Speak Up, Mr. McCain
Even as Russian “president” Dima Medvedev was meeting with Barack Obama in London in an effort to “press the reset button” on U.S.-Russian relations, Medvedev’s cruel KGB regime showed by its actions that the effort was nothing more than a sham. Obama remains silent on the issue of human rights and the new cold war with Russia, giving every indication that he has been suckered by the neo-Soviet regime in Moscow, and it is now time for Republican John McCain to speak up in vehement opposition.
We understand that McCain was honor bound to give Obama the chance to formulate his policy towards the KGB regime of Vladimir Putin without interference, but three months have now passed and Obama has met with his Russian “counterpart,” yet remained totally silent on American values and national security where Russia is concerned. Therefore, McCain must now demand better. And let’s be clear: It’s not only the right thing, but in his party’s partisan interests, to do so. Republicans have lost the intiative on domestic policy but, following the lead of their great leader Ronald Reagan, they can claim the high ground on foreign policy by moving decisively against Putin.
The evidence of Putin’s malignant intentions is damning indeed.
First, Russia put yet another blogger on trial for the “criminal” offense of writing critically about the Russian government on his blog. Dmitri Solovy0v, (pictured, left) a close associate of dissident leader Oleg Kozlovsky who regularly participated in Kozlovsky’s public demonstrations against Vladimir Putin’s anti-democratic policies, was charged in the city of Kemerovo with “hate speech” for republishing another bloggers critical comments about Russian Interior Ministry and KGB (now FSB) officers on his Live Journal forum under his “dimon77” screen name. Solovyov now faces two years in prison for this “crime,” which consisted of accusing the KGB of prosecuting cases leading to “unjust verdicts” and “beating confessions out” of people, intimidation and committing dissidents to psychiatric asylums.” It’s just the latest in a series of such attacks on the Internet, the last vestige of critical information left in Putin’s Russia.
As if that were not enough, one of Russia’s leading human rights activists, and a staunch critic of the manipulated legal proceedings used to imprison oil tycoon and Kremlin rival Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was brutally assaulted in Moscow. 67-year-old Lev Ponomarev (pictured, right) was jumped by a gang of thugs just as the Khodorkovsky’s second trial on embezzlement charges began in Moscow. He referred to hit as a “contract hit.” Clearly aimed at silencing his activism so as to grease the skids under Khodorkovsky, who had called for Putin to testify at his trial just the day before in open court, the attack carries ominous echoes of the assassination of human rights attorney Stanislav Markelov under similar circumstances. Ponomarev was a founder of the Memorial human rights society, Russia’s version of Amnesty Intenrational, and is a board member of the Solidarity opposition movement founded by opposition politicians Boris Nemtsov and Garry Kasparov. He has been openly critical of the Russian prison system and the” roll-back” of rights Putin. In a strange and eerie twist, based on a report in the Russian paper Novaya Gazeta, attorney Robert Amsterdam, who represents Khodorokovsky and knows Ponomarev well, reports that just before Ponomarev was attacked his Wikipedia page was revised by a member in the Russian city of Ryazan to announce he’d been killed.
Let’s be clear: Reflecting on cases like that of Markelov and firebrand journalist Anna Politkovskaya, it’s clear that both Solovyov and Ponomarev were lucky, because they lived to fight another day. Ever since Vladimir Putin came to power, one opposition figure after another has been cut down in cold blood, with not a single conviction resulting from any of the wanton bloodshed. Journalists are a particular and ongoing target. And this corruption of the Russian court system is widespread and debilitating. Writing in the Washington Times, Russia scholar Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation states: “During the Boris Yeltsin presidency, the Russian courts, despite their corrupt practices and lack of judicial sophistication, slowly inched toward more independence. In 2002-03, however, a reversal began. The rulers increasingly use ‘telephone justice’ – senior state officials call upon judges and tell them how to decide cases under the guise of protecting ‘paramount state interests.'”
Both Obama and Medvedev are lawyers (though, to be sure, the Russian education of a lawyer bears little similarity to its American counterpart). Yet, Obama chose to focus his announcement after meeting Medvedev on his idiotic, native take on the issue of nuclear arms reduction, showing Medvedev with praise “for taking the time to visit with me today” as if he were a supplicant and declaring, almost like a breathless schoolboy, that he was “excited” about being invited to visit Moscow in July.
Not a word about human rights issues of any kind, much less any indication that any sort of challenge had been offered, or even any questions asked. Under such circumstances, why shouldn’t the Kremlin think it can, quite literally, get away with murder? In essence, it is being rewarded for doing so, because Russia is far less able than the U.S. to wage a nuclear arms race given the total collapse of the Russian economy, and Obama seems to be offering the perfect pathway towards avoiding such a contest and therefore maximizing the impact of Russia’s nuclear forces.
And more importantly, why should anyone who might consider standing up for human rights in Russia, like Solovyov or Ponomarev, think America’s so-called liberal president will have his back? It seems Barrack Obama is willing to aggressively attack perceived human rights violations by the U.S., at Guantanamo for example, but not to stand up for oppressed peoples and American values abroad. That’s exactly the wrong message for America to be sending Russia, at a unique historical moment when Russia is receptive to pressure because of its economic downturn and confused leadership structure. In a few more years, if the economy rebounds and Putin is firmly ensconced as “president for life,” and if Obama does nothing to reverse the trend, we will face a brutal new cold war with a hardened neo-Soviet enemy.
Human rights is far from being the only issue on which neo-Soviet Russia has directly attacked American values. Russia is also spitting in America’s eye in Georgia, where it is flouting its written agreement to remove troops and threatening the U.S. with bellicose rhetoric. Obama did nothing to butress security in Georgia, either.
George Bush looked in Putin’s eye and saw a trustworthy soul. A river of Russian blood followed. Medvedev just spit in Obama’s eye, and Obama seems not to have noticed. We can predict what will follow.