It's the Russians, Stupid

Like the police and district attorneys described by Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, the streets outside these days are besieged by Republicans running about with their noses to the ground, trying to discover the identity of their redeemer. They should look up -- and east.

It's the Russians, stupid.

His name is Vladimir Putin.

It hardly ever happens in history that the partisan, parochial interests of a political party line up perfectly with the national security interests of the nation, its core values, and the best interests of the Western World, but such is the case right now. If the Republican Party doesn't realize and capitalize on this golden opportunity, it will richly deserve being consigned to the dustbin of history.

Republicans cannot hope to oust the Democrats from their heavily fortified position in the field of domestic policy, at least not until their economic plans prove fruitless. But the nation does not trust the Democrats to handle foreign policy now any more than it did when Jimmy Carter -- brought in to cure the domestic evils wrought by Richard Nixon -- governed.  Barack Obama's policies towards America's enemies abroad are benighted, naïve, and ignorant -- exactly what one would expect from a man who has no foreign policy credentials of any kind. Given America's perilous financial condition and the encouragement it gives to our foes, this is a time when the country can least afford such policies, and it is high time for the white knights of the Republican Party to ride to the nation's defense, pulling their own political bacon out of the fire in the process.

Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation has shown the way.  In a brilliant and exhaustively researched white paper published a few days ago and cumbersomely entitled, "How the Obama Administration should deal with Russia's Revisionist Foreign Policy," Cohen makes, in essence, a five-point proposal the Obama administration should take in response to Russia, as follows:

  • Bolster NATO, focusing on Russia's weaponization of energy and its attacks on Ukraine and Georgia

  • Refuse nuclear arms reduction negotiation until a review of U.S. strategic interests is complete and until Russia cooperates in neutralizing Iran and gives strict guarantees on U.S. business interests being protected from nationalization

  • Confront Russian aggression in Venezuela, Syria, and the Arctic

  • Develop a Marshall Plan for weaning Europe off Russian gas and oil

  • Press forward with missile defense in Eastern Europe

Obama won't do any of these things (he's already signaled weakness on missile defense and may actually end up doing the opposite in many cases if left to his own devices), so it's up to the Republican Party to force him to do so. In the process, Republicans can expose the inability of the Democrats to defend the nation from its enemies and, in fact, to uphold the core values of democracy and liberalism that Democrats supposedly hold dear.

Americans must remember that the economic crisis has hit Russia far harder than it has hit the West. Russia has experienced a breathtaking collapse in its stock market, radically depleted its reserves, and endured a massive currency devaluation. Inflation is soaring out of control and unemployment is going right along for the ride. It's a perfect storm, and it gives the U.S. and its NATO allies the perfect opportunity to press Russia hard in all the areas where its behavior is most outrageous. Russia, of course, wants to buy time.

Contrast, then, Cohen's brilliance (he's a seasoned Russia scholar) with the shabby, cowardly, and idiotic musings of Democratic flameout Gary Hart and Republican turncoat Chuck Hagel as part of a "committee" sponsored by Russian Dmitri Simes of the wacky and disturbing Nixon Center. They are two relative Russia laymen, who say they are "deeply concerned by the gap between the current U.S.-Russian relationship and the level of cooperation that the United States needs with Russia in order to advance vital American interests."