Thursday, November 25, 2004

Razzing Putin

It seems that George W's deep gaze into Vladimir Putin's soul when they first met might have been clouded by first-date jitters and the anticipation of better things to come.

Vladimir took the scrapping of the ABM Treaty lying down, and he's stood behind our man in the fight against the Islamist fanatics, but his fidelity to a rapprochement with the West is coming under question.

Evidence suggests that Mr. Putin is cavorting with his old flames of authoritarianism and corruption, creating a Czar-Lite regime with half the freedom of a regular democracy, same full control as the communists displaced by Yeltsin. I don't think W, even if he was off the wagon, is going to swallow it.

U.S. policy has to consider the two over-arching, and intertwined challenges that we face in the foreseeable future: the aggressive confrontation of radical Islam and the defeat of the Jihadists, and the promotion of democratic institutions throughout the non-democratic world.

Russia, with its cultural roots in Orthodox Christianity (and despite its lurch into communism) and its restless borders with the Islamic world (not to mention the Beslan horror), is a natural ally in the Global War on Terror.

But Putin's strong-man proclivities and complicity with the Ukraine election fiasco potentially compromises our credibility as the global promoter of democracy should we choose to look the other way. We don't want Putin on Bush's arm if he's stepping out on our marriage contract.

This issue is likely, like another famous Russian, to rear its ugly head again and again. For the U.S.'s sake, its time to Razz Mr. Putin.