Time is running short for Russia to engineer a sustained economic recovery. Putin's first term, the next four years, may be its last chance. If Putin does not do noticeably better than Russia, then we might in fact be facing a world without Russia, without Russian power, and with all the geopolitical and geoeconomic complications that would entail.
Foreign policy is playing a big role in the 2000 Republican primary contest. Bigger than education. Bigger than campaign finance reform. As big as Social Security. Public interest in foreign policy is one big reason John McCain is giving George Bush a run for his money. McCain has convinced many Republican voters that he will be a stronger world leader. The difference is biography.
The current American perception of Russia is a hopelessly corrupt country with an economy that is going from bad to worse, as if the financial crash of August 1998 happened yesterday. However bad that crash was, the last year has seen a lot of positive changes in the Russian economy.