Thursday, March 05, 2009

Today's Reading Assignment

Russian politician Garry Kasparov, in The Wall Street Journal, on the dangers of making deals with a regime on the skids, specifically the Putin-Medvedev cabal that currently runs his country:

Vladimir Putin's regime is fighting for its political life. That's the good news. But the bad news is that the Obama administration is sending out mixed messages that may help the Russian autocratic regime survive.


The thinking here is not sound. Russia's overwrought protest against antimissile systems never sprung from any genuine strategic fear. It was always a ploy and a distraction from its real agenda.

Mr. Putin -- who is now prime minister of Russia -- relies heavily on oil revenues to maintain his grip on power. It is in his interests to increase tensions in the Middle East as a way of driving up global oil prices. There is no deal the U.S. can cut to stop Mr. Putin's Russia from arming Mideast terrorists and helping Iran's nuclear program.

Kasparov says there are ample indicators of a regime in trouble. Putin has beefed up internal security forces, in anticipation of large-scale domestic unrest. He is also raiding the state pension fund to prop up financially-strapped oligarchs and begging for debt relief from international financiers.

Additionally, Moscow recently signed a "beggar's" oil deal with China, agreeing to sell crude to Beijing for 20 years--for less than $20 a barrel. That's a sign of a regime desperate for cash, in full survival mode.

With that in mind, Mr. Kasparov observes that Putin and his cronies "cannot be expected to operate Russia as a rational state actor." Then, he offers this warning about Russia's current leaders:

"Indeed, they may relish a violent clash with a contrived enemy in hopes of building nationalistic support -- the war with Georgia this past summer may just be a prelude.

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