's action has been termed a new cold war, that concept doesn't capture the dramatic global changes since Mikhail Gorbachev disbanded the Soviet Union in 1991, say diplomats and Russian area specialists. In a more globalized world, Russia is at once a competitor, a partner, and an opponent.
"It is the greatest challenge for any statesman today to see what is the right priority," says Pierre Hassner, a Paris-based scholar ofEast-West relations. "Is it Iran, Russia, the price of oil, terrorism? It may in some ways look like the cold war again – but the context today is blurred past recognition."
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