"If push came to shove, most would grudgingly accept that the US is a bit more benign..."
They would be seriously wrong, in that case.
The USA is, and always has been, a huge force for harm in the world. That is simply because, right from the start, it was run by the super-rich in their own interests.
A nation in which everything is for sale is a nation that can have no concept of virtue, no morality, no decency and, to a close approximation, no real culture. All those things have been replaced by money and its pursuit.
Incidentally, this also explains why the US government always behaves like Israel's pet poodle. Israelis and other Jews tend to be extremely rich, and extremely uninterested in ethics when it comes to the fate of goyim. Hence they buy what they want in the Washington bazaar - including US foreign policy. Hardly anyone who matters in the USA has any objection to this, because when Israel and its supporters get what they want, the wheels of commerce and finance are oiled and run smoothly - in other words, treble bonuses all round, yippee.
Russia - as distinct from the USSR - is actually quite benign considering its vast size and considerable power. Its government, led by Mr Putin, is always insisting on legality and morality, and mostly does what it says it will.