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Reprinted from NewsMax.com
    Monday, Feb. 9, 2004
 
Safire Warns of Putin's 'Creeping Coup'

Echoes of the Cold War resounded this weekend in Munich during NATO's annual security conference when Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov went head-to-head with Sen. John McCain and more than met his match.

New York Times columnist William Safire wrote today that Munich, the site of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's shameful appeasement of Adolf Hitler, was no longer "a venue of appeasement," largely thanks to McCain, who called Ivanov's bluff when the Russian foreign minister threatened to back out of an agreement limiting his nation's armed forces on the European front.

McCain, R-Ariz., accused Putin's regime of a "creeping coup" against freedom within his own country and of waging a campaign "to intimidate and reassert control over states from the Baltics to Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine that our victory in the Cold War had liberated from Soviet rule."

Unspoken during the arguments is Russia's resentment of NATO's addition soon of seven members, some bordering on Russia. According to Safire, recent developments fostering Russian enmity toward NATO include:

 
  • Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit last month to to the former Soviet republic of Georgia to attend the inauguration of that nation's new elected leader. Moreover, his visit was accompanied by the publishing of an article by Powell in Izvestia uncommonly critical of Moscow's repression of the media.

  •  
  • McCain's visit to Latvia at the head of a congressional delegation, where he heard of a recent gathering in the Baltic states with Scandinavian nations to focus on internal opposition to tyrants such as Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus and the former KGB crowd that runs Moldova.

  • In Munich, Ivanov unloaded on the West, focusing on the decade-old Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, initialed but never signed. "In 1996," Safire recalled, "as NATO prepared to admit Eastern Europe, it set up a formal relationship with Russia, assuring it that no nukes and no 'substantial combat forces' would be placed close to its border. Three years later, Russia made the 'Istanbul commitments' to pull its troops out of Georgia and Moldova, which it still has not done.

    Looking hard at McCain, Ivanov said, "One of the major priorities of the Russian foreign policy is our relationship with our closest neighbors ... relations with the Commonwealth of Independent States are in no way a hallmark of Russian-brand 'neo-imperialism,' as some try to depict it, but an imperative for security. ..."

    But, noted Safire, McCain is no Chamberlain. "Under President Putin," McCain shot back, "Russia has refused to comply with the terms of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. Russian troops occupy parts of Georgia and Moldova ... Russian agents are working to bring Ukraine further into Moscow's orbit. Russian support sustains Europe's last dictatorship in Belarus. And Moscow has ... enforced its stranglehold on energy supplies into Latvia in order to squeeze the democratic government in Riga."

    McCain added that "undemocratic behavior and threats to the sovereignty and liberty of her neighbors will not profit Russia ... but will exclude her from the company of Western democracies."

     Safire warned, "As its role becomes global, NATO must not lose its original purpose: to contain the Russian bear."   

      
     
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