Good Riddance, Mr. Bush
Well, George Bush has done it again.
First he looks in Putin's eyes and declares him trustworthy. Then he invites Russia's General Shamanov, an infamous war criminal, over for tea and photo ops at the White House. And now as he leaves office, he's killing the Voice of America Russian broadcast.
Writing in the Moscow Times on June 26th, under the headline "Forget Defeat, Momentum Now with Russia" an abject moron named Mitch Phillips stated: "Spain hammered Russia 4-1 in the group stage of Euro 2008, but it should be a very different game when they meet again in Thursday's semifinal, with Russia transformed by the return of Andrei Arshavin."
It was, indeed, quite different. In the second match, Russia failed to score a single goal, ending the two-match rubber down 7-1.
And that's the Moscow Times talking, relatively speaking a voice of informed illumination compared to the rest of Russia's media establishment, which is owned and operated by the Kremlin. Do you dare to imagine what sort of gibberish might have aired on the RTR television network?
The Voice of America was one of Russia's few possible antidotes to that kind of gibberish -- that is, when it wasn't being feverishly jammed by the Kremlin. With little Internet access* and massive crackdown against bloggers underway, Russians had virtually no sources of real information left about the world, and now George Bush is knifing the VOA baby and leaving Russians utterly in the neo-Soviet darkness. It's pretty ironic that just as the Kremlin is gearing up its Russia Today propaganda network, the United States is choking off the main counterbalancing force at VOA. It's almost, in fact, as if George Bush were a KGB agent working for Vladimir Putin himself.
Mr. Bush has betrayed democracy in just about every way it can possibly be betrayed, and the sooner he is evicted from Washington DC the better. On his watch, Republicans have lost control of Congress and seen the ideals of Ronald Reagan severely undermined; they as much as anyone should be delighted to give Mr. Bush the bum's rush out the door.
One can only hope that America's next president will see the utter insanity of shutting down the VOA's Russia service and will immediately restore it. If Barack Obama were any kind of defender of the liberals value he supposedly stands for, he would already have announced that upon entering the White House his first official act would be to switch the juice back on at VOA Russia, and it's something he should readily find bipartisan support for among the Republicans. Instead, Obama is absolutely silent as to what specific steps he would take to stand up for liberal democracy in Russia, a shameful display from someone who promises "change we can believe in." John McCain is foursquare on record calling for specific moves to stand up to Putin's Russia, but ought to directly address the VOA, a perfect opportunity for him to distance himself from the woeful Bush record on Russia.
*NOTE: In September 2007 the size of Russia's internet audience was just 14 million, less than 10% of the population. That represented a massive increase from the even more puny 12 million a year before. Russia's internet audience is the same size as that of Spain, a country with less than one-third Russia's population. It is rivaled by tiny Netherlands, which is nearly one-tenth the size of Russia. Given the average Russian's wage of $4/hour and the cost of access, which is roughly the same as in Europe, this is hardly surprising. And given the Kremlin's willingness to prosecute a person who wrote a comment on a blog as a criminal (and to shut down website like The eXile entirely), even less so. Easily three-quarters of Russia's population are totally cut off from the world wide web in any practical sense.