Obama’s Russia Problem

obamaharpers072908.jpgDuring his speech in Berlin, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President Sen. Barrack Obama bowled over the swooning audiences with non-specific idealism and general statements of a renewed liberal internationalism – an exposition which his supporters declared as a major victory and his opponents shot down as avoiding the hard political realities that so many other American politicians spoke about at the Brandenburg Gate. One British paper carried the headline “He came, he saw, he sprinkled us with stardust.” Some observers are especially critical of Obama’s apparent rejection of John McCain’s calls to oust Russia from the G8, which is really about the only thing he has said about relations with Moscow. Who do you think would write the following?

The U.S. does not cede leverage with authoritarian governments when it confronts them about their crimes. Instead, the U.S. increases its credibility and influence with foes and friends alike. Placating regimes like those in Russia and China today only entrenches hostile, antidemocratic forces. (…) Today, instead of communists there are deal-making capitalists and nationalists running the Kremlin and China’s National People’s Congress. They, and blowhards like Hugo Chávez, hardly represent the existential threats faced by Truman, Kennedy and Reagan. Yet Mr. Obama still is reticent to confront them, saying in Berlin that “we must reject the Cold War mindset of the past and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must.” But the Cold War ended and democracy became the global standard not because Western leaders merely defended their values, but because they projected them aggressively.

Well, none other than Garry Kasparov of course. I thought it would be most interesting to pull out the quote for consideration before disclosing the author, who suffers from a certain exhaustion from many Russia observers – a predisposition from many to not consider the merits of the argument.