Ultima Thule

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

Saturday, July 15, 2006

To Dismay of Some, Bush Takes Gentler Approach Toward Putin

By Aussiegirl

Putin's Russia should not even be a G-8 member. It is a mystery why President Bush continues to cling to the vain hope that Russia is going to come across and be of some help in Iran and other world trouble spots. Putin has no intentions of helping the U.S., and is actively working with China and Iran to oppose us at every turn, while instituting greater authoritarianism at home. Bush evidently believes that it is wiser to counsel democracy privately in order to secure their cooperation in needed areas.

Let's be clear, the new axis of evil operating in the world is China, Russia and Iran. It is Iran that is behind the current violence in the Mideast, and it is Iranian missiles that are raining down on Israel and damaging its ships.

On the other hand, there seems to be a schizophrenic quality to this hands-off policy with the recent critical remarks made by Vice-President Dick Cheney, in which he criticized Russia's increasing use of gas and oil as a weapon against the West.

Putin responds to these jabs with characteristic thuggish and undiplomatic venom. He openly mocked the Vice-President's comments with a quip about a misfired hunting accident. And in another incident today, he humiliated the president in an exchange at a news conference called at the G-8 between the two leader, in which he openly mocked Bush in a humiliating and infuriating exchange shown on CNN. Bush talked about the importance of promoting democracy and used Iraq as an example of a place where democracy is taking shape. He said he thought it was important for democracy to take root in other places as well, and named Russia, saying he realized that democracy in Russia would have a Russian character (whatever that means. Putin sarcastically responded that he didn't want Russia looking anything like Iraq, to open derisive laughter from the reporters in the hall. Bush responded that democracy was taking shape in Iraq, or something like that. Of course he walked right into that, but Putin is never above taking the cheap shot at Bush in public, while Bush continues to insist that they are friends. Not only was this highly undiplomatic, and unprededented, but it was personally insulting as well. While we may need Russia's cooperation on Iran, I think we will never get it. Russia has its own agenda, and helping the U.S. is not part of it, at least not now or in the forseeable future.

This entire G-8 conference looks like an irrelevant waste of time that gives the appearance of world leaders being completely disengaged and out of touch with reality, considering the open war between Israel and Hezbollah that threatens to widen to Syria and Iran. On that subject let me say: better now than later -- strike while the iron is hot -- we need to strike Iran's nuclear facilities now while there is still time, and while the provocation and pretext exists. Waiting only allows Iran to become militarily and strategically stronger, and allows them to further arm Hezbollah with sophisticated weapons that will make any future conflict much more dangerous and uncertain in terms of outcome.

Now is not the time for a kinder, gentler diplomacy.

To Dismay of Some, Bush Takes Gentler Approach Toward Putin

Bush no longer views Putin as warmly as he did in 2001, when they first met and Bush said he had got a sense of Putin's soul. But after Bratislava, aides said, Bush concluded that challenging Putin directly only backfires, so he has taken a gentler approach and plans no direct debate over Putin's authoritarian path when the two stage a joint news conference Saturday.

This strategy has disappointed people who want him to speak forcefully for democracy in Russia. Tatyana Lokshina, head of the human rights group Demos and one of 15 activists invited to meet privately with Bush at the consul general's residence here Friday, said the president opened his discussion by speaking of his relationship with Putin and the value it has.

"He said Putin was his friend and partner and he likes him on a human level," Lokshina said in an interview. "That is fine, but he also said -- and this is frustrating -- he feels that private criticism, closed-door criticism, is better."

Lokshina said she challenged Bush. "Your domestic audience and ourselves are expecting you to deliver on your message that you want to promote democracy, and you cannot but react to the dramatic deterioration in Russia," she said she told him.

In the days leading up to the summit of the Group of Eight industrial nations, which starts with a banquet Saturday night, Russia's struggle over political freedom was on display. Authorities harassed Kremlin critics attending an alternative conference in Moscow called the "Other Russia" and arrested some, according to participants. About 200 people trying to go to St. Petersburg to stage a protest in a stadium far away from the summit sites were detained en route, organizers reported.


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