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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

At Last! Bush Blasts Russia!

"In Russia, reforms that once promised to empower citizens have been derailed, with troubling implications for democratic development."
That's U.S. President George W. Bush, believe it or not, speaking in Prague, Czech Republic, to a group of neo-Soviet dissidents. Hooray! Three cheers for the Big Dubya! Maybe there is hope for him yet! Bush also strongly defended the missile defense system for Eastern Europe. The full report, via the Associated Press:

President Bush risked further stoking a testy dispute with Russia over a new U.S. missile defense system on Tuesday, saying Moscow has "derailed" once-promising democratic reforms.

In a speech celebrating democracy's progress around the globe — and calling out places where its reach is either incomplete or lacking — Bush said that free societies emerge "at different speeds in different places" and have to reflect local customs. But he said certain values are universal to all democracies, and rapped several countries for not embracing them.

"In Russia, reforms that once promised to empower citizens have been derailed, with troubling implications for democratic development," Bush said, speaking at a conference of current and former dissidents.

The president asserted that this discussion of democratic backsliding in Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin was just one part of a strong relationship. "America can maintain a friendship and push a nation toward democracy at the same time," Bush said. But the lecture, however gentle, was not likely to be well-received by Putin, already riled over what he sees as unwelcome meddling by the United States in Russia's sphere of influence. Most recently, Moscow has become increasingly irritated by U.S. plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe, on Russia's doorstep.

U.S. officials have been alarmed by threatening statements from Putin and others over the proposed network. Russia believes the system — with a radar base to be sited in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in neighboring Poland — is meant for it. Putin has said he has no choice but to boost his nation's own military potential in response. Putin warned over the weekend that Moscow could take "retaliatory steps" including aiming nuclear weapons at U.S. military bases in Europe. China on Tuesday joined Russia in saying the shield could touch off a new arms race. "Part of a good relationship is the ability to talk openly about our disagreements," Bush said in the speech at Czernin Palace. "So the United States will continue to build our relationships with these countries and we will do it without abandoning our principles or our values."

Bush said this same approach applies to other allies with difficult democratic records, naming Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and China. "China's leaders believe that they can continue to open the nation's economy without also opening its political system," Bush said. He listed as the nations with the "worst dictatorships," Belarus, Burma, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iran and Syria. He also criticized Venezuela, Uzbekistan and Vietnam as places where progress had been made but now "freedom is under assault." The conference was hosted by Natan Sharansky, a former prisoner of the Soviet regime who has continued to champion freedom, an former Czech President Vaclav Havel, who led the Velvet Revolution that ended communism in the former Czechoslovakia in 1989. The president met with dissidents after the speech.

With the Iraq war raging and that country far from a stable democracy, critics say there is widespread skepticism about Bush's "freedom agenda" — the byproduct of his promise to advance democracy in every corner of the globe. But Bush claimed the mantle of democratic warrior.

"I pledged America to the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world," he said. "Some have said that qualifies me as a dissident president. If standing for liberty in the world makes me a dissident, then I'll wear the title with pride."

Earlier, Bush defended the plans for the missile shield here against fierce opposition by the local population as well as Russia. Czech leaders chimed in to back him up, as did Poland's prime minister from afar. "The people of the Czech Republic don't have to choose between being a friend of the United States or a friend with Russia," Bush said at a joint appearance with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and President Vaclav Klaus in a high-ceilinged hall of medieval Prague Castle. "You can be both. We don't believe in a zero-sum world." Standing on soil that was in the Soviet orbit less than 20 years ago, Bush made a declaration not thought necessary for decades: "The Cold War is over." The once-obvious statement has been rendered less so lately amid an escalating war of words between Washington and Moscow.

So far, the Bush administration has mostly held its rhetorical fire, giving muted reaction such as calling Putin's remarks "not helpful" and repeating its insistence that the network is meant to protect NATO allies against a missile launch from Iran, not Russia. U.S. officials do not want to give Putin the satisfaction of appearing to be engaged in a dispute among equals with the world's only superpower. But the system is unpopular in the Czech Republic, too, among its wary citizens if not its leaders. People fear becoming a terrorist target, and they worry about Russia's wrath, as well. Bush, Topolanek and Klaus sought to calm those fears.

