By Andrew L. Jaffee
Dick Cheney made a very important visit this weekend, and reminded Russia to lay off countries that it once persecuted under its old czars, under its second generation czars (the Soviets), and under its new czar, Vladimir Putin. Cheney visited Lithuania, Croatia, and Kazakhstan. In Lithuania’s capital of Vilnius,
…he accused Russia of backsliding on democracy. …
He accused Russia of using its vast energy resources to blackmail its neighbours, and said Moscow had a choice to make between pursuing democratic reforms and reversing the gains of the past decade.
In Croatia, Cheney
…praised the former Communist countries for their willingness to introduce democratic reforms – as well as for their involvement in US-led military operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“You who aspire to join these organisations [Nato and the EU] help rejuvenate them and help us re-dedicate ourselves to the basic and fundamental values of freedom and democracy,” Mr Cheney told Ivo Sanader of Croatia, Sali Berisha of Albania and Vlado Buckovski of Macedonia.
“We also believe that it’s very important for both Nato and the EU to take in the new members.”
“Backsliding on democracy” is an understatement, as now, “Under Mr Putin, influence stems from the former Soviet organs of repression.” The last Russian presidential elections “failed to meet democratic standards.” Putin tried and failed to interfere with democratic elections in Ukraine, and is now trying to intimidate the former Soviet “republic” and the rest of Europe by threatening to withhold natural gas deliveries.
Putin is delusional: he thinks he’ll be able to recreate former Soviet “glories.” The U.S. stands squarely in his way. Last year, President Bush visited Riga, the capital of Latvia, and brought to the attention of the world the suffering of the three Baltic nations (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) under Soviet/Russian domination. Now Cheney has visited the Baltic again, reminding Russia to back off.
Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia have all joined NATO. Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, and Ukraine are on track to become new members.
Of course, Russia is crying fowl, as Eastern Europeans are voting with their feet to join NATO and the EU — not forging closer ties with Moscow’s czarist, neo-imperialists.
Russia claims Cheney’s speeches this weekend were “completely incomprehensible.” Cheney has responded, rather comprehensibly:
Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday shrugged off negative Russian reaction to his criticism of President Vladimir Putin, saying he had merely described ”the extent to which they seem to resist the development of strong democracies” in Eastern Europe.
Eastern Europeans remember all too well what is was like to live under Russia’s hammer and sickle. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga most eloquently explained the differences between the leftist appeasers of dictatorship and the new democracies:
We certainly have seen the results of appeasement… It’s much easier to tolerate a dictator when he’s dictating over somebody else’s life and not your own. We have suffered through half a century because dictators were allowed to proceed unchecked in the faint hope that they would somehow see the light, or reform, or simply by indifference to those who have been affected by their actions.