While Bush Fiddles, Russia Reemerges
by Jonathan Singer, Sun Apr 09, 2006 at 01:50:36 PM EDT
Although the public is beginning to come around on national security, actually favoring the Democrats over on the issue, the media still seems stuck on the meme that the Republicans are more competent on foreign affairs than the Democrats or simply ignoring the Democrats' case that their ideas on strengthening America are more effective than those of the Republicans. Just this week, for instance, the Cynthia McKinney fracas garnered "a mention on the front page of The New York Times, something that the dozens of House and Senate Democrats combined couldn't match when they unveiled their homeland-security plan last week," as Josephine Hearn notes in The Hill.
There has been some pushback recently, however, as Democrats try to force the media to pay attention to their argument. On "Meet the Press" last week, retired General Anthony Zinni called on Donald Rumsfeld to resign, a call that is seconded by retired Lieutenant General Greg Newbold in this week's issue of Time. What's more, serious questions about President Bush's stance towards Russia -- which I raised a couple of weeks ago -- finally seem to be winding up in newspapers. For example, Steven R. Weisman writes the following in The New York Times Week in Review under the headline "Just When It's Needed, Russia's Not There."
The most recent complaints about Russia are that it blocked a strong United Nations Security Council move against Iran, and has reached out to Hamas while most of the West is turning its back.
In addition, the days of the United States' being welcome to set up shop in the old Soviet empire are gone; Mr. Putin's government is working with Central Asian countries to push American forces out. It has placed new curbs on Western investment in energy. Worse, it has used its spigot on piped natural gas as a club to reward allies (like Belarus) and punish less obedient countries (like Ukraine).
President Bush's top aides have come to dread what Mr. Putin might do when he plays host to the summit of leading industrial nations in St. Petersburg in July. He could turn it into a grand celebration of Russia's new determination to pursue its own interests, whether his guests like it or not. He has already vented frustration over what he sees as American-led efforts to deny Russia its security interests, and to block its accession to the World Trade Organization.
America expended much too much effort during the second half of the 20th century declawing Soviet Russia -- including a significant amount of money and time during the 1990s to bolster the fledgling Russian democracy -- to allow Russia to become a strategic competitor today simply because our attention has been focused on other areas of the world. Responsible leadership is required out of both the White House and the Congress to ensure that appropriate tabs are kept on Russia and that the situation does not get out of hand in the region, and given the fact that the Republican Party has shown scant willingness to appropriate enough time and energy towards monitoring the activities of Vladimir Putin, America's only choice is to elect a Democratic Congress this fall.