Here, for once, is a very good, detailed look at the sorry state of US-Russian relations, and how it came about. The headline does the usual “Putin=Russia” thing, but the article is first-rate and much needed.
Russia has long been a canvas on which Americans project their thoughts or fears — of the Red menace, and of Putin’s quest for world domination. This tradition only accelerated after the 2016 election, when it seemed as if everyone were an expert on Putin’s agenda. There wasn’t an election he didn’t hack, a border he wouldn’t violate or an American ally he couldn’t manipulate. The very word “Putin” has come to symbolize a coherent, systematic destruction of the post-Cold War international order. But no one I spoke with who had an intimate knowledge of Russia saw that as anything but fiction. Instead, they talked about Russia’s strides back onto the world stage as improvised reactions, tactics, gambles that were at times more worrisome than masterful.
“When the West today complains that Russia is trying to influence internal affairs, I don’t have hard evidence, but that’s what you’ve been doing for generations,” a former [Egyptian] government official told me. “It was actually your tool before it was the Russian tool.” He added: “The rest of the world doesn’t really understand what for you guys is new here? You’ve been doing this all along.”