For years now, those who would defend the neo-Soviet regime of Vladimir Putin have been telling us that, come hell or high water, it was impossible for Russia to go back to the bad old days of the USSR. We just needed to give Russia time, we were told, and we would see progress.
That lie was laid in its coffin last weekend when Luke Harding of UK's The Guardian newspaper, one of the world's leading Russia correspondents, was barred entry to the country because of his reporting. In a scathing editorial, the paper condemned Russia, run by a proud KGB spy and having re-adopted the national anthem of the USSR, as well on the way back to the USSR. It was the first time a British journalist had been expelled from the country since the fall of the Soviet Union. Harding was briefly held in a cell at the border before being returned home, and was arrogantly told in classic Soviet jargon that "the Russian Federation is closed."
Rather than accept responsibility and reform, Russia is adopting the Soviet solution. If bad news isn't reported, it doesn't exist. Use exile, jail and murder to silence the reporters and opposition politicians, and you have no problem. Landslide "election" wins follow.
The reason the Kremlin thinks it can get away with this shocking new crackdown is clear: Barack Obama has led the Kremlin to believe the West is craven and rudderless and will not lift a finger to stop him.
The results of the Obama presidency, of a president who believes in nothing but his own glorification, have been truly toxic both within American and outside it.
In one of the most stunning failures of his administration, Obama has been sternly rebuked by the results of international PR firm Edelman's most recent Trust Barometer survey. After asking hundreds of "elite" business and social leaders, Edelman concluded that confidence in the American government had plummeted almost 15% (six points) from a year ago, and now stands far below the majority level at a woeful 40%.
In Brazil, Japan, China, India, Britain, Italy, France and even in Russia, the level of trust in government increased over the past year. Only in Germany and America amid that group of ten nations did it fall.
Even more shocking, the level of trust in the government in the U.S. government is now only 1 point above the level of confidence expressed in the Russian government, in a regime documented to be one of the most arbitrary and corrupt on this planet, a regime that routinely imprisons (Mikhail Khodorkovsky), exiles (William Browder) and murders (Sergei Magnitsky) important business leaders with who it is not pleased.
What's more, Edelman says that Obama's toxic attitude towards business has rubbed off on society generally. Even as trust in government has eroded despite Obama's pretensions to competence, trust in business has also plummeted because of Obama's relentless assault on the basic values of capitalism, so that now Russia's level of trust in business is a mere five points below the American level, which has fallen below a majority to 46% from 54% last year.
In other words, Americans are getting the worst of all possible worlds from the Obama administration. Under it, Americans are losing faith in everything. Did somebody say "national malaise"?
Obama's Russia policy is a good illustration of why the world feels it can't trust Obama or, more and more, any Americans. Obama holds himself out as a liberal and a staunch defender of human rights, offering "hope" to those who struggle to defend American values in Russia, yet he has totally ignored Russia's savage crackdown on opposition politicians like Boris Nemtsov. He touts a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, yet only the United States has to actually reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles under that treaty. He munches cheeseburgers with Dmitri Medvedev as if he were the ruler of Russia when the whole world knows it is Vladimir Putin who calls the shots.
This kind of "leadership" has let the Kremlin conclude it has a free hand to return speedily to the darkest days of Soviet dictatorship. It is no exaggeration to say that Obama is partly responsible for the exile of Harding, the arrest of Nemtsov, and for the dark ominous clouds now gathering over Russia.