Putin and the New Appeasers
There he goes again.
When last we heard from U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a fourth-term Republican of California, he was working feverishly to help U.S.-despising Russian dictator Vladimir Putin deflect blame justifiably coming his way over the Boston Marathon bombing.
Now, Rohrabacher is being trumpeted by Kremlin-operated newswire service RIA Novosti as claiming that the U.S. is "shooting itself in the foot" by noticing that Russia is sheltering the treacherous Edward Snowden and providing massive military support to the America-hating terrorists of Hizb'allah.
Rohrabacher says he likes the "spirit" and "sense of humor" of Russians and says they're the only people in the world that remind him of Americans. Was he referring to Vladimir Putin's repeated jokes about women being raped, perhaps? Then, in a new low for the U.S. House, while speaking to a reporter from another country he referred to his own country as being "tyrannical."
Rohrabacher belongs to the school of dangerously ignorant and extremist right-wing pariahs like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul who find Vladimir Putin very attractive as the leader of a country that obliterates the basic values set forth in the Constitution, men who don't believe as Ronald Reagan did that American must stand up for its values in the world, not work to extinguish them. He knows almost nothing about Russia, certainly has never lived there and does not speak the language, yet he urges the U.S. to embrace Barack Obama's policy of appeasement.
Disturbingly, Rohrabacher is not the only Republican who seems to have devoted himself to obliterating the legacy of Reagan. Thomas Graham, former Russia advisor of George Bush, writing of all places in the New York Times, also sided with the Obama "reset" policy of appeasement towards Russia.
Even as Russia was working with China to block U.S. sanctions against the genocidal and virulently anti-American dictatorship in Syria, and buzzing U.S. ally Japan with nuclear bombers in a clear act of intimidation, echoing Rohrabacher Graham was demanding that the U.S. stop "blaming Russia" and start blaming itself instead.
Graham's diatribe is disturbingly incoherent. He argues that Russia is too weak to require a U.S. response, then he claims "lashing out at Russia comes at a significant cost." He claims "there is no threat of military confrontation with Russia," apparently forgetting Putin's 2008 invasion of Georgia and its current litany of attacks on Ukraine designed to prevent it from joining the European Union. Echoing the line of the Politburo, Graham repeatedly claims that criticism of Russia appears to be sign of American mental illness rather than Russian offenses.
Graham openly admits that the Putin takes "evident glee at poking the U.S. in the eye" and is embarking upon a terrifying racist crackdown eerily reminiscent of Hitler. Yet he wants the U.S. to adopt the isolationist policies of Buchanan rather than the leadership polices of Reagan. This is the kind of advice that brought on World War II.
Those who know Russia better, however, like Russia scholars Stephen Blank and Lionel Beehner, take a quite different view.
Writing on the U.S. News website, Blank opines that "in his quest for pure autocracy, Putin appears to have improved on Josef Stalin." Unlike Stalin, Putin actually put the corpse of one of his critics, Sergei Magnitsky, on trial, and he has arrested and convicted both of the two men who have emerged to challenge him for power, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Alexei Navalny. And Putin's looting of the Russian treasury makes Stalin look quite unimaginative indeed.
Blank calls Western silence on Putin's neo-Soviet revanchism "shameful" and warns that it encourages Russia to contemplate more aggression both domestically and internationally, including continuing its support for bloodthirsty anti-American terrorists throughout the Middle East.
Beehner sees it the same way. Writing in USA Today, Beehner calls Russia a "broken-down, has-been bully," calls Putin a "thug," and calls upon the West to treat it the way it deserves to be treated, rather than offering only appeasement that makes it too easy for Putin to continue his malignant ways. He points out that Russia has revived the Soviet practice of sending professional ringers into amateur sports contests and is aggressively seeking to take control of mineral resources in the Arctic.
If you want to understand the horror that is Putin's Russia, though, you don't need to turn to the halls of academia. Let me tell you about the Pastafarians.
On August 17, 2013, in Russia's "second city" of St. Petersburg (that's Los Angeles to Moscow's New York), a group of about a hundred jocular Russians went for a walk with spaghetti colanders on their heads. Pastafarianism was given birth in the U.S. as a satirical movement seeking to oppose the teaching of creationism in the public schools. They worship at the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
But they are no joke in Putin's Russia. The marchers were physically attacked by Russian police acting in concert with extremist zealots from the Russian Orthodox Church, and many of them were arrested and jailed.
From day one, there has been an extremely close nexus between Putin and the Russian church. Kirill, the Russian pope, has repeatedly endorsed Putin and suggested he is doing God's work. Graham claims that Putin has no ideology, but that's dead wrong. Putin has replaced Communism with Russian Orthodox Christianity, which bears just as much hostility for the American versions of that faith as the USSR ever did for American capitalists.
The last presidential election clearly showed that the Republican Party has lost its way in domestic politics, and the cast study of Russia shows that it has wandered just as far from the path on foreign policy. It is time for mainstream Republicans to call Rohrabacher and his ilk to task and to return to the path blazed by Reagan, before it is too late.
Follow Kim Zigfeld on Twitter @larussophobe.