Obama's Reset Collapses
Has any U.S. foreign policy ever failed as spectacularly as Barack Obama's "reset" policy towards Russia? How is it possible that the policy's architect, Michael McFaul, still has his job as U.S. Ambassador to Moscow? In the Edward Snowden saga, we see Obama's "reset" laid absolutely bare, and even Obama himself seems to clearly know it. It's time for McFaul to go.
Snowden's transmission belt is "reporter" Glenn Greenwald. Remarks from Greenwald recently trumpeted on Kremlin newswire service RIA Novosti reek of his virulent hatred of the USA, the same hatred espoused by both Snowden and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Seemingly unable to contain his glee, Greenwald actually threatened the U.S. on Snowden's behalf, stating:
Snowden has enough information to cause more harm to the US government in a single minute than any other person has ever had. The U.S. government should be on its knees every day begging that nothing happen to Snowden, because if something does happen to him, all the information will be revealed and it could be its worst nightmare.
Putin thinks the same way. He recently gave an interview to state-sponsored propaganda outlet Russia Today in which he accused the U.S. of being "founded on the ethnic cleansing" of Native Americans and of engaging in genocidal mass murder by using the atomic bomb against Japan. He said that Russia was waging "a lonely battle for principle and common sense against a cynical and hypocritical" America and congratulated Russia Today for ending "the monopoly of Anglo-Saxon media."
And Putin is ready to translate his seething hatred of the USA into action. Russia has made its sympathy for Snowden plain in both words and deeds.
First, Russia allowed Snowden to board a flight to Moscow in Hong Kong.
Then, it allowed Snowden to violate Russian law by staying the Moscow airport's transit zone for weeks when at most a day or two is permissible.
Next, it facilitated Snowden's meeting with media and human rights groups in order to seek to aid his fugitive flight into the waiting arms of American archfoe Venezuela and to further attack the USA.
Finally, Russia continued to openly proclaim it would not arrest Snowden, much less extradite him, and would give consider giving him asylum itself should he want it.
Make no mistake: These are acts of war by Russia against the U.S. And it seems even Obama is now beginning to understand the folly of his "reset" policy.
White House spokesman Jay Carney fired back at the Kremlin with unprecedented and appropriate level of blunt rhetoric. He told reporters:
Providing a propaganda platform for Snowden runs counter to the Russian government's previous declarations of Russia's neutrality. It's also incompatible with Russian assurances that they do not want Snowden to further damage US interests. We would urge the Russian government to afford human rights organizations the ability to do their work in Russia throughout Russia, not just at the Moscow transit lounge.
And it appears that Snowden is finally causing the Obama administration to adopt actual policies that go along with this rhetoric. With the Winter Olympics in Sochi only months away, the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory that warns homosexuals to avoid Russia, since now they may face arrest under a draconian new Russian law that makes it a crime for a gay person to discuss his or her sexuality in public. And the administration announced that it now favors a significant expansion of the Magnitsky List, which bans corrupt Russian officials from interacting with the U.S.
In the gay rights issue, Obama has found himself in a richly deserved position of extreme discomfort. Russia's barbaric assault on gay rights is a clear act of blasphemy against the Olympic spirit: Gay athletes could easily find themselves arrested, and Obama has openly sided with gay rights in the USA. If he says nothing to defend gay rights in Russia, he risks alienating many supporters at home and looking like a tremendous hypocrite; if he says anything, he knows his "reset" policy will be exposed as a total sham.
There's only one way that Obama can make it truly clear he understands his "reset" has failed and intends to right his foundering policy towards Russia: He must replace Michael McFaul. Snowden's continued presence in Russia and the furious verbal assault on the USA that surrounds him leave absolutely no doubt that I was correct when I said McFaul should never have been given the job in the first place. His policy of appeasement towards Russia has collapsed the same way Chamberlain's policy towards Hitler imploded, with a rabid display of violence and contempt by the dog that was being fed.
Russian hypocrisy on Snowden is truly breathtaking. When wanted Russian "oligarch" Boris Berezovsky fled to Britain and was granted asylum in Britain in 2003, Russia exploded with furious outrage. The Kremlin's youth cult Nashi attacked the British ambassador in Moscow and the Kremlin booted the British Council cultural institution out of the country. Yet, Berezovsky was only (allegedly) guilty of financial crimes, while Snowden is guilty of stealing information that, according to Greenwald himself, could destroy the USA. And far from harboring Russian fugitives, as Secretary of State John Kerry has said, the U.S. has returned seven of them to Russia. Despite this, Russia still gives aid and comfort to Snowden. Nothing could more clearly show how badly McFaul has botched Russia relations. He must go.
The U.S. simply cannot continue dropping its guard and treating Russia as if it were a normal country. All doubt about this should have fallen away when we watched Russian tanks roll into Georgia in 2008. Ever since then, Obama's appeasement of Putin has allowed Putin to return to power as president for life and to impose a terrifying crackdown on civil society. Russia has just convicted the corpse of Sergei Magnitsky, the corruption-fighting attorney for whom the Magnitsky list is named, in a show trial that sunk to depths not even reached in Soviet times. The secret police never held so much official power in the Soviet era as they do under Putin today, and Putin is working hard to rehabilitate the legacy of Josef Stalin.
If Snowden causes the U.S. to finally wake up to the dangers Russia presents, then his defection will be well worth its cost. The sad fact is that during the past five years Obama and McFaul have given more aid and comfort to American enemies than Snowden ever dreamed of doing, or could. By turning a blind eye and offering unilateral concessions, they have helped Putin consolidate his malignant regime and set the clock back decades on democracy and American values in Russia.