Russia: Re-Elect Obama, or It's World War III

Last week, Americans learned that they are, or soon may be, at war with Vladimir Putin's Russia.  That is, of course, unless they do just exactly what the Kremlin asks, which is pretty simple, really, and consists largely of re-electing Barack H. Obama, the best friend the Kremlin ever had, as president of the United States.

The word came down from two of Russia's highest-ranking politicians, Nikolai Patrushev (head of Russia's National Security Council) and Dmitri Rogozin (formerly Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, recently elevated to deputy prime minister).  Both chose to use Iran as the focal point of their remarks.

Rogozin declared:

Iran is our neighbor. And if Iran is involved in any military action, it's a direct threat to our security. We are definitely interested in the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But at the same time, we believe that any country has the right to have what it needs to feel comfortable, including Iran.

The words sounded uncomfortably like the words used by President John Kennedy in his October 1962 address to the nation regarding the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Then Patrushev chimed in:

There is a likelihood of military escalation of the conflict, towards which Israel is pushing the Americans. It cannot be ruled out that the Iranians will be able to carry out their threat to shut exports of Saudi oil through the Strait of Hormuz if faced with military actions against them. Talk about Iran creating an atomic bomb by next week we have heard for many years.

Patrushev accused the United States of attempting to topple Iran's government and subjugate its population "by all available means" and implied that Russia would help Iran to shut down oil supplies to the United States through the Persian Gulf if the U.S. dared to try to block Iran's nuclear weapons program, which, he assured, is nothing urgent that Americans need to worry about.   

But Patrushev (who is one of Russia's most strident haters of America and her values) said it all still might work out: "In the case of Vladimir Putin and then Barack Obama coming to power, the Russian-U.S. relationship, as well as the situation in the world as a whole, may see a strengthening trend."  It seems that the prospect of Americans returning Republicans to the White House makes Russians at least as nervous as the prospect of the West unseating Russia's bosom buddies in Tehran.

Russia did not limit itself to aggressively supporting Iran against the U.S.  It also sailed a major part of its naval fleet into Syria, including a weapons delivery, in order to push back against Western efforts to support pro-democracy protesters there.  Such action is hardly surprising, since the Kremlin has consistently supported dictators throughout the Arab spring, from Mubarak to Gaddafi.

By supporting tyrants across the Middle East, Russia accomplishes multiple objectives.  It takes a stand against the spread of democracy protests, thus immunizing its own domestic scene against such outbursts.  It destabilizes the Middle East, roiling oil markets and helping to fill Russian coffers with cash as the price of crude soars.  And it undermines American influence, sending a clear message that if the United States does not play ball, it will face increased terrorism and uncertainty abroad.

Russia's Foreign Ministry simultaneously launched a scathing attack on the recently enacted U.S. defense budget, echoing the Soviet era in accusing the U.S. of violating multiple provisions of international law, including the Geneva Conventions, just by enacting it.  Russia also accused the U.S. of violating the Conventions in conducting activity at its prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.  And Vladimir Popovkin, head of the Russian version of NASA, implied that the United States was secretly behind the recent string of spectacular Russian failures in space, using ominous and unspecified "powerful means" to knock out Russian space exploration vehicles time and again.

Even as these bellicose declarations were issuing from Russia, America's new ambassador, Michael McFaul, was arriving in Russia.  McFaul released an utterly ridiculous propaganda video on YouTube and was deluged with hostile comments from Russians.  Then McFaul opened a Twitter feed and proudly retweeted multiple press articles proclaiming that he had arrived in Russia like a white knight upon a fiery steed to prove that Obama's "reset" with Russia was not dead.  Instead of confronting the Kremlin, in other words, Obama was sending a clear signal that he was on board with Russian plans -- not a hard position to take, since they conveniently include the reelection of the Russian dictatorship's best friend abroad, Obama himself.

So the Kremlin will be actively engaged in two different election campaigns this year.  First in March, it will be struggling to reinsert Vladimir Putin into office as president for life, and then in November it will be struggling even harder to make sure that Putin's patsy, Barack Obama, gets to remain in the White House.  Its principle strategy will be to threaten Americans with World War III unless they choose Obama.

Meanwhile, Putin is launching an all-out attack on his opponents inside Russia, for instance releasing a video comparing demonstration leader Aleksei Navalny to Adolf Hitler.  Another opposition leader, Sergei Mitrokhin, was arrested during a protest action.  It's a sign of things to come.  Once he's president for life and has Obama safely re-ensconced in Washington, Putin will be free to launch a final crackdown on Russian civil society and wipe out any chance that the Arab spring could spread to Russia.  Having done so, Putin can continue his foreign policy, which amounts to raking in a bounty of unilateral concessions from Obama, including WTO admission and the abandonment of missile defense in Eastern Europe, meanwhile forging ahead with aggressive policies in the Middle East.

In Russia's behavior, we see proven the fact that one can deal with a bully only through strength.  Russia has understood Obama's "reset" proposal and his unilateral concessions only as weakness, and Putin has responded with more and more aggression both at home and abroad.  Only if Obama is ousted from office by a Republican who understands the lessons taught by Ronald Reagan will there be any hope for Russia or for American interests where Russia is concerned.