By writing my previous post, I didn't want to create an impression that anti-Russian forces in the United States have suddenly disappeared — or switched gears to establishing a Society of Russian-American Fraternal Love. What I meant was that in the absence of open conflicts between Moscow and Washington — and lacking major newsworthy "disasters" in Russia — it's not easy for the members of anti-Russian lobby to continuously perpetuate Russia's negative image in the U.S. They have to wait until something "bad" happens — or at least until something they can call "bad."
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (I discussed her anti-Russian "credentials" before), had her "aha" moment last week: on Friday, she issued a statement condemning the deal that would sell French-made Mistral assault ships to Russia. Here is an excerpt:
"It is deeply troubling that France, a NATO ally, has decided to ignore the clear danger of selling advanced warships to Russia even as Moscow is taking an increasingly hostile approach toward the U.S….and Europe itself."
One could endlessly debate with Ros-Lehtinen on how clear the "danger" of selling Mistrals to Russia is, but her assertion that Russia's attitude toward the U.S. and Europe is increasingly hostile borders on delusional. I suspect that 20 years ago, when Ros-Lehtinen was first elected to Congress, she created a template for all Russia-related statements – and has never updated it since. It is also interesting that while criticizing France, Ros-Lehtinen seems to have no problem with Israel selling unmanned spy drones to Russia.
The same day, the Washington Post published an op-ed penned by the Brookings Institution's Robert Kagan. Kagan hasn't written about Russia in a long time, and in order to compensate for lost opportunities, used quite strong language — like "corrupt, authoritarian mafia state" and "czarist dictatorship" — to describe the subject of his piece. Kagan, too, sees negative trends in Russia's development, but in contrast to Ros-Lehtinen, he's unhappy with "Russia's increasingly authoritarian domestic policies." To show his grasp for the latter, he writes:
"A new political party led by respected Russian political figures Boris Nemtsov, Mikhail Kasyanov, Vladimir Milov and Vladimir Ryzhkov applied last month to register to run in the December elections."
(I like this "respected." Respected by whom? Certainly not by normal Russians.) Kagan is wrong here. The "new political party" he's talking about has only applied for registration with the Ministry of Justice, which is not the same as to register for parliamentary elections (not yet announced, by the way). Not a big deal, of course, but one could expect more knowledge of the Russian law from a man with such a passion for it.
Not surprisingly, Kagan demonstrates better command of American politics. He props a recent persistent rumor that the so-called Magnitsky bill sponsored by Sen. Cardin (D-MD) may eventually "replace" the notorious Jackson-Vanik amendment. A Jun. 19 Post's editorial suggests that Congress passed the bill before repealing the amendment, which would allow keeping "outside pressure" on Russia. This is a remarkable slip of the tongue: in essence the Post admits that the Magnitsky bill is not about human rights in Russia — as the Jackson-Vanik wasn't about Jewish immigration; it's all about applying "outside pressure" on Russia.
Kagan also informs us that:
"Sens. Joe Lieberman and John McCain will soon introduce a resolution calling on Russia to register opposition political parties, allow free media, respect freedom of assembly, and permit international and domestic monitors for the coming elections."
Nice! The only thing that the future resolution is missing is obliging President Medvedev to have all his orders and decrees first approved by the Lieberman's and McCain's offices.
By their detachment from reality, the Lieberman-McCain tandem reminds me of the Soviet Politburo. In this setting, overly ideological yet competent Lieberman could be considered as Mikhail Suslov whereas the old and gaffe-prone McCain would have to assume the role of Leonid Brezhnev.