Thursday, January 27, 2005

Third Wave of Dominos?

President Bush will meet with President Putin on February 24th. Lord knows I sympathize with the Russians who have dealt with horrible terrorism in their home country. But they flirt with the Chinese and sell them arms. They arm the Iranians and Syrians and feed the Iranians nuclear technology. They tried to subvert Ukrainian elections and they have crushed democracy at home.

It is time to stop coddling Russia:

That will be the moment to shift gears in the U.S.-Russia relationship, which has been dominated since Sept. 11, 2001, by Putin's adroit response to American needs in the war against al Qaeda and other Salafi extremists.

President Bush is now in the stronger position of the two leaders. In Bratislava, he can ask for greater Russian cooperation in counterproliferation, particularly on Iran. Missile defense is another promising area of coordination in what could become a broad security zone linking Russia, Europe and the United States. And Bush cannot afford to neglect Putin's assault on democracy at home.

Bush will not need or want to flaunt demands in public. But in private, he will need and want to take into account Putin's failures of the past year and the Russian's still-falling stock. Bush needs in short to be more skeptical about a leader to whom he has given the benefit of the doubt for too long.

I want the Russians to be our ally. I think the Russians are fools to believe they can sell arms to China and emerge safer for it. Lenin said the West would sell Russia the rope with which to hang the West and this is what Russia is doing. At best, they will be a junior partner. Wouldn't it be better for them to be one of equals in Europe? The Russians really need to let go of their memories of empire and move on.

I hope President Bush gives them a hard but quiet shove in that direction. Russia sure isn't acting very friendly--or wisely.