William Burns, Craven Braying Jackass
When we read a statement from Oleg Orlov last week indicating after a meeting with top American diplomat William Burns that the undersecretary intended to offer “public criticism” of the Putin regime’s abysmal human rights record, we were heartened. Maybe at last, we hoped, the craven Obama regime has got the message that it can’t simply ignore the appalling neo-Soviet crackdown underway in Putin’s Russia.
But then we read how Burns chose to respond to the fact that Lev Ponomarev had been absent from the meeting because he’d ben arrested for daring to assemble in public to discuss Putin’s atrocities without first getting Putin’s written permission. To say we were disappointed is putting it mildly.
Burns stated: “I should note that it is regrettable that Lev Ponomarev, who was supposed to be at the meeting, was not able to attend. The freedom of assembly is very important to the United States and very important for any democratic society.”
That’s pretty lame all by itself, but then it got much worse. Burns went on to meet with Kremlin officals and all that could be reported afterwards was: “The arrest was also discussed at the U.S. officials’ meetings with their Russian counterparts.”
In other words, all Burns had to say after meeting with Russian rights activists was that it was “regrettable” the Kremlin is illegally arresting them, and Burns could not even say the word “arrest.” Instead, he used the outrageous and offensive diplomatic euphemism “not able to attend” and expressed no direct opinion about the legality of his seizure. In essence, his words can be read to say it’s too bad the arrest had to coincide with the meeting, the Kremlin could have arrested him a bit later. Nothing quotable, nothing likely to make a splash in either the Russian or the Western press.
Then, to outdo himself, Burns refused to give any details at all about how he raised the issue with Russian officials or how they responded. What’s more, there’s no hint that Burns even mentioned the repeated arrests of former first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov or the suppression of his writings about the Kremlin’s policy failures, nor did he mention the resignation of Ella Pamfilova.
Once again, in other words, the United States has failed to provide the basic leadership the world expects from it on democracy and human rights, failed to do so as Obama continues his craven policy of appeasement towards Russia in horrifyingly Chamberlainian fashion.
Would it really have been so hard for Burns to simply say “the United States condemns the obviously illegal arrest of Russian human rights activist for doing nothing more than exercising his right of assembly.” Couldn’t he have said “the United States does not notice any cases in which pro-Putin demonstrtors have faced similar obstacles or arrests”?
Of course he could have. We say so.