Russian Realities and the Summit
Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
An overly pleasant face is being put on U.S.-Russian relations as leaders from the Group of Eight prepare for the opening of the summit in St. Petersburg. President Bush's use of congenial rhetoric plays down the fact that Russia has grown more incongruous, both politically and economically, with the other G-8 member states and that relations between Washington and Moscow have reached a low ebb in the post-Cold War years.
Any hopes that Russia would pursue a domestic course toward liberal democracy under President Vladimir Putin have been thoroughly dispelled. Citing his consolidation of power and the "virtual elimination" of meaningful political opposition, Freedom House changed its designation of Russia from "partly free" to "not free." The Heritage Foundation's 2006 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Russia lower than China and as the only member of the G-8 which falls into the "mostly unfree" category. But demanding Russia either meet the standards of a liberal democracy or leave the G-8 alliance or threatening to boycott outright the St. Petersburg summit as Sen. John McCain, for example, urged and the Bush administration rejected doesn't strengthen Washington's hand. The United States cannot precondition all cooperation with Russia on an overly optimistic picture of Russia on the road to democracy.
Russia is a world power, and, bolstered by its substantial oil wealth, it will try to fashion itself more assertively as such. …