Unfortunately for the U.S., moves to “punish France, ignore Germany, and forgive Russia” have done something which the USSR was never able to do—create an actual fracture in NATO, in the form of the new military planning structure being set up by Germany and France, which Russia is being invited to join. While this adds no new forces to the European armies, it makes explicit that the heart of “Old Europe” is preparing to go its own way militarily—and despite sneers from pundits, removing the forces and territory of France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg from NATO control and access will effectively destroy most of the alliance's utility to America. Moreover, if the Euro-Russian military alignment turns into an economic one as well, it can have some very unhappy consequences for us. Russia has everything France and Germany need (cheap energy, cheap raw materials, strategically-deployable military forces, world-class military R&D facilities, etc.) while they have what Russia needs (money, the potential to switch to a Euro-based reserve currency, and more critically strong economic influence over Rumsfeld's “New Europe”).
An example of this last is the reaction to Poland’s intention to send occupation troops at its own expense to Iraq to seek favor with America. At the recent EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Greece, Poland was none-too-subtly reminded that since it could find money to send troops to Iraq in direct defiance of the EU, it obviously didn’t need largely-German EU subsidies that are keeping its economy afloat, and might find itself deprived of them. German Defense Minster Struck made that point explicit a few days ago when he refused to send German troops to Iraq with the Poles. It also bears remembering that the vast bulk of Poland’s energy comes from Russia, that they are deeply in debt to Russia for it, and that this can be used as a political weapon or a means by which Russia takes control of vital industries as a debt-for-equity deal, which has been done in many of the former Communist Bloc countries. Unless we’re prepared to make up for such economic losses, the Polish government’s cooperation may very well be overridden by its hostile populace—some 70% of which opposed and still oppose U.S. policy on Iraq. This is the ugly secret of the “Coalition of the Willing”—in every case, only the governments of these nations supported us, and now they expect tangible rewards for their “help” to stave off their angry electorates.
To conclude my comments on Russia: The Ralph Peters essay you once linked to used the analogy that we should behave towards Russia like a parent towards a sulky child***, and Condi Rice's statement about “forgiving” Russia for standing up for its own interests is in the same vein—profoundly arrogant and insulting, and worse yet counterproductive. We’ve applied this method to virtually every other nation in the world since the “War on Terrorism” started, and it’s no wonder that our support has dried up with such speed. If the U.S. were serious about having Russia become a stable, democratic, prosperous ally, it would not be trying to choke it economically (e.g., the BTC pipeline and related schemes), break it up via fomenting ethnic tensions (e.g., our prior support for the Chechens, the reluctance to do more than make pro forma condemnations of the most obvious terrorists among them in recent months, and our continued encouragement of separatism among other radical North Caucasian Muslims), encircle it with military bases on what was recently its own soil (e.g., Georgia, Central Asia, and probably soon in the Baltic States and other “New European” countries), and, by doing all of the above, encourage the most reactionary, anti-democratic and anti-American elements in the government and society.