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Is Russia Weak?

MOSCOW Western leaders and observers persistently repeat, like a mantra, that Russia is “weak.” This judgment is based on a flawed comparison between Russia and the Soviet Union –though one that is also popular in Russia itself.

Measured by Soviet standards, Russia has weakened. But, as former United States National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft noted, Russia still “has enormous capacities to influence the US security strategy in any country.”

A country with such influence over a military superpower cannot be considered weak. In fact, the issue is not Russia’s strength per se , but whether Russia intelligently concentrates and applies it.

The new Russia has transcended its Soviet identity and managed to put down uprisings in the post-Soviet space as far away as Tajikistan. It has dealt with a new generation of security threats on its own territory – most prominently Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev – and prevented them from turning into a global force like al-Qaeda. Moreover, Russia has helped other new nations in Eastern Europe create their own identities.