President George W. Bush treated President Putin the same way all American presidents treat all Russian leaders: as America's new best friend. President Bush, infamously, looked deep into Putin's eyes, found him to be "straightforward and trustworthy." When President Yeltsin was up for re-election, President Clinton told his main Soviet adviser, "I want this guy to win so bad it hurts." Never mind that Yeltsin was already associated inside Russia with massive theft and economic chaos or that his regime was perceived internally as corrupt and nepotistic.
Russian politicians still seem to make American politicians grow starry-eyed and lose their bearings. Perhaps it's a secret longing for the glamour of those Cold War summits, for the days when it appeared as if the personal relations between superpower statesmen could ward off the destruction of the entire planet. Or perhaps they put something in the vodka—sorry, mineral water—at those elegant Kremlin lunches. Either way, it's time to kick the habit.