A reader points out that a Boston Globe editorial says Condi could have done much more on her recent visit to Russia. LR is disappointed to say that she couldn't agree more. Tsk, tsk, Condi! History is watching you!
DURING HER visit to Russia Tuesday for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did what a diplomat ought to do: She asked for a cooling of "overheated" rhetoric. "I don't throw around terms like 'new Cold War,' " Rice noted, prudently. "It's a big, complicated relationship, but it's not one that is anything like the implacable hostility between the United States and the Soviet Union."
There is wisdom in Rice's attempt to keep provocative oratory -- as when Putin recently seemed to compare US behavior to that of the Third Reich -- from making US-Russia relations even more strained than they already are. But as much as the Bush administration may need Russia's cooperation to prevent nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea, or to counter terrorist networks, most of the stress in relations between Washington and Moscow is caused by Putin's regime. And it does no good to pass over in complete silence the rapacity, the crookedness, and the bullying of that authoritarian regime.
Rice did meet Tuesday with selected Russian human rights activists and journalists. She used them as a sounding board to gauge popular Russian reactions to a United Nations plan that would grant postwar Kosovo a form of independence from Serbia. She was told that if the plan was implemented against the will of the Serbs, it could induce an "anti-American hysteria" in Russia.
It is all well and good to harvest such advice from human rights defenders and independent journalists, but they desperately need more solidarity and public support than they have been receiving from the West. This failure of solidarity has been more conspicuous among governments of Western Europe than in Washington, and it has caused tension between former Soviet satellites, such as Poland and Estonia, and the Kremlin's avid energy customers in Western Europe.
Speaking to a seminar at Harvard's Davis Center for Russian studies Tuesday, Robert Amsterdam, a lawyer for Mikhail Khodorkosvky, the imprisoned former CEO of the Yukos oil company, described the European banks, corporations, and governments doing business with the Kremlin's state-owned energy corporations as "enablers of kleptocracy." Russian journalists who have seen brave colleagues assassinated in unsolved murders and human rights activists who are treated like traitors or spies deserve a public sign of support from Rice and envoys from the democratic nations of Europe.True, the Soviet Union has vanished, and the Cold War is over. But if Putin's kleptocrats are allowed to have their way, their Western energy customers will become as vulnerable to the Kremlin's thuggish ways as the isolated, endangered democrats within Russia