For 250 years, Russia's been the only place in the world that makes authentic Gzhel porcelain, and where'd we be without that? We may not know what it looks like or why it's valuable, but it must be preserved!
25. Our spies
a. Who wants to study Urdu in college? "Oh, dude, my junior year in Islamabad was awesome! The girls at the local university were so hot -- well, I mean I think they were hot, you couldn't really tell because of the veils and everything. Some of them even said that I was so cool that they would never support jihad against me."
b. The old generation of spies hasn't died out yet, and learning a new language after 35 is a bitch.
26. The FT-Chubais-Bivens love triangle
Few things are more entertaining than watching this recurring drama play itself out every year or so: first the Financial Times correspondent gets wined and dined by Chubais. He responds by writing a blowjob article, which prompts scorned lover Matt Bivens to write a scalding column in the Moscow Times exposing Chubais as a corrupt master of evil and the FT as his willing servant. We're not sure why this makes Russia necessary, but it does make for some good reading.
27. The Northern Passage
The Northwest Passage might have been an idea ahead of its time, but as long as Russia withholds its support from the Kyoto Accords, it's got a chance of making a comeback! Even the Trans-Sib pales in comparison as a novel way to get things from the producers to the consumers.
In an age where the world is subdividing more and more, where schools have to drop thousands of dollars every year so their maps show some new "country" like East Timor, it's nice to have a little consistency here and there. Not only is Russia huge, but it's not getting renamed anytime soon. Well, not if we can help it.
29. The cold
While Iraq's climate might leave a little to be desired, and a little more coastline would be nice, we'll take a hot colony over a cold one any day. Sure our soldiers might moan a bit about the silver dollar-sized sand-flea lesions or driving a Bradley in full flak suit, helmet and 140-degree weather, but any fool'd take that over the prospect of a single winter night on sentry duty at Stalingrad. Besides, you can work with the desert -- that's why Phoenix is a boomtown and Fargo is, well, Fargo. So, given Russia's too cold to colonize, it's nice to have a semi-functional state in power to keep an eye on things.
30. Mail-order brides
This may be Russia's greatest cultural contribution to America since the fall of the Berlin Wall. There's nothing like an affordable and reliable nineteen-year-old doe-eyed beauty from some derevnya zhopa who will cook, clean, and satisfy your every desire. That is, until she puts on 70 pounds after her 25th birthday and her brother and his thug friends "reorganize" your family business.
Their business plan calls for expansion to either India or Russia, and India doesn't allow foreign investment in retail. Considering nobody since Stalin's second five-year plan has been so obsessed with sticking to the plan, there's no doubt Wal-Mart's sizing up Russia. Antagonize Russia, and it might resist Wal-Martification. And when Wal-Mart finds out who foiled their expansion plans, there'll be hell to pay.
Without Russia's rapidly decaying nuclear power plants, chemical-waste dumps, and other eco-disasters, Europe would be safer -- and the last thing Europe needs is more safety. The continent is dying of boredom already, and the prospect of another Chernobyl is one of the few scenarios scary enough to make life sweet for the world-weary inhabitants of the failing theme-park called "Western Europe."
The Chinese love to gamble and, even if they could get visas, they couldn't make the long trip to Las Vegas very often. But Russian border towns from Vladivostok to Blagaveshensk give them a chance to live the dream. And if the Chinese want to spend their hard-earned money in casinos rather than on advanced new weapons systems, who are we to deny them?
34. Fradkov's charisma
35. The UN Security Council