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Time to lose our illusions about Vladimir Putin- and that 'reset'

Several years ago, a study was done to determine the optimal characteristics of an organism living in an environment with lots of other, diverse organisms. I think an aquarium was the model, but I could be wrong.

Turns out that the strategy best suited for survival was: 1) to be bigger and badder than anybody else; 2) to be as gentle, helpful, and cooperative with the other organisms as possible; 3) to be generous and unselfish with available resources; and 4) to strike ruthlessly and decisively when messed with.

Nothing wrong with "nice-nice" up to a point. It's good geopolitics, in fact- up to a point. In personal ethics, it's what we Christians are bound to practice. We don't get to escalate to Number Four in our personal relationships.

But for governments, it's a different matter. In the Kingdom of the Left Hand, where rules and laws and interpersonal quarrels among various fallen human beings (and the nations they run) are dealt with, the turning of the other cheek is generally not an option. Governments exist to protect their citizens and their national interests. That's their God-given job. It's the worst kind of negligence to confuse what is praiseworthy on a personal level with what is even permissible on the international level.

We've had ample opportunity to view the consequences of the Obama administration's "reset" of our relationship with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The result has been disastrous. Putin's aggression against Ukraine (in fairness, he got away with the same thing in Georgia during the Bush administration) is outrageous enough. But as was the case in Georgia, Putin and his government are using their own imperialism as an excuse to blame the United States!

It seems that anti-American hysteria is at an all-time high now in Russia- higher even than at any point during the bloody career of the Soviet Union. And by the same kind of bizarre rhetorical gymnastics we in the West were puzzled by during the Soviet years, Putin's own crimes are somehow being blamed on us!

Even the assassination of Putin critic Boris Nemtsov- a crime for which the question "who profits?" gives a rather obvious answer- Russians are blaming the United States! In the super-patriotic atmosphere that has enveloped Russia following the aggression against Ukraine, boycotts of American companies, products, and cultural influences are being encouraged, and some 80% of the Russian people hold a negative view of us.

The pattern fits Putin's campaign to create paranoia in Russia toward his critics and to identify himself and his policies with Russia itself. In a state as closed as Russia, the manipulation of public opinion by those in positions of power and influence is even easier than has been in the United States in matters such as abortion and gay "marriage." People's view of the world is inevitably colored by the information they're allowed to have- and in Russia's case, the tortured propaganda which argues that because Putin is the obvious suspect in Nemtsov's death, and it's in the interest of the United States to have the Russian people unhappy with Putin, it must be we Americans who killed Nemtsov somehow seems sane and even reasonable.

You can't deal with totalitarian countries the way you can with free ones. You can't negotiate with a predator- and Putin is a predator. By all means, let's pursue every reasonable diplomatic option we may come across. But the time has come to stop worrying about hurting Putin's feelings, and to recognize that we are already engaged in a renewal of the Cold War.

Predators are only encouraged by weakness. It's time for President Obama to be firm- and for the American people to begin thinking about which of the candidates in next year's presidential election is most likely to be able to stand up to a predator.


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