This is, quite simply, the Kremlin’s own message, being echoed back to us by our own citizens. The Kremlin wants America to believe it “needs” Russia and therefore should allow Russia to do as it likes as long as Russia “cooperates” in the fields of nuclear arms reduction and, now, terrorism.
We heard this left-wing drumbeat all through the Reagan years, and Republicans wisely turned a deaf ear. The USSR went down in defeat. Ronald Reagan showed it was possible to do business with Russia on nuclear weapons and still hold Russia’s feet to the fire on America’s core values by standing up for those within Russia who would like to breathe free.
Even as Hart and Hagel were sounding their clarion call of appeasement, Russian “president” Dmitry Medvedev was talking as if they were an artillery barrage designed to soften up his opposition for yet another round of crackdowns and brutal murders. And maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly what they were. He ominously intoned that he’d discovered heretofore unknown “debts” owed by Russia’s private sector to the state, asserting: “Nowhere in the world perhaps has the development of entrepreneurship in recent times happened as quickly as in our country. People simply have been getting very rich in a very short time. Now it is time pay off debts, moral debts because the crisis is a test of maturity.” Those who prefer not to voluntarily turn over their assets, one presumes, will go the way of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who faces a second trial on the same charges he’s already been convicted of and life in a Siberian jail cell.
Medvedev’s language, of course, is no different than what we heard in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution. Russia is moving towards a formal installation of a proud KGB spy, Vladimir Putin, as “president for life” — progress the KGB was never allowed to make even in the worst of Soviet times. It has liquidated just about every aspect of civil society, from newspapers to political parties, so that now even as the economy collapses like a house of cards Putin retains 75%+ approval in opinion polls, just as in the Soviet era.
And Medvedev wasn’t done. He followed up on his neo-Communism with some bellicose Cold War aggression, announcing a massive new military buildup, heedless of the brutal economic privations being visited on the public — again, just as in Soviet times. Russia’s defense minister backed up his boss by issuing a series of paranoid anti-American rants about U.S. plans to encircle and destroy Russia and the need for a gigantic new arms race to combat these evil intentions.
It is time for America to answer this challenge — and that posed by radical Islam. America will not do so unless the Republican Party leads it in that direction. By taking up this mantle, the Republicans can bring themselves back to life, and they will have the added advantage of driving back to the margins those who would prevent the party from courting mainstream support and who are growing increasingly potent in the vacuum of power that the recent election has created.
But more importantly, Republicans can prevent the erection of a neo-Soviet state in Russia and a new, protracted Cold War conflict that will cause Russia to once again disintegrate (as it has done several times in the past century). This is not only good for America ‘s national interests and those of her Western allies; it’s also good for Russia. It’s abundantly clear now that Russians will not be able to stop Putin any more than they were able to stop Stalin. If Americans won’t help them, their nation will descend once again into chaos at the cost of countless human lives.
Surely, Republicans can be at least as Reaganite as Hillary Clinton. Amazingly, the new secretary of state has made a couple of bold moves after taking power, which indicates she was serious about her tough anti-Putin rhetoric during the campaign. First, she boldly announced on her first trip to Europe that the U.S. stood foursquare behind NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia — as firm a poke in Putin’s eye as one might wish for. She followed that up with a stunning meeting with Veronika Marchenko, head of the “Mother’s Right” NGO, which routinely confronts Putin over the abusive practices of the Russian army, handing her a major State Department honor. Clinton even managed to get Mrs. Obama in on the act.
These are actions that stun the Kremlin, directly flout its power, and inspire those in Eastern Europe and behind the new Iron Curtain. They are actions that Republicans should applaud — especially since they highlight how far out in front of Obama himself his own State Department is becoming — and should seek to better. Clinton has no more guarantee that her ideas will hold currency in the Obama administration than Colin Powell did during the Bush years, and symbolic gestures can only go so far. As Cohen demonstrates, there is a real need to translate ideas into action where Russia is concerned, and to do so quickly.
Nothing of the kind can be expected from Obama, who would be distracted by domestic issues even if he understood Russia. The nation has never needed the Republicans more.