The Obama State Department said it was disappointed and troubled by the attack on Kasyanov, and the Kremlin quickly responded that Kasyanov was free to try again. But neither Hillary Clinton nor Obama himself have thrown their weight behind the bill pending in Congress to block the worst Russian human rights abusers from entry to the U.S. — on the contrary, they’ve seemed open to lobbying efforts by those very offenders against the bill. And no other tangible policy has been suggested which might actually punish Russia for the worst of its anti-democratic purges.

Prokhorov’s public statements are noteworthy because he specifically states that his party should not be considered an opposition party, and because he focuses his ire on the presidency, which Putin does not currently occupy. It would not surprise me in the least to see Putin step forward in coming days and claim that he must return to the presidency because Medvedev has seized too much power and relegated the legislature to a figurehead role. Putin has every legal right to take back presidential power for the next twelve years, and it would probably delight him to no end to do so under the guise of a democratic putsch.

I think Obama might well be foolish (or cowardly) enough to applaud such a move, or at least to stand mute while Putin rolls down a new iron curtain just a bit closer to Moscow this time. But no Republican appears to be any wiser. Republicans have not proven they have a real understanding of the dangers posed by the Putin dictatorship, much less that they have the courage to demand that Obama face him down. Nevermind Republicans appeasers of Putin such as Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan.

The party must remember the legacy of Ronald Reagan and produce a leader who can do the right thing on Russia.