Putin's rhetoric and actions belie the Reset says FPI Policy Advisor John Noonan

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By way of Reuters, a troubling interview with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin:

Russia's paramount leader, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, hinted on Monday he would return to the presidency in 2012 for six more years and said democracy protesters marching without permission deserved to be beaten...

In Monday's interview, Putin robustly defended police crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in recent months. He said those who marched must obey current laws requiring them to seek advance permission from local authorities.

"If you get (permission), you go and march," Putin said. "If you don't - you have no right to. Go without permission, and you will be hit on the head with batons. That's all there is to it."

That's the kind of rhetoric you'd expect from a man who just spent the last few days hunting whales with crossbows and delivering stern warnings to Russia's bear population. Aside from the fact that Putin is wholly comfortable with discussing cracking protesters' skulls in a public forum, these latest reports are revealing.

First, Putin seems uninterested in pretending that Russia is still a democracy -- a farce that had, admittedly, gone on long enough. Second, he unapologetically mocks Western diplomatic engagement, which is bold even by shoe-thumping Russian standards. Putin said that a "long term rearming of Georgia" is currently underway (a blatant falsehood, considering Georgia can't even get M4 replacement parts or a few training Humvees for Afghanistan), while Moscow continues to violate the French-brokered ceasefire agreement after the 2008 South Ossetia War. As an aggressive underscore to this point, Russia recently shipped the advanced S-300 SAM system to South Osseita and Abkhazia, allowing them to hold most of Georgian airspace at risk. 

Even President Obama's vaunted reset policy isn't safe. Despite the fact that Obama unilaterally yanked ballistic missile defense from Poland and the Czech Republic, and allowed language potentially damaging to U.S. BMD plans for Iran into the new START treaty, reaction to Washington's engagement efforts bordered on hostile. 

Putin also criticised U.S. plans for anti-missile systems in central Europe, saying that although Washington had abandoned plans to station missile batteries in Poland, there could still be a radar base in the Czech Republic and other countries in the region might host elements of the system.

"So where is this 'reset' ?," Putin asked. "We don't see it yet in this area."

Now there's some common ground. We don't see it either.

- Originally posted on The Weekly Standard Blog

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