“Contend with Putin’s Russia,” US think tank urges Obama

A leading US “watchdog,”Freedom House, has published a new report, urging President Obama to “contend” with Russia. The report sets out a new, highly confrontational “agenda” for the Obama administration, and even the President himself, for dealing with Russia.

Clearly concerned at the growing influence of Russia in the world today, the watchdog suggests that the US and its allies should “challenge the various authoritarian groupings in which Russia plays a prominent role, such as the Eurasian Union.” The report seems unaware that the Union will not come into existence until 2015.

Nevertheless, President Vladimir Putin is the main target of the report, which does little to hide the think tank’s contempt of the Russian leader. Indeed, unlike most reports aimed at Government officials, which are often written in sober and conservative language, the latest Freedom House report is vitriolic.

The just-released report, Contending with Contending with Putin’s Russia: A Call for American Leadership [pdf] includes an essay by David J. Kramer and Susan Corke:Contending with Putin’s Russia: Proposals for a New Approach.” The essay and report describes Vladimir Putin as eroding civil liberties in Russia, and accuses him of spreading the country’s “malign influence” outside its borders by supporting Belarus and “the murderous Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.”

ALthough it is mentioned only three times, Syria and regime change in the Middle East seems to be a subtext to the report. Freedom House even concludes that, “The Russian government should pay a high political price in the international community for such policies as its appalling support for the Assad regime in Syria.” Peculiarly the think tank even claims that Putin has been afraid that “the democratic spirit of the Arab awakening would creep toward Russia,” and that he has consequently set about closing down civil society.

The report calls for a much more confrontational approach to Russia and the ideology of “Putinism,” and is even sharply critical of President Obama himself. The US President, as the think tank sees it, has shirked his duty as leader of the free world, by not personally confronting Putinism. Freedom House recommends  that Obama directly criticize and even perhaps denounce Russian actions.

Freedom House describes itself as an independent watchdog concerned with supporting freedom and democracy around the globe, and says that its “research and analysis frames the policy debate in the United States and abroad on the progress and decline of freedom.”