Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Absent Ally

Garry Kasparov, on the "Putin as an ally in the war on terror" policy of the Bush government:
It's hard to imagine a more potent recipe for fomenting radicalism than the one cooked up by the Putin regime. Every citizen in the region is treated as a potential terrorist, and the few Russian soldiers brought up on charges of abuse are quickly freed by the courts. When the law of the land is blatantly corrupt, the rule of Sharia with the Qur'an in one hand and a gun in the other begins to look tempting. The blood-revenge tradition of the region and Islam are an explosive mix.

Nor is Russia an ally on terror outside its borders. Nuclear and missile technology flow to Iran, and Syria's dictatorship is shielded from U.N. investigation of its terror activities, all while the Kremlin says it is trying to help by exploiting its "special relationship" with these rogue states.

What's overlooked or ignored is how well this situation suits Putin and his clique. They have a vested interest in sowing instability at home and abroad in order to reap higher oil prices and justify an oppressive level of security, the two things they require to stay in power. This is policy, not negligence or mere obstructionism. With a Potemkin economy and dwindling liberties, force will eventually be required to repress an increasingly restive Russian populace—difficult to justify in a "stable environment," hence the need for enemies.

The U.S. president and European leaders may quarrel, but there is little doubt they share a belief in the sanctity of human life. In Russia today the state is matching the terrorists blow for blow, dragging us down to the lowest denominator of morality. Incendiary grenades and tanks were used against terrorists and child hostages alike in Beslan, and the investigation remains blocked. Military poison gas killed 130 hostages in the 2002 Nord-Ost theater siege, and the hundreds of survivors cannot get effective treatment for the side effects because the government refuses to release the composition of the toxin they inhaled.

Allies must have common goals and values. Putin's Russia shares neither with the West today. It is time that the leaders of the free world stopped pretending otherwise.
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