His Worst Mistake: Obama Surrenders to Vladimir

Barack Obama went to South Korea and met with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. Huddled tête-à-tête with Medvedev, when he thought nobody was listening he told Medvedev the he would be able to sell out U.S. security interests and allies in Europe on the missile defense issue once he had his reelection in the bag. The purpose: he’d like the Russians to shut up and stop criticizing him because he needs his Russian “reset” to appear valid until then.

“I understand,” Medvedev whispered. “I transmit this information to Vladimir.”

Fortunately for American voters, Obama was oblivious to the active microphone that recorded and broadcast his every word.

Even more fortunately, the Republicans were not asleep at the switch on Russia, as they usually are. Mitt Romney pounced. The Republican presumptive nominee for president stated of Russia:

This is without question our number one geopolitical foe, they fight for every cause for the world's worst actors. The idea that he has more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed.

Romney got it exactly right. Now, he must make sure to finish what he has started.

He should remind U.S. voters that one important reason their gasoline prices are soaring is Russia’s determined effort to support dictatorship in the Middle East. Every time Russia speaks out in support of rogue regimes, it makes the oil markets think protracted war rather than peaceful democratic transition is likely. That makes them nervous, and prices skyrocket.

And if the “world’s worst actors” happen to kill a few Americans with terrorism, so much the better as far as Vladimir Putin is concerned.

Romney should remind U.S. voters that, though Obama may not know it even though Medvedev told him so in so many words, Russia isn’t ruled by its “president” and never has been. Ever since the late 1990s, it’s been ruled by a proud KGB spy who spent his entire life learning how to hate and destroy America. A man who believes the collapse of the USSR was a tragedy, who has brought back the Soviet national anthem, who rigs elections and murders or jails political opponents.

You know how right Romney was from the ferocity of the Kremlin’s response. Medvedev fired back:

I would recommend all U.S. presidential candidates to do two things. First, when phrasing their position one needs to use one's head, one's good reason, which would not do harm to a presidential candidate. Also, [one needs to] look at his watch: we are in 2012 and not the mid-1970s.

It’s hard to know what Medvedev bases his opinion on. Opposition parties and local government authority have been liquidated, history texts are politicized and controlled by the Kremlin, and the denizens of the Kremlin are firing off vicious personal attacks which seem oblivious of the facts -- just like they did in the 1970s.

And there’s more. The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently heard testimony documenting chapter and verse the horrific rise of a neo-Soviet state in Russia under Putin. The president of Freedom House told the Committee:

Putin oversees a regime that shows utter disregard for the human rights of its own people or for those in other countries, as evidenced most recently by its continued arms sales to the murderous Assad regime in Syria.

The Kremlin is arresting anyone who appears on Red Square wearing a white protest ribbon, supporting democracy. Welcome back to the USSR.

Obama isn’t listening to such facts, of course, but Romney is, and he should make sure American voters are doing so as well. Instead of standing up for American values where Russia is concerned -- in the manner of Ronald Reagan (who defeated one-term incumbent Jimmy Carter) -- Obama is acting like Neville Chamberlain.

Obama is, just for instance, aggressively seeking to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment’s demand that Russia act like a civilized state before being treated like one. He doesn’t know history, so he likely doesn’t know Natan Sharansky warned: “You can only talk with the Kremlin in the language of sanctions.” A Russian blogger wrote of Jackson-Vanik:

As long as it is not repealed, it hangs like Damocles' sword over the heads of the crooks in power, since the moratorium might be lifted at any moment if the human rights situation in Russia gets worse.

In contrast, once it is repealed Putin can proclaim to the world that his government has been officially vindicated by the West. This will give him all the cover he needs to pursue a vicious crackdown, already well underway, as he consolidates his position as president for life.

Obama’s claims about trying to support American business by repealing Jackson-Vanik so as to promote market access in Russia are pure fabrications. Russia has had a waiver from Jackson-Vanik every year Obama has been president, and every year our trade deficit with Russia has become larger. Romney should call Obama out on this lie: Obama wants to repeal it simply to make the Kremlin happy. His “plan” for Russia: give the Kremlin whatever it wants and hope that Russia, out of the goodness of its heart, will not stand in the way if Iran goes postal. This type of “plan” didn’t work with Hitler, it didn’t work with Stalin, and it won’t work with Putin.

But Obama doesn’t care what happens to Russian civil society, nor does he care what happens to Syrian women and children butchered by Russian weapons and diplomatic cover. All Obama cares about is pretending before American voters that he has made Russia into a reliable friend, just long enough to get himself reelected. As Obama told Medvedev: once he is back in office he can do whatever he likes, with nothing more to lose.

Just look into the faces of the Kremlin’s “little girl soldiers.” Romney should challenge U.S. voters, and ask us if this is a country Obama should be pursuing a partnership with, a nation with whose leader he should be whispering in corners.

Obama is right that nothing will get better where Russia is concerned until the next U.S. presidential election is over. Romney should make sure American voters understand why.