Strange Coziness with neo-Soviet Russia

"Josef Stalin of Russia and Adolf Hitler of Germany signed two Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) [sic] outlining their military relationship that notes shared threats and similar challenges as also placing defense cooperation as a cornerstone of broader relations."

You probably wouldn't be surprised to learn that such a press release had appeared in the early days of World War II, would you?

But what if I were to tell you that this press release came out last week, and that I replaced the words "Joseph Stalin" with "Vladimir Putin," "Adolph Hitler" with "Barack Obama," and "Germany" with "the United States"?. Would you be surprised then?

Well, that's exactly what I did.

Last week, Obama signed a pact with Putin outlining America's military relationship with Russia, recognizing shared threats and similar challenges and placing defense cooperation as a cornerstone of broader relations.

You know Vladimir Putin, of course. He's the fellow who continues to arrest opposition politicians, including former deputy prime ministers and their staff, and to assault opposition publications. He openly encourages police to crack the skulls of any opposition activists who dare to assemble in public without written police permission. Worse, he has unleashed a torrent of spies against the Western democracies, he buzzes American shores with nuclear bombers, and he seeks to roll back the destruction of the USSR at every turn. At the last Olympic games, the national anthem of the USSR was played for Russian athletes. Putin is a very proud KGB spy.

Now guess what: I can tell you something even more surprising.

Obama's key henchman in carrying out this malignant, treacherous policy, echoing that of Neville Chamberlain, is a product of the supposedly conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Hoover is supposedly one of us. As Wikipedia puts it, "High-profile conservatives Edwin Meese, Condoleezza Rice, George Shultz, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, and Amy Zegart are all Hoover Institution fellows." But increasingly, Hoover alumni are leading American foreign policy to reverse the gains of Ronald Reagan and set back the cause of democracy and other American values by decades. They are helping to create a world of restricted freedom where America will be less competitive and more isolated.

It was Rice, after all, who presided over Russia policy while Obama's predecessor looked into Putin's eyes, glimpsed his soul, and proclaimed him trustworthy. It was Rice who did nothing when Bush invited infamous Chechnya war criminal Vladimir Shamanov to the Oval Office for a White House photo-op. She ought to have resigned, whether because she was ignorant of Shamanov's past or because her advice to exclude him was ignored. She didn't.

And now Hoover's Michael McFaul has picked up Rice's odious torch and done her one better: He's actually working, proudly, for the Democrats.

Obama brought in McFaul, before then a pretty tough critic of neo-Soviet Russia, as one of his key Russia advisors even before he was elected, and it was clear from the start that there were only two possible explanations for this action: Either it was a sham, designed to cover Obama's tracks as he betrayed American values, or it was a sign that Obama would establish American values in Russia policy in a way his predecessor had meekly failed to do. Now it's perfectly clear which explanation is correct.

The Valdai Discussion Club is the Russian government's pet propaganda project. Every year, it lays out megabucks to fly in Russian scholars and journalists from around the world, wines and dines them, and seeks to curry favor. One of the ways it does this is by letting the participants rub elbows with Vladimir Putin. Here's the report of one participant following this year's festivities:

Alexander Rahr, a Russia expert with the German Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank, said Tuesday that Putin departed from his previously cautious attitude toward U.S. President Barack Obama at the closed session. "I was very interested in how warmly Putin spoke about Obama. He even called him a like-minded fellow," Rahr said by telephone.

What we see before us is Vladimir Putin, dictator of Russia -- murderer of journalists, liquidator of newspapers, invader of neighbors, despoiler of democracy -- referring openly and "warmly" to the President of the United States as a "like-minded fellow." It's hard to even wrap your mind around the horror of that reality, but then try to add in Obama's use of a leading American conservative group to act as cover for his malignant policy. For those around the world who risk their lives fighting for freedom and democracy, it's the worst nightmare imaginable.

And why shouldn't Putin see Obama that way, when Obama munches cheeseburgers with Putin's sham "president" Dmitri Medvedev as if the latter were democratically elected, offers limitless propaganda value at home, and never utters a peep about Russia's horrific human rights atrocities? How about when Obama visits Moscow and behaves with such reprehensible cowardice that the state-sponsored Russia Today propaganda network is able to win an iEmmy nomination for its wall-to-wall coverage of his visit?

