Big human tragedies are moments of change but can also provide the spark of unity. Political differences, competing interpretations of history, and differences in values all - even for a short moment - disappear in the face of death.

Coupled with a visit on Thursday to Argentina and then to Brazil by President Dmitri Medvedev, Russia is raising its profile in the Western Hemisphere, waking up from its self-imposed post-Cold War hibernation to expand its regional ties.

Russia is currently in the process of building a network of promoting the nation’s language and culture throughout the world. The idea of promoting the Russian language and Russian culture as national heritage and creating a Russian diaspora abroad has received strong support from the state ever since the Russky Mir (Russian World) Foundation was founded in 2007.

Far from aggravating frictions in Russian-Polish relations, as initially feared, the plane crash that killed Poland’s president and a swath of the upper echelon of politicians and military leaders on Saturday appears to have achieved the opposite effect, encouraging kindness and understanding on both sides.

The question of whether Russia is Europe's partner or challenger is the wrong question," Karaganov said. The former advisor to Presidents Putin and Yeltsin said that politicians ought to be asking whether the two sides are "allies or strategic idiots.

By all appearances, the United States faces a serious public diplomacy challenge in Kyrgyzstan. Washington’s sluggish initial response has enabled Russia to take the early lead in what is shaping up as a race to cultivate the goodwill of the Kyrgyz provisional government.

Boris Sokolov suggests in an essay posted on today, shows that Putin not only was unprepared to acknowledge many aspects of that horrific act but openly lied about it to bring pressure on Poland to stop raising the issue either bilaterally or internationally.