The opportunities for our relationship with India and Bush’s visit there this week are contrasted by the challenges for our relationship with another great power, Russia, and another critical Bush trip: to St. Petersburg this summer for the Russian-hosted G-8 summit.
This promises to be one of the most difficult trips Bush will make as President. After all, he’ll have to explain why he’s at a meeting of the world’s most important economies and democracies that is being hosted by someone (Putin) who is definitely not a democrat. According to a front-page story in Sunday’s Washington Post, there’s a feisty debate brewing inside the Administration about Russia’s direction and how to handle the summit. This is part of a broader reassessment of Russia and what the U.S. can or should do about it – something that will only get more attention as the summit approaches. Soon a bipartisan Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on U.S.-Russia relations led by former Republican Congressman Jack Kemp and former Senator John Edwards will offer its assessment and a way forward. So stay tuned.
Presenting itself as a reliable energy supplier is the centrepiece of Russia’s 2006 agenda as president of the G8 club of rich countries.[...]President Vladimir Putin makes a sensitive visit to Eastern Europe this week to try to convince countries that suffered most from gas disruptions this year that Russia can be trusted as a supplier.
The G8 Ministers have endorsed Energy Security as the focus of the July summit. Energy needs seem to be compelling the Bush administration to cooperate with an increasingly autocratic Russian government. Senator John McCain has expressed serious reservations about G8 leaders attending the summit in St. Petersburg.
In a recent Podcast, Senator John Edwards mentioned that he'd written a NYT op-ed [Moscow's Empty Red Square, 12/07/05] with Jack Kemp about recent disturbing changes in the US relationship with Russia. Jack Kemp and Senator Edwards have been working together on a Task Force for the Council on Foreign relations - they recently went to Russia and visited with leaders and activists. The NYT op-ed was about legislation in DUMA keeping NGOs from having offices in Russia - suspected of political activities. President Vladmir Putin, through a surrogate in DUMA, is trying to squash political opposition undemocratically. Background: In recent years under Putin, there have been rollbacks in democracy - regulating the elimination of direct elections of governors, prosecution of oligarchs, and Russian government taking over the mass media - all to squash of political opposition. From a democratic standpoint, Senator Edwards believes that Russia is headed in the wrong direction.
What an embarrassment our national government is. Mired in the sickening muck of corrupt corporate money and right-wing ideology, our so-called leaders continue to divert our public treasury and our nation's unlimited potential for good into war, into the pockets of the superrich, into the self-serving whims of greedheaded corporate executives, into a rising police state, into the careless desecration of nature … into waste...Then why am I laughing, why am I almost giddy with optimism about where we're heading?
[...] Washington is ignoring our country's real needs and squandering our democratic promise, but out beyond the Beltway (and below the radar of the Powers That Be) there are folks, groups, coalitions, and even elected leaders who're taking action at the state and local level to build an America based on our historic ideals of fairness, justice, and equal opportunity for all. I have great hope, because grassroots people are so much stronger, more resilient, more creative, and more American than the gooberheads at the top, and they'll not long be held down or held back.