It's still a well-kept secret in the West, but Russia and the United States are now very definitely - as one recently published author put it - in the throes of a New Cold War.
The latest proof can be found in the 2007-2012 strategic plan released this week by the U.S. State Department and its grant-giving arm, USAID.
Listing off the challenges America expects to face in the next five years, "relations with Russia" are given a section all of their own. The list of American concerns is a long one:
...increasing centralization of power, pressure on NGOs and civil society, a growing government role in the economy, and restrictions on media freedom have all emerged as clear and worrisome trends. Russian weapon sales to such states as Iran, Syria, and Venezuela are also cause for great concern throughout the international community. Russia’s policy toward its neighbors is another major challenge, especially Moscow’s support for separatist regions in Georgia and Moldova, its political and economic pressure against Georgia, and its monopolistic use of energy to pressure neighboring states and gain control of infrastructure and strategic assets.
The proposed remedy won't sit well in Moscow - a continuation of the interventionist policies that helped spur the recent pro-Western revolutions in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine.
We seek to consolidate new democracies in Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova by fighting corruption and assisting economic reforms. As these countries break with their Soviet past and move closer to European and Euro-Atlantic institutions, we need to continue to provide our support, encouragement, and technical advice. Elsewhere in Eurasia, people yearn for the hope kindled by the “color revolutions” of 2003 – 2005, while the dictatorial regime in Belarus faces unprecedented pressure from both the West and Russia. To promote reform and democratic development, we are sustaining support for civil society and independent media, bilaterally, in conjunction with the EU, and through multilateral fora such as the OSCE.
"Sustaining support for civil society" sounds a lot nicer than it is, but USAID isn't talking about helping Greenpeace here. What they mean is that they will contiune backing groups like Otpor, Kmara and Pora (see last post) that will butt heads with the regime and get out the anti-Kremlin vote.
"Independent media" meanwhile is also code. USAID is not interested in helping some kid in Krasnoyarsk set up ilovevladimirputin.com. They're looking for anti-Kremlin (and anti-Lukashenko) outlets that can play the anti-regime role that B-92 did in Serbia, Rustavi-2 did in Georgia and Fifth Channel did in Ukraine.
What the State Department and USAID are talking about is setting the table for more "colour revolutions" in the post-Soviet space. Only this time the Kremlin knows they're coming - hence the harsh crackdowns in Moscow and St. Petersburg this weekend.