Life in Siberia is bleak, and getting both bleaker and more Chinese. Russia’s population is rapidly dwindling, especially in Siberia, while China’s is furiously expanding. Chinese expansion into Russia’s Far East is inevitable, and made all the easier by Russia’s neglect of its Siberian population as it tries to revive the Cold War and to establish a new oligarchy in the West. Siberia’s dire straits are an extremely sore spot with the Putin Kremlin, and the last thing it wants is further light shed on the topic.
If the Kremlin is willing to be this brazen with a foreign reporter employed by an English-language publication, you can imagine the lengths it might go to if it were dealing with a Russian. Until recently, there was hope: although Putin was liquidating both television and print reporting with gusto, a free Internet might counterbalance his dictatorship. But Putin’s recent moves have clearly shown that he is ready, willing, and able to muzzle the runet as well.
Russians have shown that, just as in Soviet times, they won’t stop their leaders from crushing the press and freedom of speech. They continue to support Putin, and recently allowed him to return to office essentially as president for life. So the only remaining hope for Russia is the United States and its allies. The U.S. Congress has taken a helpful step by overwhelmingly passing the Magnitsky Act, which bans known Russian human rights criminals from contact with America and its resources. Russians are breathing fire over this move, and that’s a good sign.
But ultimately, there must be presidential leadership if there is any hope of turning the tide against anti-American dictatorship in Russia, and there’s little hope of getting any from Barack Obama.
Though he has said he will sign Magnitsky, he opposed its passage.
He has pursued a policy towards Putin that can only be called appeasement since his first moments in office. If he doesn’t confront Putin the way Reagan confronted Gorbachev, Putin will take Russia back into the world of totalitarianism, and America will find itself enmeshed once again in a Cold War.