Hot Docs: ‘Very Bad’ U.S.-Russia Relations, Pakistan’s Militant Problem

Today's selection of timely reports

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Managing the U.S.-Russia Relationship: "U.S.-Russian relations matter again," notes one Russia scholar. They are, however, currently "very bad—and potentially dangerous—but in a different way" than they were during the Cold War. Dmitri Trenin, deputy director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, writes in a new policy brief that the relationship is potentially dicey because of the "absence of rules" as Russia's political system continues to evolve. Trenin notes the "bitter irony" that "Russia is becoming increasingly Westernized, even as it has ceased to be pro-Western." Meanwhile, the old American idea that "the world's democracies are naturally junior allies of the United States" is out of date now that "strongly sovereign nations with broad national interests, such as Russia and China, are modernizing." Trenin advises U.S. policymakers to give Russia "sustained, comprehensive attention" and to "proceed from realities, not past myths or dreams for the future."

Militants' Destabilizing Influence in Pakistan: Militant activity in Pakistan is a destabilizing influence in that country and in Afghanistan and may even bring "increased potential for major attacks against the United States itself," a report to Congress warns. The Congressional Research Service report, made available by the Federation of American Scientists, warns of the destabilizing influence that militant activity in Pakistan has on U.S. operations over the border in Afghanistan. Militant groups like al Qaeda "have only grown stronger and more aggressive in 2008," threatening supply lines and other U.S. and international operations in the region. To reduce the influence of these militants, U.S. commanders want to begin "trying to rebuild a stalled Afghanistan-Pakistan-U.S.-NATO military coordination process, building intelligence and information sharing centers, and attempting to build greater trust among the senior ranks of the Pakistani military."

Americans Are Moving Less...: Just 13 percent of Americans uprooted themselves between 2006 and 2007, the smallest number since the 1940s. According to a Pew Social and Demographic Trends survey, the choice to go or stay is often decided by the prospect of economic opportunity or the pull of family. The survey also found that while most people have moved to a new community at least once, 4 in 10 have never left the place where they were born. College graduates move longer distances and more often than those with a high school diploma, and the rich are the most likely to have moved.

...And Staying Home More: Americans are cutting back on driving, and if this trend continues, it could have "dramatic impacts" on how the nation lives, a new analysis says. The Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program tracks a drop in the number of miles Americans drive. In 2007, the number fell from the year before—the first time that had happened since 1980. The drop started before this summer's high gas prices, and the Brookings analysts think it is likely to continue, given the current economic climate. It will be "largely positive" to have fewer cars on the road, the report concludes, but policymakers will need to figure out "what kind of transportation network America builds and maintains into the future." The net result could be a "more environmentally-sustainable transportation network" and a renewal of dense urban areas.