Obama's 'Reset' Legacy: A Return of the USSR

In April 2006, two years into the second term of “President” Vladimir Putin of Russia, I formed a Russia blog called La Russophobe for one purpose: to warn the world that Putin, a proud KGB spy, would not surrender power as the Russian constitution required him to do in 2008 after two terms as “president.” Instead, we at LR warned, Putin would hold power forever -- just like Brezhnev and Stalin, his heroes.

When Putin announced he would become prime minister in 2008, the writing was on the wall. LR begged the world continuously thereafter to see that Putin was rapidly turning Russia into what Jeffrey Taylor presciently called “Zaire, with permafrost” in 2001, shortly after Putin took power.

The Russophiles disagreed. They told us Russia could “never go back” to the dark days of unlimited central power, that Putin was only mentoring his “replacement” Dmitry Medvedev, that he would fade into the background and allow Russia to become a democratic, civilized country, if only we would let down our guard and give him a chance.

Last Saturday, at the convention of the sham “political party” called United Russia that Putin formed by personal fiat and then caused to totally dominate the Russian parliament, Putin announced he would cast out Russia’s one-term “president” Medvedev, who was never, just as we always said, anything more than Putin’s puppet, and return to the presidency having changed the constitution to allow six-year terms.

Putin openly admitted he had made this decision years ago, yet he told nobody about it, not even the Kremlin press secretary. When the Russian currency markets heard the news, the value of the ruble promptly plunged to its lowest level in two years, and the country’s highly respected finance minster resigned. Capital flight from Russia in the first half of 2011 has already nearly matched what occurred in the whole of 2010. One senior western banker told the Financial Times: “The country is going down the toilet.”

Putin had just announced a massive new military spending program one analysts predicted could bankrupt Russia the same way a similar program destroyed the USSR. He has consistently and continuously ratcheted up his crackdown on democracy and his aggressive moves towards Russia’s neighbors.

But none of it mattered to Washington. In a shocking display of cowardice worthy of Neville Chamberlain, Barack Obama almost immediately announced he’d carry on business as usual with Russia. Given the choice between: admitting his policy has failed and trying to correct it, preserving American values and moral leadership; or maintaining the fraud that Russia is a reliable partner regardless of the cost, Obama has immediately chosen the latter course. His Russia policy has led the United States to absolute disaster and debacle.

Dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky issued a stinging denunciation of America’s abandonment of moral leadership from behind the bars of his Siberian jail cell. But Obama ignored it, just as he has ignored all the other cries of Russia’s liberals, those willing to fight for American values inside Russia. He has been willing, even happy, to sell them down the river in order to put forth the pretense of a “reset” policy with Russia that was based on a relationship with Medvedev, now clearly shown to be a helpless stooge.

Putin retakes power even as sensational evidence has just been released of his extensive personal corruption while working in the local government ranks in the city of St. Petersburg. It was revealed long ago that just a short time after being plucked from his obscure post and deposited in the Kremlin, Putin received a Ph.D. degree from a local university based on a shamelessly plagiarized thesis. The world was warned from the beginning that Putin was a dishonest, dangerous man, but it paid no need.