Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Putin's power over our president

First Hitch from last week:
Another obscene video from al-Qaida, this time showing the different ways in which abducted Russian diplomatic staff can be put to death. And, as one could well expect, feeling in Russia runs high. Against the United States, that is. A resolution in parliament and statements from Russian officials place the blame on U.S. authorities for not protecting Moscow's envoys. In advance of the Group of Eight summit (the G8 supposedly being a gathering of advanced industrial democracies, even though Russia, this year's host, is neither advanced nor a democracy), Putin's ministers split the difference between the actual murderers and those who recently put an end to the noisome existence of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. As if perhaps sensing that this would not quite do, the Putinistas then issued a big-mouth statement, announcing that they had instructed their security organs to use all means to track down the murderers. The empty theatricality of the second declaration only helps to underline the petty demagoguery of the earlier ones.

Out of a thesaurus of possible nominations, one would have to select George Bush's remarks about Vladimir Putin as the stupidest utterance of his entire presidency. Impressed beyond words by the fact that Putin was wearing a crucifix that had belonged to his mother and was thus a man of faith, our chief executive then burbled like a schoolgirl and said that he had looked into the man's eyes and knew he was the one to trust. (I have not checked, but surely someone can discover how many times Putin has worn that crucifix since. It could be a sort of emblem of the fatuity of the "faith-based.") Since then, Putin has been noticeable for his efforts to protect Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il, the Iranian mullahs, and the Sudanese racist cleansers from any concerted action by the United Nations and has instructed his troops in Chechnya to behave in a manner that would cause a storm of international outrage if emulated by coalition forces in Iraq.
Today's A.P.:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush is toning down his administration's criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin's steps to restrict political and economic freedoms as Russia prepares to host an annual summit of economic powers.

Bush cited a "good friendship" with the Russian president, said he hoped to put the finishing touches on a deal to bring Russia into the World Trade Organization, and remarked that it was for others - not the United States - to say whether Russia was intent on blackmailing its neighbors on energy.

"That's not an issue we worry about here at home. That's an issue that the European leaders are going to have to work through," Bush said in an interview with foreign reporters ahead of this week's trip to Germany and to St. Petersburg, Russia.

Bush defended Putin against criticism from some at home and overseas that Russia should not be a member of the Group of Eight industrial democracies, let alone the host, because of antidemocratic activities.

"As far as the G-8 goes, from my perspective, Russia is an active participant. President Putin has been there, he speaks, he talks, he acts, he interfaces, plus, he's hosting it," Bush said.

"We've got a good friendship with the Putins. We're comfortable around them," Bush said in an interview in the White House on Monday with reporters from Russia, Germany, Italy and Japan. The White House released a transcript of the session on Tuesday.


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