Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Putin should not even be a G-8 member

By Aussiegirl

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent editorial in today's edition concerning the dangers that Putin poses to the West, with good explanations of Putin's policies and his aims. It almost makes one long for the morally unambiguous days of the Cold War. Now we have an authoritarian and expansionist Russia with imperial aims, armed with a strong economy based on its exploitation of its oil and gas reserves with which it hopes to intimidate and dominate the West. The old Soviet union on economic steroids called energy.

OpinionJournal - Hot Topic

Today at the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Vladimir Putin will throw a coming out party for an economically rejuvenated Russia. Two days ago, the master of the Kremlin marked the steady erosion of democracy by signing a bill that bans legislators in an already emasculated Duma from changing parties.

Throughout President Putin's six years in power, a conceit indulged by Western leaders has been that the Russia of strong growth and the Russia of creeping authoritarianism are different places. Russians themselves are told to sacrifice freedom for stability and prosperity. Both are dangerous illusions. For Mr. Putin's governing approach undercuts the very gains he will advertise this weekend. As the world stood by, Russia has become a danger to the West, to its neighbors and not least to itself.

[...]Mr. Putin wasn't interested in profit maximization as much as he was in gaining an instrument of political power. In this he has succeeded, as Europe found out in January, during a cold spell, when Kremlin-run Gazprom turned off its gas supplies to Europe, ostensibly over a price dispute with recently democratized Ukraine. "Yesterday tanks, today oil" is how the head of Polish intelligence describes Russia's current threat posture.

In recent months Mr. Putin has broken with other G-8 nations over Iran, tried to push the U.S. out of Central Asia while reasserting Russian dominance in its "near abroad," and worked on building an anti-American alliance with China. Such behavior gives the lie to a long-held belief in some U.S. circles that Mr. Putin, if uncriticized about his domestic policies, would play ball on issues that matter to Washington.

And so, at St. Petersburg, Western leaders face a tough question: What, if anything, is to be done about Russia?

First, words and deeds matter. In his now famous Vilnius speech in May, Vice President Dick Cheney warned Russia against using energy blackmail against its neighbors and attacked backsliding on democracy. It's too bad this tough love didn't come earlier in the Putin Thermidor, and we hope President Bush will repeat the message in St. Petersburg. For too long, the Putin regime could interpret America's softly, softly approach as a tacit endorsement. As both the G-8 hoopla and Mr. Putin's thin-skinned response to the Cheney speech show, this Russian government cares deeply about Western opinion.


At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And what do you think about the referendum that Putin sponsors to make Transnistria part of the Russian federation.


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