Vladimir Putin is throwing the full weight of the Russian state behind efforts to save diminishing tiger populations. Among the measures are tougher punishments for those who kill the endangered animals, or traffic in their body parts.
Meanwhile, it remains open season on journalists and oppositionists. Medvedev makes noises about addressing this problem, but the real authorities that matter don’t even go through the motions of going through the motions to capture, let alone punish, those who kill, batter, or intimidate those with the termerity to criticize the state, key politicians, or their pilot fish (e.g., Nashi).
Glad to see the priorities are all in order.
In the US too. The Obama administration’s response to the litany of human rights abuses in Russia is, well, pretty much nothing. Administration policy is “engagement uber alles”:
In his interview with The Times, Mr. Nemtsov said Mr. Obama is wrong to engage Mr. Surkov through the commission on civil society.
But the White House has said that it is important to engage someone close to Mr. Putin’s inner circle on democracy and civil rights issues.
“I think his criticisms are legitimate,” a senior White House official said. “There are other political people in Russia, who have said to us categorically, ‘Do not dissolve this. If you engage with this guy, it gives us a direct shot at the guy who matters.’”
This official said that “we think it’s better to engage than not to engage.”
We see daily the wonderful results of various US engagement initiatives, such as in Iran. Or North Korea: Yeah, that’s paying dividends. (Can you say: “Incoming!”? I knew you could.)
I remember when progressives who are now Obama’s main constituency went ballistic at Reagan administration policy of engaging South Africa during the apartheid era. I ask in all seriousness: why was engagement a monstrosity then, but the best–and in the eyes of this administration apparently, only–way to deal with governments and regimes with serious human rights problems? Each state is different, of course, meaning that differences in policy may well be warranted. But it would be nice to know what factors are critical in determining whether engagement is the best policy alternative so that the policies can be appraised. Why is engagement good sometimes and an anathema others? For it seems that at present, “engagement” is merely a monotonous mantra rooted in dreamy wishes of comity and fears of confrontation, rather than a sober evaluation of the pros and cons of the policy vis a vis alternatives.
And speaking of dreamy wishes, here’s your proof:
The Obama administration has sought to engage Mr. Medvedev while marginalizing the former president and current prime minister, Mr. Putin.
How’s that Putin marginalization thing working out? Sheesh. If this is the basis for our Russia policy, we are well and truly delusional.
Speaking of ballistic, part of the administration’s reason for treading lightly with Russia on human rights matters is strategic arms limitation. Obama has invested heavily in the new START treaty, and is doubling down by demanding approval of the treaty during the lame duck session (another Obama political gamble that is likely to end disastrously). There are many problems with this strategic weapons-centric approach. One of particular note, and of particular irony, is that it is essentially an artifact of a Cold War mindset in which the superpower nuclear balance was all that really mattered. That world is well and truly gone, as the emergence of China, and the development of nuclear threats in North Korea and Iran clearly demonstrate. In this environment of tremendous strategic flux, locking the US into restrictions rooted in bipolar Cold War thinking is extremely unwise. Obama asserts that the new START is a lynchpin in a broader anti-proliferation effort: that by leading by example, the US and Russia will encourage others to temper their strivings for nuclear weapons.
As if. This is just another dreamy inversion of reality, from the experts on the subject.