Nemtsov’s profile has risen dramatically. He was able to gall Putin further by traveling to Washington, D.C., meeting John McCain and testifying before Congress about Russian human rights atrocities.
All that in a few weeks in June! I like to think Putin is keeping his staff up all night with crazed Stalin-like shrieks of vengeance; there’s even talk that he may be seriously ill. Yet those who know Russia do not get carried away with hope even when things look so gloomy for Putin. There simply are no forces either within Russia or within the Western democracies which appear both powerful and willing enough to topple Putin, however slight a push it might require. Navalny’s street demonstrations are a shadow of what they once were. Despite his best intentions, Navalny is no MLK. And Barack Obama continues to pursue Chamberlain-style appeasement rather than the heroic leadership of Reagan.
Putin’s avalanche of failures has not affected his anti-U.S. policies — if anything, and just like his Soviet predecessors, the more he fails the more frenzied his attacks on the U.S. become. He announced he would send S-300 missiles to Syria and aggressively sought to block imposition of a no-fly zone there. He has been involved with giving sanctuary to Edward Snowden.
Russian popular opinion follows Putin: a recent poll (Russian-language link) revealed that Russian hatred of the U.S. had risen to its highest level in a year, with more Russians identifying the U.S. as Russia’s enemy than any other country. By contrast, they identified Russia’s closest ally as being the homicidal dictator of Belarus. No more conclusive evidence of the failure of McFaul’s “reset” could be imagined.
It’s well past time for leadership on Russia from Republicans. As a trio of Russia scholars recently argued, the U.S. can do much more on human rights in Russia, and it should. Since Obama won’t, Republicans must. By speaking out on Putin’s atrocities and giving a forum to Russians who want to fight back, Americans can reclaim their moral leadership and hopefully foster Putin’s fall.