Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Crazy Americans

This Bloomberg piece is intriguing for its careful avoidance of any real journalism.

McCain Would Evict Medvedev From G-8, Push Russia on Democracy

McCain, 71, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, favors expelling Russia from the Group of Eight club of industrial powers. He calls for forging a ``League of Democracies'' to confront Putin and hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev, who takes over tomorrow, on Russian threats against former Soviet republics and rollbacks of domestic freedoms.


Challenging Russia

McFarlane said a McCain administration will be dominated at first by ``neocon redux'' advisers who favor challenging Russia at every turn. He predicts such a policy will founder on the reefs of Russia's rising economic power.

``For the first year you're going to see, very likely, disagreement, public sniping'' between McCain and Russian leaders, McFarlane said at an April 28 forum at Simes's center. ``If there's good news, it is that in the second year all those youngsters will get fired and maybe we'll settle down to a more really realistic presidency.''

The candidate's chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, said McCain means what he said -- and that he is the true realist. Challenging Russian leaders' misconduct is the only practical way to change their behavior, Scheunemann said in an interview.

``The Russians have made a very cold calculation of what their interests are,'' said Scheunemann. ``They will pursue those interests until they understand that there will be some cost to them.''

A relevant question here might be... what, exactly, are their interests? What, exactly, are McCain's grounds for claiming that Russia is not a democracy?

No one in his right mind would claim that the Russian Federation is a democracy in the very narrow, late-twentieth-century idea of a democracy -- there aren't really viable opposition parties in Russia (though the Communists pulled 18% of the presidential vote), the dominant power party controls completely the television networks, and Putin in all but a strictly legal sense appointed his successor.

However, there is a real and vibrant press in Russia, and easy access to foreign news sources. People turned out to vote; it's just that they voted overwhelmingly (70%) for Medvedev. This scenario isn't so different, though, from, say, Mexico during much of the post-WWII period. We clearly have a functioning democracy and fairly elected legislative and executive powers.

And, anyway, Russia has never had its president appointed by a special ruling of the Supreme Court, so I don't know that McCain has much ground to stand upon.

I know all this nonsense by Clinton (`He was a KGB agent,'' she said on Jan. 7. ``By definition, he doesn't have a soul') and McCain is just pure pre-election jingoism, but the uncritical report by Bloomberg is disappointing.

Obama apparently hasn't said boo about Russia. Smart, since we need them on our team.

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