President Bill Clinton, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands after signing agreements in the Kremlin in Moscow in 2000. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press)

In her July 2 op-ed, “Blind on Russia,” Anne Applebaum continued the mythology that “nobody paid much attention as Russia . . . turned into something quite different” from a “Western-oriented, liberalizing state.” In fact, Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama contributed to alienating Moscow over the past 20 years.  

Mr. Clinton started it off with advancing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into former states of the Warsaw Pact. Mr. Bush added former republics of the Soviet Union to the NATO military alliance and abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the cornerstone of strategic deterrence. Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama also endorsed the deployment of a sophisticated missile defense in Poland and Romania, which serves no strategic purpose other than to alienate Russia. Mr. Obama contributed gratuitous personal criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin that was never responded to in kind.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, moreover, Mr. Putin did his best to engage Mr. Bush in a formal diplomatic dialogue, but Washington failed to respond. If we are going to properly assess the terrible state of Russian-American relations, we should take note of Washington’s heavy responsibility.

Melvin A. Goodman, Bethesda