EDITORIAL: Getting Tough with Russia

EDITORIAL

Getting Tough with Russia

On Monday morning, Russians woke to news that all 26 ambassadors of NATO, and its Secretary General, were in Tbilisi conferencing with Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili, who their president has called a “criminal.”  Guess that makes all the leaders of the NATO countries criminals too, huh Vlad?  The NATO chief explained the purpose of the visit: “We want to show our support for Georgia after what we have seen from the Russian side.”  The meeting comes in advance of a NATO summit in December which could result in Ukraine and Georgia both being given formalized NATO status.  It seems the world is finally waking up and getting tough with Russia.

Writing in the Washington Post Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky states:

The situation in Georgia is the culmination of a failed post-Cold War policy toward Russia. Central to this failure has been ignoring the inherent connection between internal freedom and external aggression. As democracy was rolled back within Russia, the world abandoned an approach that had been so effective during the later stages of the Cold War, when relations with the Kremlin were linked to the expansion of freedom inside the Soviet Union.  The threat to Georgia, Russia’s other democratic neighbors and America ultimately arises from a lack of democracy within Russia. Changing that should be the focus of statecraft today — if we want to ensure that the Kremlin poses no threat to peace tomorrow.

Sharansky asked Ronald Reagan whether he opposed direct confrontations of the Kremlin by dissidents on the grounds that it might alienate Russia and provoke retaliation. Reagan answerd: “Do you think I am interested in a friendship with the Soviets if they continue to keep their people in prison? You do what you believe is right.”

How quickly the West lost sight of this wisdom when the USSR collapsed, Sharansky moans.  He writes:

As Putin grew bolder in reversing democratic reforms — from taking over media outlets to menacing independent journalists to nationalizing industries — there was barely a hint of protest. When he brazenly arrested Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a billionaire and potential presidential rival, there were those in the Kremlin who warned of serious negative consequences. But such advisers quickly lost credibility when, after Western democratic leaders paid their traditional lip service to human rights and democracy, it was business as usual.

It is, quite simply, nonsense to believe that Russia can be transformed from benign to malignant simply because of peaceful verbal demonstrations of contempt for authoritarianism.  Those who suggest this is the case are either cowards or collaborators.  For too long now, as we have been warning ever since this blog was formed, the world has turned a blind eye to the rising of a neo-Soviet state in Russia, and the time has come now to acknowlege this mistake and correct it.

The Bush administration, at long last, seems to understand this. It is moving forward aggressively with a plan to dramatically beef up Georgia’s military establishment.  It has boldly sailed warships into the Russia-held Georgian port of Poti, and now Russia is retreating.  It has already approved a $1 billion aid package to rebuild damage caused by Russia in Georgia, and it was well ahead of the curve in calling for the admission of both Georgia and Ukraine to NATO, an issue on which Europe has lagged ignominiously far behind.  Russia being forced into a crippling arms race, announcing a sudden 70 billion ruble increase in defense spending for next year, even as its stock market has plunged by half and foreign investment is fleeing.  Russia can no more sustain such an arms race with the West than the USSR could, and will surely be destroyed by it.

Vladimir Putin has brought his country to the brink of ruin and, as we report today, there are even many Russians who are willing to say so.  Let’s hope that others join them before it is too late and Russia goes the way of the USSR.

5 responses to “EDITORIAL: Getting Tough with Russia

  1. 1) The article on the Bush administration’s “moving forward aggressively” appears to have been published 6 days ago whereas the one on Russia “retreating” only 2 days ago. Did it really take Russia 4 days to develop a kind of fear and retreat? Or does Russia’s “retreat” have something to do with the deal with the EU?
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article4710020.ece
    euobserver.com/9/26708
    Moreover at what point in any of the two articles are these two events connected to one another.
    2) The USA might want to give out one billion dollars but is that enough? Why don’t they give more? They might be “calling for” admission of the Ukraine and Georgia into NATO but the remaining 25 members have to agree (unanimously) and last time I checked they didn’t in April. Please call me when they do.
    3) Have you noticed the equivalent of 70 billion rubbles in dollar terms? Maybe about 3-4 billion dollars? Wow big hike indeed indeed! Especially for a country with a GDP of over 1,5 trillion (dollars of course).
    You might as well title this article “Wishful thinking” (although you could omit the word thinking).

  2. The failure in Russia by the West started in 1991 with Bush Sr. and then followed by Clinton and his do nothing team of Warren “soap head” Christopher, Anthony “Let the Hutus butcher Tutus” and Madeline “N. Korean Star Struck” Albright. The stars were in alignment when the American Revolution occurred. Through the fog of chaos, great leaders emerged, Jefferson Washington, Adams, Franklin etc. The stars were crossed when the Soviet Union collapsed. Instead of Jeffersons and Franklins and Adams, Russia got Berezovsky, Gusinsky, Luzkov, Chubais, Smolensky, Khodorkovsky, who sucked the country dry like a leech on hemophiliac. Part of it is not entirely Russia’s fault. The British America until 1776 produced Americans with rugged independent streaks. The USSR produced drones and intellectual impotents. So, that left Russia with a void that was filled by scallywags, carpetbaggers, low life scum, and mafia bandits. The West failed to recognize what was going on and continued to pump money into the country to prop up the bumbling and stumbling Yeltsin, who, when sober, could actually lead, but was intoxicated most of the time and under the influence of Korzhakov and the Oligarchs. Much of the money meant to reform the country was squandered on a stupid war in Chechnya and sent out of the country. Then, Yeltsin handpicks his successor, Vladimir Putin. He’s from the KGB. The very group that Yeltsin despised and tried to dismantle in the early 90’s. Putin’s presidency should have sent alarm bells through out the West. But it did not. Bush gave everyone reassure with his now famous I looked into his eyes speech. That vote of confidence from the most powerful man in the world gave Putin a mandate to roll back reforms, to curtail free speech, to strangle liberal thoughts, and to take the country by the balls and squeeze until Russians cried “DyaDya”, I love you. So, now we are where we are. Yes, the Russians do deserve much of the blame. So does the West. Without the munchkins, Dorothy would never found the yellow brick road. Without leadership from the West, Russia has been allowed to slide back to its bad ways.

  3. Sharansky’s analysis is very wise and comes out of a great deal of experience. I hope those with the ability to do something listen to him.

  4. Kolchak “…Without leadership from the West, Russia has been allowed to slide back to its bad ways”

    West has been singing praises to Putin, providing technology and equipment for oil and gas exploration, financing Russian industry, inviting Russia to G8, WTO and, in general, bending over backwards to pamper them with attention. Western thinking is that if you help and respect another country it will reciprocate in kind. But Russia, like a shark, bites the hand that feeds it and their hatred of US and NATO is not rational but borders on psychotic paranoia. Many Russians actually believe they were battling US and NATO in Georgia.
    Western mollycoddling of Russia clearly failed but in retrospect what concrete policies do you think West should have employed to deal with Russia?
    “Leadership” is a bit of a vague concept and I don’t see what precisely West could have done differently that would have yielded better results given the idiosyncrasies of Russian mentality?

  5. The irony is that most of the investment income was coming from the US.

    When Russia invaded an american ally, Russian stock wasn’t worth s#$t.

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