It really comes down to the capitalist system being vastly superior to whatever the communists were cooking up. Looks at Germany and Japan, both completely wrecked in WW2, yet emerged to become the second and third largest economies during the 80s.
They were well organized and the USSR does not appear to have managed a great internal economy... Though also: While the Cold War was already starting, the US dumped massive funding and new equipment into both Germany and Japan. And proceeded to provide a great deal of their defense for those decades. While Russia had to rebuild half the country after a hard, scorched-earth war. And worked to suppress rebellions against its preferred figureheads in Eastern Europe.
Sometimes it's easy to stay ahead if you have a huge start? It seems to work for some wealthy families in the US, too. Hoard, reinvest, and keep hoarding... And when in doubt, take some of it and voila refinance! Refinance much of the modern world, in the case of the US and the international monetary system.
As for sphere of influence... the US's sphere of influence is pretty much the entire world. Most countries only concerns themselves over regional disputes, the US is there wherever in the world. All the military expenditure isn't just for show.
I sympathize to an extent. The US can use freedom of navigation in rather dubious ways for example, as you often hear China upset about now...
And yet oddly, for all this time since the Bay of Pigs, the US has not gotten around to invading Cuba. It didn't even put up a serious effort with Nicaragua in the 80's (Iran-Contra seems like a strange little stumble then, doesn't it). Hell, there hasn't even been an attack on Syria so far (though I've sometimes wondered about just why not). The US doesn't simply go around invading because it can. And it doesn't seem to assume that a regime nearby being friendly to Russia, makes a dire need to put in ground troops. Though I would grant you, relations with those regimes have been less than stellar. There have been attempts to isolate or destabilize many of them (rather secretly I think, though I was quite young re: the worst I've heard of Latin America and more informed Americans were often aware and sometimes protested these).
A question for comparison might be: Will things like the Russian mothers demanding answers about Ukraine, have any potential for brewing a political movement that could actually force Putin to remove support from the Donetsk rebels? Is Putin really liable to face an Iran-Contra style investigation over Ukraine? If not, then I suggest that Russian policy is perhaps somewhat more fixated on strong central control and occupation of territory
(as opposed to mostly financial or technical influence). And that is more what I mean by 19th century style.
The US had no business in Kosovo or Libya.
I dunno, there I'm more inclined to say Russia seems awfully content to have some really messy conflicts brewing in its neighboring areas... Bosnia, Syria -- not to mention Afghanistan. Today it just happens to be Ukraine, and the West has shown a lot of restraint. (You suppose this one might not rage on for years?) It's tough not to see at least some humanitarian interest, after these things rage on for so many years and as the bodies and crimes pile up.
Sure, one can fuss over exactly when and how decisions are made and what else
ends up being pursued along the way.
American exceptionism right there, it's okay when the US does it, it's "different" it's for the good of the world. But when Russia or any other country that does it, it's a big no no. They are just evil and trying to take over the world.
I do understand roughly how the sentiment builds... But I think you want to be able to convince people that you're looking at cases of precisely the same
behavior. And there it can get messy finding agreement about what we're looking at.
The world hasn't evolved, take a good look at the UN security council. Russia, US, France, UK and China, five big countries having the power to veto. Now might I ask, how come they get more of a say? Is that not a showing of 19th century thought?
It might be a bit more 1940's... Seeing as Russia gets to be on it? I seem to recall Russia was considered pretty unmentionable around say, the time of the First World War. And this sort of goes against the rest of what you're saying... How much American exceptionalism would it really take to kick Russia and China out,
call a new organization and do without all those vetoes?
But you're right, it has long been mentioned as one example of a rapidly aging, and many would say obsolete setup (if not precisely archaic).
Too bad for Putin, though. If only he could live before was it, 1952... No Crimea problem for him, and he could have had all his lovely vassal states and himself stay focused on trying to get serious nuclear weapons and such. Maybe he's born in the wrong time? He does have something of an uphill fight.