On Saturday, from Russian President Vladimir Putin's mouth spewed a bilious critique of American global policy. While speaking at an international security conference, Putin accused America, basically, of provoking global instability while striving for political domination.
In response, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates took a softer approach; as reported in the NY Times, Gates joked that "old spies have a habit of blunt speaking" and that Putin's speech "almost filled me with nostalgia for a less complex time." Gates dismissed the content of Putin's speech outright: “All of these characterizations belong in the past. The free world versus those behind the Iron Curtain. North versus South. East versus West, and I am told that some have even spoken in terms of ‘Old Europe’ versus ‘new.’ ”
But Gates--and the rest of us--should not be so fast to brush off Putin's words, or to underestimate the suspicion felt worldwide toward the U.S. government. In a recent survey, 68 percent of Germans agreed with Putin. Ignoring the opposition may work at the political level, but does nothing to quell broader fears of American arrogance and irresponsibility.