A Cold War anew
By Nicholas Sanchez
As far as world leaders go, the international press doesn't like him. He's perceived by many to be cold, ruthless, and arrogant. He brooks no nonsense from dissenters, and critics lament that his princely court brims over with obsequious "yes men." Exacerbating though these sins may be they are compounded by the fact that he is an ardent Christian, one who is solicitousness to Church leaders.
However, unlike George W. Bush, Russia's President Vladimir Putin is widely popular amongst his countrymen, has proved to be a more estimable diplomat on the world stage, and, given the announcement of a forthcoming perestroika in his government, isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Mayhap that is why the Bush Administration, and its namesake titular head, loathes him so.
Of course, this wasn't the consummation of events wished for by the more sanguine remnants of the Cold War. After the razing of the Berlin wall and history's abrupt end, Russia emerged a free and democratic state—a vanquished Evil Empire, bereft of its former satellite states.
Starry-eyed globalists soon heralded Russia as an acme of congenital realignment, evident proof of the Wilsonian notion espoused so fervently by neoconservatives that democracy implanted on any soil, no matter how foreign an ethos, can prove itself to be a panacea for hitherto tyrannical regimes. No doubt it was this romantic sentiment that prompted Bush 43, in 2001 at a summit in Slovenia, to look into Putin's eyes "and [see] his soul."
Indeed, not so very long ago Bush appreciated Putin as an ally of things ordered to the good. This amity leavened following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when Putin manifested his solidarity with the United States. In fact, many learned observers expressed awe at the celerity in which he urged his nation on to a return of its encumbered roots of pro-Western sentiment
From whence, then, came the suppression of sobernost between Russia and America?
To be sure, differences between these behemoth nations can hardly be tagged unconsidered trifles. With regard to the U.S.'s military action in Iraq, Putin has raised ire in official quarters by stating that he sees it as a "pointless" assault on the Iraqi peoples. Moreover, as the U.S. preps itself to strike Iran, Putin's government will continue to supply Tehran with nuclear technology, though he opposes its development of nuclear weapons.
Beltway conservatives, meanwhile—even the redoubtable Paul Weyrich, a thoughtful Russophile—have stepped up disparagement of Putin's so-called "Soviet-style" leadership. Critics, both in government and in the commentariat, lament that by running for prime minister next year he'll consolidate his grapple hold on government, withering away Russian democracy—and therein lieth the rub.
For several years now the U.S. has been publicly scornful of Putin's centralization of power. One need only look back to 2004, when Russia suffered a 9/11-style attack in Baslan: Muslim terrorist Shamil Basayev and his ravaging hordes took 1,200 hostages and killed 338 of them. We now know that many of the children were brutally raped.
One of Putin's counter-measures to terrorist activity was to strip the 89 regions that make up the Russian federation of their governmental authority, thus ending the popular election of regional governors, leaving the power of appointment to such posts the president's purview. This did not sit well with then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, who stated his concerns about this restructuring to Sergei Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister.
Mr. Lavrov's pithy response bears reexamination: "it is strange that … [Powell] tried to assert yet one more time that democracy can only be copied from someone's model." Amen to that.
Russia's history is a testament to the fact that its people have always been willful subjects of strong, centralized authorities, whether they be Divinely-appointed Tsars or Soviet Premiers forced on them by the God's of atheism. Putin's keen insight into his nation's character and strength as a leader explains why he has a 70% approval rating.
Unfortunately, because this robust figure from the eastern horizon has not been molded as some would have liked the neoconservatives fox-holed in the Bush Administration are set to go once more unto the breach and take arms against a non-existent Soviet Bear. Instead of posturing for combat, the U.S. should be partnering itself with a proven ally who, pray God, is likely to come marching under the banner of the two-headed Russian Eagle, with the roar of the 1812 Overture playing in the distance.
Nicholas Sanchez is a professional fund-raiser and conservative activist. After having worked for several years at the Free Congress Foundation in Washington, D.C., Mr. Sanchez now resides in Manchester, NH. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.