Bush said he will make his case directly to Putin Thursday when they meet on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Germany. "My message will be Vladimir — I call him Vladimir — that you shouldn't fear a missile defense system," Bush said. "As a matter of fact, why don't you cooperate with us on a missile defense system? Why don't you participate with the United States?" Klaus applauded Bush's promise to make "maximum efforts" with Putin. Bush was flying from Prague to Germany for the three-day summit. Bush's eight-day European trip also includes stops in Poland, Italy, Albania and Bulgaria.


Antifascist said...

Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, wrote:

The inventor of “world systems theory,” Immanuel Wallerstein, noted that the new strategy has brought into being something American foreign policy historically sought to avoid – namely, the possibility of a coalition involving France, Germany, and Russia. It also stands to eliminate the only country in the world, Saudi Arabia, that by turning off its oil supply could transform the United States into a huge junkyard. “When George Bush leaves office,” Wallerstein predicted, “he will have left the United States significantly weaker.”

Antifascist said...

> "I pledged America to the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world"

By one count, U.S. defense spending in 2008 will amount to 29 times the combined military spending of all six so-called rogue states: Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. The United States accounts for almost half -- approximately 48% -- of the entire world's spending on what we like to call "defense." Again, according to the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, U.S. defense spending this year amounts to exactly twice the combined military spending of the next six biggest military powers: China, Russia, the U.K., France, Japan, and Germany.

Antifascist said...

> "So the United States will continue to build our relationships with these countries and we will do it without abandoning our principles or our values."

To a rational observer, such spending -- totaling more than $1 trillion in 2008, according to the figures I've just cited -- seems quite literally insane. During the Cold War, hawks scared Americans into tolerating staggering but somewhat lesser sums by invoking the specter of Soviet Communism. Does anyone, anywhere, truly believe that we need to spend more than a trillion dollars a year to defend ourselves against small bands of al-Qaeda fanatics?

Big Fat Slob said...

Pitiful creatures suffering from phobias, like the creators of this blog, would agree with that.

But then again, as revealed in a discussion on this blog about Russia's ranking on the World Peace Index, what can you expect from people who believe countless numbers of Russians are on a waiting list to leave Russia.

Or who demand evidence that people are trying to get a US Green Card to enter Russia. Yes, you read that right. US Green Card.

LR lost that exchange pants/hands down.

She obviously also believes that a country that has its troops stationed in more than a hundred foreign countries, that is stationing thousands of troops in the territory covered by the CFE, and that has invaded two countries in as many years, is less imperial than a country that has its troops stationed in four countries (maybe five), that has not invaded any foreign countries throughout its modern existence (to be fair, that's only about 17 years, but still).

But, as I said, phobias are a mental disease and one should feel pity for those who suffer from them.

Though I am too mean, to fat, and to much of a slob for pity.

LR, want another round?

Looking forward to it, my sweet troll.

But, she's a real cutie for trying to pick a fight with the Big Fat Slob. I'm such a meanie.

Big Fat Slob said...

Oh, I failed to add... Great picture of Bush... That's exactly the way Kubrick portrayed the hero of Clockwork Orange, and Pile in Full Metal Jacket.

the upward-turned eyes, photographed from above are generally a device used by directors to imply madness:)

Great Shot, Peachy-Pie!

Anonymous said...

This is Hector,

Another greatly amusing post. I can see the little regard the pro-imperialist stooges have for the Czech population's stance against Bush's missile radar system. The Czech people don't want it because they don't want to be involved in Bush's "war on terror" games. They obviously don't feel threatened at the moment by "rogue states", and feel U.S presence would make them a target. Threat from Russia? Yeah, and a threat from the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man!


La Russophobe said...

It's rather sad (perhaps a better word would be pathetic) that you find the prospect of thermonuclear war "amusing." That's the attitude that destroyed the USSR and will destroy Russia unless it's eradicated. The hubris necessary to make a flippant remark like that could light a small city if it could be harnassed

La Russophobe said...

PS: Hector, why can't you write your name in the box where it belongs? Is it some sort of defect in your "brain" that prevents you?