Putin's regime has always posed an irresistible charm for certain conservatives. Most specifically, Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul are gaga over Putin and defend his regime publicly every chance they get. Both are regular guests on Putin's state-sponsored propaganda network Russia Today. It seems folks like Buchanan and Paul would like us to be more like Russia, not less. It's strange, of course, to see the Obama regime aping Paul and Buchanan, and all the more disturbing.

Reason magazine's Cathy Young was out ahead of the curve. Here's what she wrote on Real Clear Politics several months ago:

Another gift to the Kremlin has been the weakening of U.S. pressure on human rights. The first alarm bell came a year ago, when a bilateral presidential commission was created to deal with various issues in Russian-American relations: the man picked as the Russian co-leader of its working group on the civil society was presidential chief of staff Vladislav Surkov, the Putin regime's ideological enforcer. (Among other things, Surkov is the godfather of Nashi, the thuggish "youth movement" that routinely harasses opposition activists.) The group's co-leader on the U.S. side, Obama's Russia adviser and former Hoover Institution scholar Michael McFaul, seems to have backed off his once-strong criticism of Russian neo-authoritarianism. Time magazine reports that when the working group met in Russia in late May-early June, McFaul's half-hearted attempts to raise such issues as election fraud were promptly rebuffed and abandoned. The official Russian delegation was pleased; the Russian human rights activists who attended were disappointed.

In a more recent meeting of the group, McFaul was described as giving Russia a "nudge couched in academic terms" on human rights issues -- in other words, the same approach Chamberlain tried on Hitler, that Carter tried on Brezhnev. This spineless attitude has wide ramifications -- for instance, opening the door to a sale of dangerous military hardware to Russia by the French.

Most recently, former Bush administration official Steven J. Kramer has openly accused the Obama administration of being "complicit in Russia's crimes" and directly pointed his finger at McFaul as the ringleader in this shameful effort.

Republican officials are finally starting to take notice. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stated bluntly, "Putin's overt and public threat to beat democracy protestors has taken Russia's ongoing assault against human rights and democratic rights to a whole new, disturbing level [and Russia] must be held accountable for its crackdown on all forms of dissent -- including the murders of journalists. Responsible nations cannot overlook Russia's downward spiral towards tyranny and oppression, and must deny Russia membership in the World Trade Organization and all of the other perks which it does not deserve."

The craven pabulum being spewed out by the administration pales by comparison to this forthright Republican statement. But still, the latter goes only halfway. Where is the pointed attack on the failure of Obama's foreign policy? Held accountable by whom, if not Barack Obama? Where are the demands that McFaul, if he really believes in American values, insist on accountability or resign? At some point, if conservatives do not openly oppose Obama's policies and hold him accountable for their appalling consequences, they become complicit in Obama's misdeeds.

Republicans ought to realize that challenging Obama on this issue isn't just good morality -- it's good politics. In July, Obama's job approval rating moved for the first time into prolonged, marked plurality-negative territory. Currently, nearly a majority of Americans say Obama is doing a poor job, while 46% approve. That's crashed from a 60-20 approval split at the start of Obama's presidency. Disapproval has more than doubled; the public senses failure and decay. It's time to give them more of the specifics.

McFaul apparently believes it's OK to ignore Russia's crackdown on human rights and its imperialist aggression in places like Georgia because Russia has signed a nuclear arms pact and pulled back, at least for now, on supplying weapons to Iran. But Russian support for Iranian nuclear technology is moving full speed ahead, and the cuts in nuclear weapons to which Russia agreed are insignificant. Even if Iran were rendered harmless, what would it matter if it were replaced by an even more ominous, nuclear-fanged neo-Soviet monstrosity?

Just like Chamberlain, in other words, McFaul is gambling with millions of lives and being played for a fool.

Sure, Michael McFaul isn't cracking skulls alongside Putin's storm troopers. But Martin Luther King said that "white moderates" were more dangerous to his movement than the KKK, and so it may well be that McFaul is more dangerous to the legacy of Ronald Reagan, and to the institutions of democracy and freedom, than is Barack Obama.
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