Obama must End his Craven Silence on Russia

An editorial in the Washington Post notes that Russia is flouting the Obama administration on human rights (it overlooks the fact that, as we report below, the deal over Iran sanctions is for a watered-down sham no different than several similar pacts reached in the Bush years, and the deal over nukes is equally dishonest, achieving only tiny marginal changes in weapons stockpiles — so the price Obama has paid for this escalation in human rights atrocities is truly appalling).

RUSSIA’S GOVERNMENT has calculated that it needs better relations with the West to attract more foreign investment and modern technology, according to a paper by its foreign ministry that leaked to the press last month. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has recently made conciliatory gestures to Poland, while President Dmitry Medvedev sealed a nuclear arms treaty with President Obama. At the United Nations, Russia has agreed to join Western powers in supporting new sanctions against Iran.

Moscow’s new friendliness, however, hasn’t led to any change in its repressive domestic policies. The foreign ministry paper says Russia needs to show itself as a democracy with a market economy to gain Western favor. But Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev have yet to take steps in that direction. There have been no arrests in the more than a dozen outstanding cases of murdered journalists and human rights advocates; a former KGB operative accused by Scotland Yard of assassinating a dissident in London still sits in the Russian parliament.

Perhaps most significantly, the Russian leadership is allowing the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil executive who has become the country’s best-known political prisoner, to go forward even though it has become a showcase for the regime’s cynicism, corruption and disregard for the rule of law. Mr. Khodorkovsky, who angered Mr. Putin by funding opposition political parties, was arrested in 2003 and convicted on charges of tax evasion. His Yukos oil company, then Russia’s largest, was broken up and handed over to state-controlled firms.A second trial of Mr. Khodorkovsky is nearing its completion in Moscow, nearly a year after it began. Its purpose is transparent: to prevent the prisoner’s release when his first sentence expires next year. The new charges are, as Mr. Putin’s own former prime minister testified last week, absurd: Mr. Khodorkovsky and an associate, Platon Lebedev, are now accused of embezzling Yukos’s oil production, a crime that, had it occurred, would have made their previously alleged crime of tax evasion impossible.

Mr. Khodorkovsky, who acquired his oil empire in the rough and tumble of Russia’s transition from communism, is no saint, but neither is he his country’s Al Capone, as Mr. Putin has claimed. In fact, he is looking more and more like the prisoners of conscience who have haunted previous Kremlin regimes. In the past several years he has written numerous articles critiquing Russia’s corruption and lack of democracy, including one on our op-ed page last month.

Mr. Obama raised the case of Mr. Khodorkovsky last year, and the State Department’s most recent human rights report said the trial “raised concerns about due process and the rule of law.” But the administration has not let this obvious instance of persecution, or Mr. Putin’s overall failure to ease domestic repression, get in the way of its “reset” of relations with Moscow. If the United States and leading European governments would make clear that improvements in human rights are necessary for Moscow to win trade and other economic concessions, there is a chance Mr. Putin would respond. If he does not, Western governments at least would have a clearer understanding of where better relations stand on the list of his true priorities.

3 responses to “Obama must End his Craven Silence on Russia

  1. We Westerners should not be concerned with whether Russia is a pleasant place to live, as long as we do not have to live there ourselves. It is not our job to “spread democracy” and other such neoconservative, utopian clap-trap. What matters is that Russia is dangerous to us.

    No less so than the USSR, neocommunist Russia is a threat to the remnants of the West. Europe suffers from the risk of having its energy supplies cut (especially Eastern Europe), and the United States has an increased risk of nuclear war as it proceeds down the inredibly stupid path of unilateral disarmament under the neocommies in the Democratic Party, led by Clinton, Feinstein, and Obama. On top of that, the SVR cultivates ethnic Russians through the Russian Orthodox Church, and helps to turn academics and politicians in favour of Russia. In addition, there is the problem of Russian narcotics trafficking, exposed beautifully in Joseph D. Douglass’ book “Red Cocaine”. Finally, Russia supports anti-Western governments and politicians worldwide, such as Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela.

    Please don’t expect Obama to change. His parents were convinced commies who met in Russian class during the Cold War, and his wife says his “home country” is Kenya:

    On top of that, he was raised as a religious Muslim:


    (His mother was clearly sympathetic to Islam, or else she would not have married an Indonesian following her divorce from Barack Obama, Sr.)

    Obama has been friends with the Marxist William Ayers, as well as numerous CPUSA figures (including the paedophile Frank Marshall Davis), since childhood.

    Any questions?

    • The Russians peddled drugs into the US, oh my! Well given the way the poppy cultivation in Afghanistan grew since the US intervention and the inability of the occupying forces to do anything about it; the Americans have only one option: Shut the hell up!

  2. The murders of journalists, human rights and that criminal and tax evader Khodorkovsky have nothing to do with economics. Just take a look at China, there people like Khodorkovsky would be put in front of a firing squad. ;-)

    As for Iran, the US should not worry about Russia but more about Turkey. Russia is not a US satellite state but Turkey should be in theory as it is in NATO. In practice, Russia signed up to the sanctions but Turkey didn’t. Only proves how pointless the whole North Atlantic alliance actually is. :-)

    Besides, I have some direct information that a major US company already signed deals with Russian state owned corporation (information will not be specified). I don’t think they bothered about Khodorkovsky, or the lack of democracy.

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