Just so we’re all on the same page regarding Russia. I think it was a great step forward for us and for them when the Berlin wall fell in 1990. The United States got to relax a little bit on the foreign policy front. Russia got to experience capitalistic markets and freedom of travel. Soviet satellites got to elect their own governments and have self rule for the first time in 50 or 60 years.
However, Russia seems hell bent on traveling back into the Soviet era. It’s been pretty well documented that President Putin has orchestrated violence in Chechnya, meddled in the politics of several former Soviet states, and tightened his grip on power at home. Putin has taken to criticizing the United States for our unilateralist ways.
You see, not only did Putin apparently forget that he himself rules over Russia in a totally unilateral manner, he also forgot the context in which his remarks were being made. It’s a context of (a) massive military buildup and (b) horrifying incidents of political murder and (c) worldwide fear of Russian efforts to weaponize its energy resources. Putin has just announced a nearly 25% increase in Russian military spending including massive arms sales to American enemies like China, Iran, and Venezuela, and he has presided over a litany of killings of Kremlin critics ranging from Anna Politkovskaya to Alexander Litvinenko (in between are more than a dozen journalists including many names Westerners hardly even know, like Yuri Shchekochikhin). He’d kicked Western oil companies out of Russia’s major oil and gas fields, and gone so far as to arrest and jail major oil company executives (in fact, he just recently announced a whole new round of charges against Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky, essentially trying him for the same crime twice).
Instead of trying to put out the fires of Western concern over these issues, Putin arrogantly chose to pour gasoline on them, just as was done in Soviet times.
At the end of the “cold war” we started treating a long time enemy as an ally, welcoming them with open arms into the western world of capitalism and democracy. We had assumed that they wanted to be there. I’m sure that many of them do want to be there, but the leaders seem to be stuck in another era.
We need to stop treating Russia like a friend or even a curious stranger, but as a thug on a dark corner with not so friendly intentions. That thug is selling weapons to those who would use them to harm the United States or our citizens and slowly attempting to rebuild the former glorious empire.
Recall that early in his administration, Bush met with Putin in Texas and declared that Putin was a friend and that he had looked into his eyes to get a “sense of his soul” and apparently saw nothing nasty there. Well, George, I see something awry there, and you need to accept that you made a mistake and do something about it instead of ignore the problem and hope people forget that you said that.
Also, check out this post about Turkmenistan, another former Soviet satellite. They just lost their dearly departed fascist Putin-puppet, and are poised to re-emerge as an independent, and possible western-friendly, nation. There’s just one catch, that their prime income is natural gas, and their only means to transport it are Russian pipelines. Robert Mayer sees a way that the United States can make good with the people of Turkmenistan and gain a new friend in a critical region.