Saturday, November 15, 2008

Obama Should Meet Russia's Putin First

Foreign policy is going to be a very big deal in the new Obama administration and one of the lingering problems from the post Cold War period is our relationship to Russia. So you thought the Cold War ended back in the early '90's with the fall of the Soviet Union? So did I.

But something happened in Russia on the path to freedom as the world's other superpower was going through a meltdown with the collapse of Communism. Along came the USA promising all kinds of help if only Russia would become a democratic nation with free elections and free press.

This is a country whose people had lived under the protective dominance of Communists or Tzars for over 1000 years. A nation that stood by helplessly as over 62 million of their own people vanished at the hands of their leader Joseph Stalin. People dependent on a system that provided for them from cradle to grave.

With our encouragement they held elections, privatized much of their society and commerce, and started to charge through taxes for all the services people had grown to expect. The result, it took ten years to nearly destroy the once proud people, to reinvigorate the shell of the Communist party, to discover much of the privatization only put ownership of their industry and resources in the hands of professional thieves and to pretty much demonstrate that democracy was a long ways away.

So all the reforms started to be undone and the county put back together and suddenly a new Russia emerged under the firm guidance of President Vladimir Putin. What is our response to the revitalization of a major player in world affairs? The Bush administration decides to infuriate the new Russia by encouraging the former East European members of the Soviet Union to join NATO, a defense alliance of countries bribed by America through foreign aid.

Didn't Bush people know the Cold War was over? About 20 years ago, when his dad was president, the Soviet Union dissolved and the Cold War ended. Why did the kid treat Russia 20 years later as an adversary rather than a friend? Then we complained about the loss of rights in Russia, suppression of the media and the control of huge oil reserves.

When oil producing nations aided in driving the price of oil through the roof Russia helped keep the price from destroying the world by increasing production and ignoring OPEC efforts to control the world oil supply thus maintaining record prices. How do we reward our old friends? Over strenuous objections from Russia Bush decides we need a missile defense shield built in Chekoslavakia aimed at the Russians. Our current satellites can read cigarette packs from outer space, what is the point of a defense shield in Eastern Europe except to upset Putin.

Well we certainly did upset Putin and he invaded Georgia, a move we also attacked. Somewhere along the line our leaders forgot that the people of Russia are our friends, not enemies. We forgot that Russia once saved the USA from extinction in the Civil War without ever asking anything in return. A desperate plea for help from President Lincoln resulted in Russia stopping England and France from attacking the seriously weakened Union Army as it was being driven far north by Lee's Army.

Now we have a new president. He has also ignored our fractured relations with Russia and kissed up to the traditional allies of the USA. Let us hope he has the insight and wisdom to stop what Bush began, chest-thumping in the face of the Russians, and will sit down for meaningful discussions with a friend and ally from long before the days England and France decided to be our friend.

1 comment:

Tom with Onions said...

You speak as if Putin were the most powerful man in Russia. We all know that he really is the most powerful man in Russia but the problem is that he shouldn't be. He has used his power to imprison and bankrupt his political opponents. He has done little to protect the Russian natural environment. And he has ordered the assassinations of dozens of journalists in order to control the media. With this he has controlled the types of articles written and maintained a general bias in his party's favor. If Putin were an honest and ethical man, the title of this article would be Obama Should Meet With Russia's Medvedev First. If it weren't, Medvedev would be a puppet wouldn't he?
Russia's kindness from the 1800's is not forgotten, but it would never justify overlooking such heinous actions. If Russia wants to convert to oligarchy, it has every right to do that. Putin has done great things for the Russian economy too. But he needs to respect the democracy Russia still is.