Bowing to Moscow
In March of 2011 Vice President Joe Biden made a two-day visit to Moscow. His purpose was, among other things, to assist Russia's government in gaining admission to the World Trade Organization. Not only didn't Russia pay the U.S. a consulting fee for Biden's valuable assistance, it wouldn't even put him up during his visit. Before I tell you how much American taxpayers shelled out instead for the privilege of advising Russia for free how to win friends and influence people, and what Americans may be facing when our athletes travel to Russia for the winter Olympics, you may want to have your Pepto Bismol handy.
When the Christian Science Monitor reported on Biden's visit, it said that Biden had accomplished nothing, except maybe to reassure the Rooskies that they were well loved by his boss, whose "reset" policy would continue in full force and effect.
In my view, Biden's failure to achieve any goal in furthering Obama's appeasement policy was actually a good thing, but a damned costly one: In order to accomplish nothing, Biden and his advance team needed to occupy every single one of the 334 rooms in one of Moscow's swankiest and most centrally-located hotels, the Ritz Carlton, for more than five days.
The White House swore it was an emergency for Biden to go to Moscow and accomplish nothing, such an emergency that competitive bidding could not be afforded. What the White House felt the U.S. taxpayers could afford, however, was to take every room at the Ritz at roughly $375 per night all-in, leading to a total tab for hotels alone of $665,545. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the White House memo on the subject indicates that Ritz was "extremely interested" in this eye-popping windfall.
Six hundred sixty-five thousand five hundred forty-five dollars.
Airfare, meals, ground transportation, and entertainment most definitely not included.
Do you dare imagine how much it might cost for the president himself to got Moscow and actually achieve something? We're talking millions, to say the least.
As the Weekly Standard reports, this type of expense is far from uncommon in the Obama White House, although Moscow hotels are among the most expensive in the world. Russia Today, the Kremlin's state-sponsored anti-U.S. propaganda network, could hardly contain its glee in reporting, for example, that Obama's recent sojourn in Africa was likely to cost U.S. taxpayers in excess of $100 million.
One hundred million dollars. If it costs a quarter of that, it's ten times too much.
The latest figures show unemployment rising, and unemployment among African-Americans rising at three times the rate of the general population. They show that Obama is still nearly 2.5 million jobs short of the job volume the country had when he took office. Economic growth was anemic last year at well under 2%, and this picture won't be much brighter this year.
So even if Obama's policy of appeasement towards Russia were a good idea, it's hard to see how he could imagine the country can afford to pursue it at such profligate expense. Just the symbolism involved is too expensive, to say nothing of the money.
But appeasement isn't a good idea, it's a perfectly horrible one. Putting Russia in the WTO is like putting the fox in the henhouse. It, and handing Russia the Olympic Games, can be seen as nothing other than a reward for Putin's efforts to crush civil society, rehabilitate Stalin and revive the USSR. Reporters have been murdered, political opponents jailed, and critical pundits driven into exile, and it appears the U.S. is paying a hefty fee for fireworks display to celebrate.
Speaking of the Olympics, the leader of the rebel fighters in Chechnya has just announced (Russian-language link) total war on the Sochi games. Not only would the staging of the Olympics anywhere in Russia be an irresistible target for terror, but the ground in Sochi in particular is viewed as holy by the rebels and hence the staging of the games there a particular affront. On the same day, the Kremlin arrested the highest-ranking non-Kremlin-affiliated politician in the country, Yaroslavl Mayor Yevgeny Urlashov. Already on trial is Alexei Navalny, candidate for the mayoralty in Moscow.
By sending American athletes to Sochi next winter, Obama is not just validating the Kremlin's brutal crackdown on democracy, he is placing American lives directly at risk for the sake of his policy of appeasement. Indeed, the appallingly ugly Olympic medals designed by Russia remind one of nothing so much as tombstones, an apt symbol of the total failure of Obama's Russia policy.
The leader of the Chechen fighters, Doku Umarov, is public enemy #1 in Russia. Try to imagine Russia's reaction if Umarov flew into JFK airport in New York and then the USA announced to the world that it would offer Umarov sanctuary from Russian justice, despite Russia having cancelled his passport, if he would just promise not to commit any more murders. This is what Russia has just done in regard to international fugitive Edward Snowden, America's public enemy #1 at present, announcing it would frustrate American extradition and allow Snowden to enter Russia is he promised to stop publishing stolen secrets.
As Secretary of State John Kerry pointed out recently, the USA has returned seven Russian felons for prosecution in Russia, while Russia has never once returned the favor. The reason for that is simple: The Kremlin hates the USA and all it stands for. If the only victims of terrorism at the Sochi games are Americans, the Kremlin (and many Russians) will stand and cheer, the way they did when terrorism struck home in the USA on 911. Obama's policy of appeasement towards this regime is a low moment in American history, and if Americans suffer from terrorism in Sochi Obama will have blood on his hands.
Very soon, we can expect Obama to simply start lying about his Russia policy, exactly the way he is currently doing in regard to his failed appeasement policy in Egypt. Obama fought tooth and nail to block human rights pressure on the Morsi regime, and then watched the escalating crackdown produce a national crisis. When that happened, Obama suddenly started claiming he had supported pressure all along, a shameless lie.
It's time for Republicans to bring more pressure to bear on Obama to reverse his appeasement policy, which is a national disgrace, and to reconsider sending American athletes to the Sochi games. Russia forfeited its right to host the games when it invaded tiny Georgia and illegally annexed its territory in 2008. This, and Russia's hatred of the USA, would be more than enough reason to reconsider the games even if there were no risk of terror. Factoring in that risk makes it the mother of all no-brainers.