Sunday, October 21, 2012

Obama Doing Putin's Bidding In Washington?

Why is Obama continuing to do Putin's bidding in Washington?  Obama has cozied up with Putin during his administration in his Russian "reset."  He has taken Putin's side in US legislation (Magnitsky Law) and has thrown asunder long-time trusted alliances in favor of warmer relations with our enemies since his inauguration.    I'm sure that much of this will come up for discussion in the final Foreign Policy debate on Monday.

We've heard of the off-mic comment captured where Obama, presuming that he will be re-elected, will have more "flexibility" with Russia with regard to negotiations on our nuclear arsenal.  It has made everyone wonder where Obama's allegiances lie.   But that's just the latest of a series of major foreign policy missteps by this administration that give one pause.

The Polish and Czech Missile Defense Debacle
You would have thought that Obama had learned his lesson in dealing with Putin in the aftermath of his sudden and unilateral cancellation of missile shields for Poland and the Czech Republic in September 2009, negotiated between those governments and the Bush administration.   Although the missiles are publicly "sold" as defense against an Iranian attack, they would presumably be a defense against Russia attack.  Why else would Russia object to them so strongly given they were strictly defensive?

So, apparently without regard for the facts, Obama cancels them.  He gave some flimsy excuse that Iran didn't have missiles to reach that far. This was untrue as Iran's solid-fuel Sejil missile launched in May 2009 could have reached Warsaw carrying a large payload.  And of course Iran continues to develop nuclear warheads to put on those missiles.  .

Presumably Obama expected Putin's acquiescence of stronger UN sanctions against Iran in return.  It didn't happen.  In fact, within just a few days, the Russians said that they would block any further sanctions against Iran at the UN.   So, we threw our staunchest allies "under the bus" for nothing.  Russia hated those missiles and, at a minimum, the US should have been able to use those missiles as a bargaining chip exacting some real concessions from Russia.  We didn't. They didn't.  

These aren't just great friends and our strongest allies, but they are NATO members!  Doesn't that mean anything to this President?   Those governments took substantial political risks in agreeing to these defenses.  In hindsight, given that Putin has continued to flex his muscles with neighbors since,  it was even more important to consolidate those allies into the NATO community.  The Wall Street Journal noted dryly,
Officials in Warsaw surely noticed that President Obama cancelled the missile system 70 years to the day that the Soviet Union invaded Poland as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany.
Obama Lobbies Against Magnitsky Human Rights Law
Fast forward to 2012, where a US Senate panel passes the Magnitsky Human Rights Law on June 26, 2012, sponsored by John McCain to honor the Russian lawyer, thrown into jail on trumped up charges and probably beaten to death.  Mr. Magnitsky was working to expose the vast corruption in Russia extending all the way to Putin and Medvedev.  Here's an extremely interesting account of the Magnitsky and events.

The Magnitsky Law is a bipartisan bill that seeks to publicly punish Russia's murderous and corrupt elite who murder opponents with impunity.  The bill specifically mentions and bans visas for 60 Russians implicated in Magnitsky's murder.   Obama has lobbied strongly against the law's passage--on Putin's side!   The law is stalled.  Mitt Romney has said that he demands passage of the bill.  

From the World Affairs Journal, the following quote is from an article discussing the extreme corruption in the Kremlin (and China) with an interesting observation about Obama's stance on the bill noting that Obama was against the bill, essentially on Putin's side, despite Russia's state-sponsored murders of journalists, whistle-blowers like Mr. Magnitsky, and political opponents both within and outside of Russia.
....Corruption paralyzes the Kremlin. The political system cannot be opened up without exposing the criminal networks that have infected every part of the bureaucracy, siphoning off billions of dollars in what should be public revenues....
A forward-looking US policy would aim at putting pressure on these obstacles to change. A good model is the bipartisan Magnitsky Bill, which has been moving through the US Congress this year. It mandates visa revocations and an asset freeze for Russian officials who are guilty of killing or persecuting people fighting corruption or abuses of human rights. It is named for Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who uncovered a $230 million embezzlement scheme by tax and Interior Ministry officials and then was imprisoned by those same officials and subjected to mistreatment that caused his death in 2009.
Tellingly, the prospect of such sanctions has shaken Moscow to its core. Putin issued a directive in May that listed stopping the bill as a top priority in relations with the United States. Equally remarkable, the Obama administration chose to take Putin’s side, and lobbied heavily on Capitol Hill to block the legislation.
We need someone in the White House to stand up to Putin and call things by their right name.  

Who's side is Obama on?  Mitt Romney is clearly for the law and basically calls Putin by his correct names: a murderer and a thug.

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