From the middle of the 1980s, the relations between the US and former USSR started to see considerable improvements. By improvements, I mean getting out of the region of sworn enemies and moving towards of the approach of “cooperation with dislike”.

After the Cold War, in defeated Russia, many so-called reforms and changes in attitudes came about. Although not a superpower, but still a regional power, Russia remained somewhat at the bottom of the barrel of the world, usually left alone to deal with its own problems, at least officially.

Nonetheless, the West tried to implement its ways in Russia more than in any other country. Many NGOs where formed for promoting democracy and civil rights, most of which had financing from the West, especially UK and US. IMF offered impressive loans to Russia, more than 5 billion dollars, while Russia committed itself to promoting a capitalist style financial system and eliminating trade barriers.

Yet, after the first years of transition, of “pushing from the back” by the West, Russia did not quite seem to go the way some expected (or the Western thought it will). Reforms ended in a sort of gridlock, the Russian capitalism lead to a form of oligarchy with strong political influence, the “state capture corruption” as the World Bank calls it. It just seemed that Russia was going on its own way. They developed their own type of economy, corrupt and yet functioning to some degree, fuelled by huge incomes from oil and natural gas (about 23% of Russia’s GDP comes from these two sectors).

Of course, this in the end was reflected in its internal politics and involvement in the international affairs.

Although in the 1990, some wanted to believe that Russia was committed to creating an authentic democracy after the Western style, they could not be more wrong. Russia again developed its own political system, somewhat between its former strong authoritarian type and the new limited democracy with a bit of touch of oligarchy.

So why am I telling you this? Because now we can figure out why we are where we are today.

Struggling to maintain some of its power and remain a very important global player, it did the only logical thing it could, ally with the China, the fast emerging new superpower. Although I will not list all the Russian-Chinese treaties, there have been significant progress and cooperation between the two, not to mention that last year (2006) they signed a treaty in which they commit themselves to supporting each other’s external policies.

With China as a friendly voice, with a strong economic growth combined and with the rejection of the Western “way”, Russia starts to feel much more confident. They are no longer the unsure country still struggling to find its way that we knew in the 1990s. It is no surprise that Russia (through president Putin) last month criticized US for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Its claims that “United States has overstepped its borders in all spheres – economic, political and humanitarian, and has imposed itself on other states,” although not entirely unfounded are a good remainder of the Cold War rhetoric. This is probably just the beginning of further tensioning between Russia and US. The gap between the two will most likely grow and with the uncertainty of Iran, we might as well see a permanent rift between the two.