It's not just Georgians and Ukrainians who are being repressed these days but Russians, or at least those who dare express any qualms about this resurgence of Stalinism in their country. To quote a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, which can do little more than issue statements given Washington's passive stance as this latest purge unfolds:
"In the last year, the Russian government has passed laws imposing unprecedented censorship and restrictions on media and online publications. In the past few months alone it has blocked independent websites and blogs; turned the respected news wire service RIA Novosti into a propaganda service; denied visas and accreditation to foreign professional journalists; and forced leadership changes at several media outlets simply because those outlets dared to challenge the Kremlin's extremist policies." Aggression abroad has a way of going with censorship at home.
Naturally the Voice of America has been shut down, lest a dissenting view be heard in this new but all too familiar Russia. To quote Moscow's chief enforcer of its new gag rule, Dmitri Kiselyov, head of the tame Russia Today news agency, the Voice of America was just distributing spam and had "nothing original to say." Remarkably enough, for an operation that had nothing original or important to say, the Voice of America was original and important enough to be shut down. Censorship remains the sincerest compliment that a police state can pay a news source, however unwittingly.
The Cold War is definitely back on, only this time unilaterally because the West has yet to respond to this series of outrages in any meaningful way, not even with meaningful sanctions. You've got to hand it to Tsar Vlad, he knows his victims, and how easily taken they are.
Back when Détente was in bloom back in the 1970s, long before it had been renamed Reset and staged a comeback, it was not done to resist evil or even call it by its right name, lest the tyrant be offended. It would take an amateur in diplomacy, an old B-movie actor named Ronald Reagan, to call an evil empire the Evil Empire, and when he did, the usual respectables were shocked. For nothing may be so shocking as to acknowledge what is happening right in front of our noses and, even more shocking, do something about it. Which is what Ronald Reagan proceeded to do, giving American diplomacy a new beginning and a new self-respect, the end result of which was the end to the Cold War, the nuclear arms race, and, along the way, the Soviet Union itself.
There is no Ronald Reagan anywhere in sight these days, unless you count the John McCains and Lindsey Grahams and such, all of whom can be safely ignored by a White House intent on ignoring not just them but the reality staring it and the world in the face.
Leader of the Free World -- remember when that was almost a synonym for president of the United States? But that description can be applied to this president only ironically. This president, far from confronting aggression, seeks common ground with it, whether he's "resetting" relations with Moscow or his secretary of state is proceeding to aid and abet the mullahs in Iran in their long and now almost successfully completed effort to build a Bomb of their own. It takes two for appeasement to work, and the West is doing its share.
Peace Through Strength. There's another phrase that has acquired an antique sound as this administration cuts the U.S. Army's troop strength down to a size not seen since before Pearl Harbor, tells the Navy it'll have to do without sophisticated weapons like the Tomahawk missile, and generally cuts the defense budget beyond the bone.
Nothing may be so effective as facing reality, the first step in shaping it. But all of that seems to have escaped our current president and his hapless crew, who are still murmuring about assessing events, lest they have to recognize a clear and present danger and, even worse, do something about it.
As for those of us who dare take notice of this latest Decline of the West, and warn of the disaster it invites, defenders of this administration's passivity explain that Barack Obama is just leading from behind. Right. So far behind he's not even leading. All the usual apologists for appeasement can be counted on to have much the same response to the president's critics as Comrade Kiselyov had to the Voice of America. Shut up, they'll explain.
But we won't. We'll continue to speak out in the faith that one day the West will reawaken and find its old, vigilant self again. Let's hope it won't be too late.