“Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors — not out of strength but out of weakness,” President Obama said Tuesday. The comments seemed designed to hit his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, where it hurt. It was a bold statement, however, for someone who the very next day would call out his European NATO allies for not spending enough on the military in a speech that reminded many of the Cold War.
Obama's comments, however, reflect the conflicting messages we send out about Russia. These messages irk some Russians, who argue that the U.S. still treats it as if the Cold War was ongoing, despite the shifting reality of Russia.
It's true that Russia was once the West's greatest geopolitical foe, and it's still seen that way by many (including some presidential candidates). But no matter what we think of the recent actions of Putin's Russia, should we really treat it with the same fear we once reserved for the Soviet Union?
Here's what the numbers say: