On August 14, the Washington Free Beacon reported that the U.S. had confirmed “a Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine armed with long-range cruise missiles operated undetected in the Gulf of Mexico for several weeks and its travel in U.S. strategic waters was only confirmed after it left the region.” Back in 2009, just months after Obama took office, the New York Times had reported the appearance of Russian attack subs off the U.S. coast for the first time in more than a decade.
The WFB report was sourced to anonymous “officials who are familiar with reports of the submarine patrol in the Gulf of Mexico,” and they pointed to “incursions into restricted U.S. airspace near Alaska and California in June and July by Russian strategic bombers.” The incursions had also been noted by WFB — when they allegedly occurred — as demonstrating a pattern of increasing Russian aggression. Then, too, the WFB relied on anonymous Pentagon sources.
Republican John Cornyn of the Senate Armed Services Committee was quoted by WFB confirming the sub report:
It’s a confounding situation arising from a lack of leadership in our dealings with Moscow. While the president is touting our supposed “reset” in relations with Russia, Vladimir Putin is actively working against American interests, whether it’s in Syria or here in our own backyard.
Cornyn has been active in opposing Russian support for the genocidal dictatorship in Syria that is one of Russia’s closest allies. However, the only major news organization to carry the WFB report was the Daily Mail, and two days later the Pentagon denied the report. The Moscow Times quoted submarine experts opining that the Russian sub could not have been stealthy enough to enter and remain in the Gulf for an extended period. The MT quoted other sources calling the WFB’s bona fides into question and suggesting the report was political propaganda from a website whose publisher worked on the McCain campaign in 2008.
The WFB stood by its story. The Kremlin refused to comment. The Kremlin’s English-language mouthpiece, Voice of Russia, said Russian military officials were congratulating themselves on a job well done. Then, it said maybe not.
So what do we have here? Is the Obama administration conspiring with the MSM to cover up a damaging series of events that seriously undermine Obama’s foreign policy agenda, or is a rogue conservative website ginning up false reports as the election cycle gets underway to help sink the Democrats’ reelection bid? Was Cornyn commenting based on his own independent knowledge of the events, or did he jump the gun and simply respond to the claims made by WFB? Was WFB lied to by anti-Obama figures within the U.S. military?
Nobody seems to know for sure. But here’s what we do know: On Obama’s watch, a proud KGB spy named Vladimir Putin was successful in pulling the neo-Soviet wool over America’s eyes. He was able to pretend, with Obama’s active assistance, that he had stepped down from power, when in fact he was preparing the way for his return as “president for life” in the manner of a banana republic. And immediately upon returning, that spy has launched a furious legislative crackdown on American values and has pursued a foreign policy that has made it very clear he is America’s foe, not its partner. He has created a repressive society within Russia that has seen the rebirth of both defectors and political prisoners, where even McDonald’s comes under attack and Madonna is branded a “whore” by high-ranking Russian diplomats.
Chess champion Garry Kasparov was arrested on the spot and roughed up when he simply appeared and tried to attend the public trial of the Pussy Riot collective in Moscow. Putin calls Obama a “crude blackmailer,” even though Obama is doing all he can to help. Meanwhile, Putin is almost certainly lining his personal pockets to an obscene extent.
Kremlin apologists have always argued that the saving grace for Russia was the internet. They claimed that the Kremlin would never be able to launch a successful attack on the internet, and it would remain a key bulwark against Russia slipping backwards into the neo-Soviet mire.
But this is precisely what is happening in Putin’s Russia today. Putin has just launched a major new push against the internet, blocking websites he doesn’t like and charging his key internet opponent, Alexei Navalny, with corruption allegations that could send him to prison for a decade. What’s more, we’ve seen the nascent protest movement organized primarily through internet resources fizzle and die out, even as Putin has consolidated his malignant KGB regime.
And we know this: through it all, Barack Obama and Michael McFaul, his ambassador to Russia, have remained silent. They have turned a blind eye to neo-Soviet repression, and they have ignored neo-Soviet aggression. Doggedly focused on their reelection narrative, they have insisted that Russia is doing just fine, a stalwart American partner, because of Obama’s “reset.” They have demanded that U.S. legislation be adopted to reward Russia with trade privileges, and they have demanded that no U.S. legislation confront Russia over its egregious human rights record.
More from Bridget Johnson: Why Was a Russian Attack Sub Lurking in the Gulf of Mexico?