Russia Has Had a Good Month, But That’s About It

Dan Drezner wants everyone to cool it with the nonsense that Vladimir Putin has managed to humiliate President Obama and turn Russia into the geopolitical equal of the United States:

Even with a good month of Russian diplomacy and a United States that seems bound and determined to kamikaze governance, Moscow is not even remotely close to being the geopolitical equal of the United States. The only place that is true is the magical world of Punditland.

….Russia’s influence in Europe is on the wane, Russia’s projection of power in South Asia and the Pacific Rim is fading, and Russia has zero geopolitical influence in Africa and Latin America….The truth is that outside of Central Asia, Russia matters primarily when the United States lets it matter. If the United States finds a core national interest threatened and acts unilaterally, then Russia can do exactly nothing to stop it. If the U.S. wants to act through multilateral channels that burnish policy legitimacy, then Russia becomes important. Not surprisingly, there are some issues where the U.S. wants to act multilaterally — because acting unilaterally is a greater drain on scarce resources.

Yep. There’s no reason to panic every time a U.S. president decides to take multilateralism seriously, or decides that it’s better to work with Russia than against it. Russia retains a fair amount of influence in the stans that border it, but beyond that it’s got (a) lots of gas and oil and (b) a UN Security Council veto. That makes it more influential than Saudi Arabia, but that’s about it. There’s no need to panic.