The frantic space and arms races that once drained so many trillions of dollars and rubles from U.S. and Soviet Russian treasuries and kept the two nations in tense standoffs for a generation are history. But another race is afoot in both nations that tests which cares the most, of all things, about salmon.
In Washington, the Bush administration's unshakable policy is to ignore pleas to breach several dams on the lower Snake River to allow safer passage of salmon rather than forcing them to struggle for survival through hydroelectric turbines and contrived and potentially lethal methods of barging them to open water.
However, in Moscow, the word is out to find ways of preserving the abundant salmon in the eastern provinces.
Comparing attitudes reveals the obvious: American politicians place salmon second to hydro power and shipping interests, while the Russians place salmon as an asset worthy of preferred treatment.
Nine entire rivers and more than six million acres of watersheds are being set aside in Kamchatka to protect tens of millions of wild coho and sockeye and sea-run trout and char. This is an area four times the size of Florida's Everglades, three times the size of Yellowstone National Park and nearly eight times the size of Idaho's Sawtooth Recreation Area.
Every month that U.S. politicians ignore the plight of migrating wild salmon to curry favor with Snake River dam interests, one of America's finest and most revered native species continues on a desperate decline toward extinction.
Is this the sort of race Americans want to lose—to Russia?