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Sunday, May 25, 2008

EDITORIAL: The Sunday Slam


Saakashvili, Triumphant

In a devastating embarrassment for Vladimir Putin's foreign policy, Georgia held elections this week and delivered stunning knockout blow to Russia's efforts to retain influence and control in the former Soviet republic.

In parliamentary elections that were judged as "good or very good at 92 percent of the 1,500 polling stations visited" by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Georgian voters supported the party of the pro-West president Mikheil Saakashvili (shown above) by a landslide margin. The OSCE found that the quality of Georgia's elections had improved markedly from the last outing: "These elections were not perfect, but since I was here in January for the presidential election, concrete and substantial progress has been made," said Joao Soares, head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly mission.

Saakashvili's party dominated its pro-Russia opponent by a stunning margin of nearly three to one. The people of Georgia spoke loud and clear, saying that they wanted no part of their country's Soviet past and domination by the Russian Kremlin. Instead, they overwhelmingly favor alliance with the West, NATO membership and an independent course. Faced with repeated neo-imperialist efforts to unseat him, President Saakashvili has responded courageously and even heroically by simply calling election after election to let the people decide and winning each and every one.

Let's be clear: The United Opposition Movement headed by former presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze is a real opposition party, harshly critical of Saakashvili and seeking to oust him from power. It was allowed to campaign aggressively and it won a large number of seats in Parliament. No such thing occurred last December in Russia. By contrast, not one single seat in Russia's new parliament is held by a party opposed to the dictatorial rule of Vladimir Putin.

It's more than a little telling that Russian "president" Dimitri Medvedev's first state visit after becoming "president" was a trip to China. Russia's relations with its former Soviet neighbors in Europe are imploding like a house of cards (just ten days ago, Russia received a similar poke in the eye from it's "little brother" in Serbia), and rather that seek to repair them it appears the Kremlin has simply given up hope and is trying to shore up its Far Eastern front.

Good luck with that, Mr. Medvedev. Do you really imagine the Chinese don't realize the racist contempt in which they are held by Russians? Do you really think you can appease the Chinese the way Stalin tried to appease Hitler, and thereby prevent China from annexing huge swaths of Russian territory to house its massive population (now ten times larger than Russia, but with less than one-third the national territory)?

Russia's foreign policy under Vladimir Putin has amounted to total, abject failure. Putin has provoked a new Cold War with the world's only superpower, alienated and polarized Western Europe with energy terrorism, poisoned its relations with former Soviet bloc friends and left Russia standing utterly alone in the world, without alliances or even constructive working relationships of any kind. Russia's only fellows are rogue regimes like those in Syria, Iran and Venezuela.

And there is nothing at all surprising in this. Though the complain about "encirclement" by the outside world, the people of Russia bring their troubles on themselves by choosing to be governed by a proud KGB spy raised on the mother's milk of propaganda and paranoia that brought down the USSR.

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