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August 15, 2011
Obama's Failed 'Re-set'
The love was flowing fast and furious in Vladimir Putin's Russia last week on the occasion of the 85th birthday of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Russian "president" Dmitry Medvedev got things rolling as he gushed:
Then Kirill, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church, gave his blessing (Russian language link):
"Your life is a shining example of selfless service to your country. You have earned the highest respect among your countryman, and their deepest affection. Because of your efforts, a deep and time-tested relationship of trust has been forged between your nation and mine. I wish you and yours a long healthy life and the strength of a fortress."
This was actually only moderate praise compared to what then-"president" Vladimir Putin said about Castro five years ago, informing him that he was "well known in Russia as one of the most authoritative and outstanding political leaders today."
The Russians sure do love them some Castro!
And the Patriarch's use of the term "fortress" tells you a lot about why. If you travel to Russia you'll have a hard time finding yourself a Cuban restaurant or any other form of widespread appreciation of Cuban culture. In fact, if a dark-skinned Cuban person were to wander into the Moscow subway, like as not he'd be lynched.
What the Russians like about Castro is that he hates the Americans and spends every waking minute working to destroy them. For years now, in fact, Russia has been aggressively seeking to build a mini-Castro in Venezuela with Hugh Chavez, heaping similar praise as well as billions in weapons and financial support upon that America-hating maniac.
As a new book by Russian historian Pavel Stroilov reminds us, this determined effort to undermine American national security is only an extension of Soviet policy, and hardly surprising given that Russia is ruled by a proud KGB spy. In Behind the Desert Storm, Stroilov reminds us just how aggressively the USSR supported the bloodthirsty terrorist networks of the Middle East, and Russia's actions then and now in our own hemisphere are no different.
Then as now, Russia kills two birds with one stone using this policy. First it strengthens those who would do America harm. Second, it sows the seeds of uncertainly in the worldwide oil markets (Venezuela is a major player there as well), and this not only undermines American energy security it also helps pour piles of extra cash into the Russian treasury by jacking up the price Russia can charge for its own oil.
Thus, even as Russian birthday wishes were flowing to Castro, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was plaintively begging Russia to stop the flow of Russian arms to Syria, arms the Syrian dictatorship is now using to kill thousands and sow the seeds of terror throughout the region.
This wasn't supposed to have been necessary, of course. When he was a elected president, Clinton's boss Barack Obama assured us he was going to "reset" relations with Russia, that by taking steps like unilaterally cancelling the proposed US missile defense shield for Eastern Europe and backing away from support for Georgia and by ignoring the plight of Russia's besieged democracy activists, Russia could be made to see the light on issues like Syria and Cuba and Iran.
It has not happened. Russia has continued to fan the flames of anti-American hatred just as the USSR always did. It has consistently supported American foes around the world, and with the free hand given it by Obama it has cracked down relentlessly on those within Russia who are sympathetic to American interests and values, leading them to conclude that Americans cannot be trusted.
Russia has obstructed American policy on Libya, on Syria, on Iran. Obama recently gave an utterly shameful interview to the Itar-Tass newswire service, which is owned and operated by the Russian government. Speaking to the company's CEO, who was appointed to his job by Putin, Obama gushed that his relations with Medvedev had been "extraordinarily successful" and called Medvedev a "strong patriot." His language was eerily similar to that used by Medvedev in describing Castro, one of America's most hated foes.
Before he was elected, many questions were raised about Obama's odd background, questions grounded in concern about where his true loyalties lay. Some worried that, given power, Obama might betray American interests and make common cause with her enemies.
As far as Russia policy is concerned, those worries were not irrational. Obama's record on Russia represents a disastrous retrenching of anti-democratic and anti-American forces that were on the run when the Russian economy collapsed in 2008. Instead of using American leverage to protect and defend the country's interests, Obama chose to help the Russian dictatorship recover in the hopes that he could score cheap political points in the foreign policy arena as they helped him create an illusion of cooperation.
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