- The Washington Times - Monday, August 11, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

OP-ED:

The invasion of Georgia by Russia last Friday confirms that a new generation of Lenin’s “useful idiots” are alive and well. Senator Charles Schumer, apparently now a lead negotiator for Russia, recently opined that Russia could be persuaded to support stronger sanctions against Iran if, in return, the United States refused to share its anti-ballistic missile shield with our allies in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).

In support of his deal to feed CEE to the revanchist Russian bear, Senator Schumer claimed our missile shield “mocks Mr. Putin’s dream of eventually restoring Russian hegemony over Eastern Europe.”

It should. Mr. Schumer noted: “[Former KGB Lt. Colonel and current Russian strong man Vladimir Putin] seeks to regain the power and greatness Russia had before the fall of the Soviet Union.” The Senior Senator from New York says this like it’s a good thing, failing to note that this brand of “power and greatness” was premised on the Soviet Union’s authoritarian grip over CEE nations’ peoples; the poignant savagery of the gulags; and the unpardonable sin of tens of millions slaughtered in the name of Mother Motherland.

The Russian tanks and planes rolling into the sovereign country of Georgia (eerily reminiscent of Afghanistan in 1979) save as a reminder that Russia continues to exert economic and military pressure to strong-arm her former prisoners into a less formal, but no less real, subservience. This week Russia cut the Czech Republic’s crude-oil supplies by 40 percent in retaliation for agreeing to allow radar associated with the missile shield to be installed there.

This comes two weeks after threatening military action against both the Czech Republic and the United States in an effort to prevent that agreement. Three weeks ago, after Lithuania banned the display of communist and Soviet symbols, Russian-based hackers attacked 300 Lithuanian government and private Web sites. In defiant contravention of its own promises, Russia still maintains a military presence in Moldova, and Russian military aircraft routinely violate Georgian airspace.

This isn’t new behavior, either. Russia’s thuggish instincts have been on display for years. And if that weren’t enough, Russia’s saber-rattling isn’t limited to his nearby neighbors. In the past year, Comrade Putin has made a spectacle of building relations with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, and just this week, Putin opined that perhaps it was time for Russia to re-engage with Cuba.

Mr. Putin’s Bolshevik nostalgia trip notwithstanding, the West won the Cold War and freed CEE’s peoples from the Soviet Union. It is, therefore, both strategically injurious and morally repugnant to propose a puerile and cynical return to by rewarding Russia’s “bad neighbor” policy with the free peoples of CEE in exchange for Russia abiding its own and the world’s interest in preventing the terrorist state of Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

But simply undercutting American foreign and defense policy isn’t enough for Mr. Schumer. Again, acting as Russia’s agent in place, he proposes that American taxpayers make annual payments to Russia for its losses incurred from trade sanctions against Iran. By Mr. Schumer’s own reckoning, this system of fealty payments would cost American taxpayers approximately $2 billion to $3 billion per year.

Of course, tightening international economic sanctions against Iran is a noble and necessary goal, but appeasement will not attain it. Ultimately, by infringing the sovereignty and endangering the liberty of our Central and Eastern European allies and by prostrating America before Russia, the senator’s modest proposal will embolden every international bad actor to extort the United States and the free world for concessions, both economic and strategic. In sum, rewarding bad behavior only begets more bad behavior.

That simply isn’t acceptable. Regain power and greatness, indeed. If only Mr. Schumer showed this kind of dedication in ensuring his own country’s strength and security.

Thaddeus G. McCotter is a Republican congressman from Michigan and chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee.

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