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What Russia Learned From the Iraq War

Moscow believes that "strategic insanity" has taken hold in Washington since the Iraq war, based upon the erosion of the pillars of regional stability and its flirtation with Islamists, writes Fyodor Lukyanov.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow October 10, 2012. Putin lobbied Iraq's prime minister on Wednesday to support Russian energy investment, as the oil arm of gas export monopoly Gazprom pushes for a foothold in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.  REUTERS/Kirril Kudryavtsev/Pool  (RIUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS ENERGY) - RTR38ZTN

In the summer 2006, when then-President George W. Bush came to St. Petersburg for a summit of the "Big Eight," an interesting dialogue took place between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news conference. Bush drew attention to the challenges posed by democratic freedoms, especially freedom of the press, in Russia — and then noted that things had gotten much better in Iraq. Putin immediately responded, "Well, we really would not want the kind of democracy they have in Iraq." The room filled with applause, and not everyone heard Bush's response: "Just wait, it’s coming." What Bush had in mind was increased stability in Iraq, but it sounded more ominous: you’ll see, democracy will be brought to you as well...

In the nearly seven years since, the situation in Iraq has indeed changed for the better, although the rationale behind the war is increasingly being questioned. It's not clear what the United States achieved for itself. In Russia, most analysts, politicians and ordinary citizens believe in the unlimited might of America, and thus reject the notion that the US has made, and continues to make, mistakes in the region. Instead, they assume it's all a part of a complex plan to restructure the world and to spread global domination. Doubts have crept in; given the chaos in the Middle East, it's increasingly difficult to construct a conspiracy theory that proves the devilish vision of the United States. But true believers will always find arguments in favor of their cult.

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