THE FOLLY OF THE "GET PUTIN" GANG
The other day, Arnaud de Borchgrave
wrote a perceptive column about the state of Russia being analagous to that of France after WWII
. De Borchgrave went on to make the sensible point that whatever the historical accuracy of dredging up the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the timing left much to be desired if closer relations between the United States and Russia were the object:"As a proud nation celebrated the 60th anniversary of VE-Day (May 8 for Europe and the United States, May 9 for Russians), it was not prudent to remind Russia it was also part of the twin evils of the 20th century -- Nazism and communism. Nor was it wise to keep up a steady drumbeat of epithets about the lack of democracy as Russia looked back with pride at the sacrifice of 27 million men and women (more than 10 percent of its population) in the Great Patriotic War that defeated Nazi Germany. That was more blood spilled than all the other allied nations put together. The World War II casualties of the United States on all fronts were a shade less than half a million. Russia and America need each other today on several critical fronts, from transnational terrorism to the security of Russia's 8,000 nuclear weapons and thousands of tons of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. A small amount of these nuclear materials would be sufficient to make a radiological ("dirty") bomb that would render Wall Street or downtown Washington around the White House uninhabitable for years. President Bush and Secretary of State Condi Rice have ramped up their criticism of what they see as Mr. Putin's backsliding on democracy. Engaging Russia, as Mr. Bush says he wishes to do, means dropping gratuitous insults about its lack of democratic virtues. Such advice is best rendered in private. Russia is at a crossroads. One direction points to Germany after World War I, or the collapse of democracy and the totalitarian temptation. The other is Germany after World War II, the birth of a strong democracy nurtured by the United States."
Unfortunately, there is a gathering crowd in Washington working behind the scenes who do not desire good relations with Russia and essentially view Vladmir Putin's administration as a crypto-Soviet state fundamentally hostile to the United States
. Dick Morris
, a former adviser to a Senate majority leader, a President and lately,Viktor Yushchenko, the new president of Ukraine, writes in the influential Capitol Hill paper Roll Call
of a " Czar Putin" under whom "... the old Soviet Union will be back on the road to regional domination and the old ambitions of global power will return". The otherwise sensible National Center For Public Policy Research with
solidly Reaganite credentials, maintains a satellite operation called Center for the Future of Russia
that is little more than a comical propaganda sheet for the Oligarchs ( which makes one wonder if any unusually large checks have floated the National Center's way of late).
Vladmir Putin is at best an illiberal democrat. He has used strongarm tactics to break the power of the Oligarchs over Russia's government and he is censoring the press through pressure, confiscation, intimidation and legal harrassment. The war in Chechnya under Putin is being carried out with the usual trademarkRussian mixture of brutality and incompetence. Putin has steadily consolidated most of the levers of power in his own hands. These are things which the United States should regard with a concerned wariness when dealing with the Russian Federation.
But if Vladmir Putin is no Thomas Jefferson, he isn't Joseph Stalin either. He has been elected democratically and enjoys wide, deep, support and dissenters are not being herded into camps behind barbed wire. Putin is not the enemy of the United States and he is a determined reformer who is by all reports, honest. Can that be said of Khordokovsky, Berezovsky, Gusinsky and the other Oligarchs who have looted Russia of hundreds of billions of dollars with the help of mafia crime lords and ex-Communist fixers ? These characters do not have clean enough hands for any respectable American conservative to imagine they represent the free market or for any American liberal to pretend that these looters are democrats. In Chicago, we have a term for " businessmen" like the Oligarchs:
" Mobbed Up"
These are ruthless men with very, very, large bank accounts and sinister motives who are trying hard to get the ear of official Washington because they would like to see the Bush administration begin to undermine Putin.
That this would not be of appreciable benefit to the American people when Putin's replacement proves to be a hapless stooge and Russia goes off the rails in the direction of a failed state armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, concerns them not at all.
But it should concern you.