|I think we squandered a golden opportunity to increase relations with Russia following 9/11. The populace was generally sympathetic to us, even if it was more in the form of "we feel sorry for the American people, not for America." The Russian administration startled a lot of people by putting their weight behind us when they could have greatly hindered the feasibility of our operations in Afghanistan. I think we really gave them a poor thank-you.
Russia has the second-largest petroleum reserve in the world, after Saudi Arabia. Much of it is unexplored, but is being appraised and developed as we speak. Improved relations with Russia could have done more than drilling in ANWR, and we could see the results a lot sooner. It would still be foreign oil, but I'd rather work with Russia than the Saudis.
I cannot possibly imagine why we hedged and back down on our planned armed reductions. If a country can be deterred at all, they can be deterred by 2000 warheads. Groups like al Qaeda are all but immune to nuclear weapons. China is probably the most likely rising hostile nuclear power, if any, and I think they are rational enough to be deterred by 2000. Furthermore, we still had more in storage; there was really no need to add 5,000 warheads to the stockpile.
Withdrawing from the ABM Treaty was probably ill-timed (or at least ill-executed), even though Russian response to it was muted. It probably did have to go, but it did not have to come off the way it did.
The steel tariff was a slap in the face. Period.
The American advisors in Georgia, I consider less of an issue; if there are really al Qaeda forces there, which even Russia claims is true, then we have a right to be there. However, it clearly aggravated a lot of the old guard in Russia, and we allocated next to no diplomatic resources to allaying their concerns.
Now, in a recent poll, almost 70% of Russians consider America a "hostile" nation--and unlike the old Soviet days, this poll was probably conducted fairly.
Russia is hurting right now because of the pains of economic transition. The collapse of the Soviet Union did not make your average Russian any more stupid, and the government is democratic, if not as solidly as ours. Groups that are hostile to America may come to power, but an Islamic revolution or similar authoritarian takeover seems unlikely, especially if the country begins climbing to economic recovery. If we had been more engaging of Russia, it would have made it a lot easier for pro-American governments to come to power there, and for pro-American sentiments at the grassroots level to take hold. It may be a little too late now.
I think Russia will eventually pull out of its current economic slump. As it does so, the Russian budget will increase proportionately, meaning that the aged Russian conventional forces, rusting from disuse right now, will sail the seas and fly the skies again someday. If it's going to happen, I think it would be a lot better to have Russia see us as the ones that returned them there, rather than the ones who spit in their face as they clawed their way up by themselves.
Just my thoughts.