Neo-Soviet Russia Is Another Obama Legacy
Just as America was celebrating the birth of a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, Russia was doing the opposite. As the current American president continued to turn his back on American values, Russia's ruler was embarking upon a massive new crackdown, hoping to eradicate them entirely.
First, Putin ordered an investigation of opposition political leader Alexei Navalny on specious allegations of embezzlement, nearly identical charges to those which sent opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky to prison in Siberia for decades just as his profile rose high enough to vie with Putin for power. This came on the heels of Soviet-like raids on the homes of a large number of opposition political leaders in which computers and cash were confiscated. It may well be that Putin is preparing charges against many other besides Navalny.
Then, Putin announced two terrifying new laws. One would label any Russian who accepted money from a foreign government a foreign spy. Essentially, a Russian who worked for Freedom House or Amnesty International would be designated a traitor, and it's a hop, skip, and neo-Soviet jump from there to jail. The other would label any internet site Putin chose to identify for a blacklist; once blacklisted, the offending website could be crushed using all the power available to the Kremlin.
These actions represent the ultimate humiliation for all those who proclaimed that despite choosing a KGB ruler, Russia could "never go back" to the bad old days of the USSR. They told us we did not need to be vigilant about confronting Russian aggression because Russia had permanently changed and was a "different country" now, one which could no more return to the days of Stalin than could Germany to the days of Hitler.
At best it was naïve nonsense, at worst it was a outrageous lie. Russia is now a fully neo-Soviet state, with a KGB "president for life."
Barack Obama has actively encouraged this erection of a neo-Soviet state in Russia. He justified his betrayal of American values by claiming that in exchange, Russia would give America critical support when it dealt with terror in the Middle East, but Russia has done no such thing. To the contrary, Russia continues giving active aid and comfort to the worst of America's foes, most recently in Syria.
Obama has spent the last four years helping Putin cultivate the illusion that Dmitri Medvedev was the president of Russia, and that the country was moving towards a more liberal political system. Because of Obama, many who otherwise might have challenged Putin dropped their guard, and this allowed Putin to consolidate his power and return to the Kremlin as a unfettered dictator. Now, Putin is commencing the final solution, one which will bring down a new Iron Curtain all across Russia.
Columnist Georgy Bovt writes: "I have often had conversations with Russian officials who sincerely believe that the opposition movement is funded by the United States as part of a conspiracy against Russia. Belief in a sinister U.S. plot plays a central role in their entire world view. President Vladimir Putin also believes in this conspiracy." In other words, the neo-Soviet mentality is alive and well in so-called democratic Russia, and it predominates at the very highest levels of power.
Putin hates the USA and all it stands for. Indeed, it is insulting to him and his country to suggest he might think otherwise. Would Americans have abandoned their faith in democracy simply because they had lost the Cold War? If not, why would we think Russians would cast aside their belief in dictatorship simply for that reason? As we would wait for the chance to restore freedom, Russians simply waited for the chance to restore dictatorship.
Our view that Russians were the innocent victims of dictatorship was hopelessly naïve -- even reckless -- a Pollyanish view designed to make ourselves feel better and justify inaction when the USSR collapsed. Because of it, we allowed Russia to regenerate dictatorship and to once again plague the democratic world and its neighbors with the threat of aggression and the toxic support of anti-American values.
The foreign money restriction will make it easy for Putin's minions to hit any foreign NGO with charges of misreporting funds and shut it down, or even jail its leadership. The chilling effect of this legislation will mean that within Russia there will be less and less opposition to Putin even among foreigners dedicated to this challenge. Meanwhile, the brutal crackdown on domestic opposition figures will rely more and more on jail cells and violence, and the internet, that last bastion of free discourse, will find itself more and more restricted and impotent (even now, far less than half of all Russians can even gain access to the internet on a regular basis).
Obama has made all this easy for Putin, by standing mute and watching it unfold rather than challenging it, as did Ronald Reagan and other American champions of freedom. It is an important factor Americans should consider as they begin to decide whether Obama should return to office next year.