Lantos said, "The major industrialized democracies gave Russia a seat at the table after the Cold War's end, expecting that Russia's newfound respect for human rights, the rule of law and free expression would persist." Lantos added that Russia had "tossed aside this historic opportunity (and) Russia's leaders are making a mockery of the G-8 by failing to live up to the basic norms of a democratic society, and shifting the blame for their crackdown on basic rights."
Lantos said that Russia has continued to court global opinion for its support of anti-terrorism efforts, while simultaneously dodging criticism for its shoddy human rights record. He specifically mentioned the postponement of the corruption trial of oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which was originally scheduled to begin at the end of April, but which has now been postponed until after President Bush's Moscow visit next week.
The president will have to decide how tough a stance to take with Putin, but he should express American displeasure with the progress, or more accurately, the lack of progress towards a free and democratic Russia. It is one thing to stumble along the way to democracy. It is something else again to walk backward toward the old totalitarian ways that kept Russians in their grip for most of the 20th century.
The president has more than Lantos and Cox wanting to confront Putin. A similar measure has been introduced in the Senate by John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat. If the president doesn't send a strong message, these men have.
President Bush might wish to take a second look into Putin's soul to see if he really is a born again democrat, or if something darker occupies that inner space.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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