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President Bush Continues to Disappoint on Russia

Filed under: Russia

Bush_confused%5B2%5D.jpg If one hoped that U.S. President George W. Bush would have reconsidered his initially appalling stance on the anti-democratic Putin regime (Bush infamously "looked into the eyes" of Putin and found him trustworthy), one was sorely disappointed in recent days as the Bush administration has taken a much-deserved bashing in the media over its betrayal of the struggle for democracy in Russia.

First, the Boston Globe issued a stinging editorial lambasting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent trip to Moscow for failing to attempt any serious confrontation over democracy issues and focusing obsessively on fence mending. Although Rice did conduct a few low-profile meetings with democracy advocates and made an appearance on maverick radio station Echo of Moscow, always a thorn in the Kremlin's side, Rice said nothing of real significance on the program, much less did she confront Putin over Russia's outrageous conduct towards Estonia or take up the invitation of the Wall Street Journal to confront the Kremlin publicly over its harassment of leading human rights attorney Katerina Moskalenko, who represents Garry Kasparov and, as we have previously reported, is facing politically motivated disbarrment proceedings. Her limp posture couldn't have more starkly contrasted with the in-your-face attitude of German Chancellor Angel Merkel, who challenged Putin directly, in his presence, over the supression of the "Other Russia" movement. Scenting blood in the water, the Daily Kos jumped on the bandwagon.

{Read about the other jackboot dropping after the jump}

Then, the Moscow Times reported that not only has U.S. Agency for International Development, through which most U.S. pro-democracy funds are channeled, cut spending on Russia dramatically, from $84 million in 2006 to an earmarked $61 million for this year, but the cuts on targeted democracy spending have been even more dramatic. The paper tells us that last year $38 million went to programs aimed at strengthening democracy, while just $28 million is to be spent on the programs this year. Most specifically, the line item for what the MT characterized as "perhaps one of the most contentious areas for Russian officials" -- namely "Strengthen Democratic Political Parties" -- was cut by more than one third from $3.9 million in 2006 to just $2 million this year, even as a pivotal election cycle is beginning in Russia. You can be sure that if the Putin regime hates this item, it's one of the most essential in the budget. Leading democracy advocate Freedom House has condemned these moves. The ultimate irony is that not only is Bush betraying those who are struggling for democracy, he's also totally failing to at least capitalize on his administration's soft-pedaling of Putin among the rabid anti-American crowd, not even getting credit for the disengagement among those who accuse the U.S. of simply pursuing imperialism in the guise of democracy. And there's no bang for the buck: Click through the MT link to read the paper's excellent extended investigative report, which clearly shows the Russians on the ground scoffing at the "boring lectures" our tax dollars pay for.

This is an unspeakable abrogation of basic responsibilty on the part of the Bush adminstration, leaving it susceptible to the charge, as the Daily Kos crowed, that it is betraying the legacy and achievments of Ronald Reagan. It's quite possible that the Bush administration will leave the nation as unprepared to wage the second cold war, which is now clearly brewing with Russia (searching u.s. + russia + cold + war on Google news returns over 3,500 stories), as did failed one-term president Jimmy Carter at the close of his presidency, mandating Reagan's bold moves against the "Evil Empire."

Those who care about this president should do all they can to prod him away from his self-destructive course before it is too late.

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