To the uninitiated, Vladimir Putin has seemingly just undertaken what President Obama might call a "reset" of the Russian political landscape. In fact, the prime minister's announcement Saturday that he would swap offices with the current president, Dmitry Medvedev, just clarifies an abiding reality: There is not, and since at least 2000 never has been, any power center in Moscow other than Putin, the former KGB operative-turned-authoritarian kleptocrat.
The real question is whether that revelation will make it impossible for the Obama administration to persist in its delusion that a conciliatory U.S. policy towards Russia will encourage the Kremlin to moderate its repression at home and its aggressiveness abroad?
To date, this American reset with Russia has certainly done nothing to ameliorate the plight of journalists, human rights attorneys and activists, independent businessmen and other opposition figures who have become, under the de facto Putin regime, literally endangered species. Neither has it dissuaded the Kremlin from: using energy weapons to force what Putin calls "the near abroad" and even Europe to submit to his demands; selling vast quantities of advanced arms to the world's most dangerous regimes; meddling in the Middle East, Central Asia, Latin America, Europe and anywhere else that the Kremlin's influence can be expanded at the United States' expense; and exploiting U.S. dependence on Russia for everything from access to Afghanistan to access for our astronauts to the space station.
In particular, Obama's reset with Putin's Russia has failed to diminish the Kremlin's continuing commitment to the modernization of its arsenal of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. While the former has shrunk with the retirement of Soviet-era long-range missiles andsubmarines, what remains is being systematically upgraded with modern warheads and platforms. As my Center for Security Policy colleague, Ben Lerner, observes in a forthcoming white paper on the misbegotten New START Treaty, U.S. negotiators ignored this reality and gave away the store in the hope of persuading Moscow to join in the President's fantasy of "ridding the world of nuclear weapons."
Notably, Team Obama gave up on long-range missile defenses of Europe and the United States based in Poland and the Czech Republic to appease Moscow. His representatives reportedly approved language the Russians drafted giving them what amounts to a veto over future "quantitative or qualitative improvements" to U.S. anti-missile systems.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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