Moscow is furious. The D.C. Council voted this week to rename the street outside the Russian embassy. A small strip of Washington Avenue will now be known as Boris Nemtsov Plaza. The backlash from Russia was instantaneous. Russia’s Interfax news agency claims that Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a right-wing populist and past presidential candidate decried the moves as “dirty tricks in front of the Russian Embassy.”
Nemtsov, a popular politician who supported democracy, was seen as a threat to Vladimir Putin until he was assassinated in 2015.
“Under President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s,” writes the Washington Times, “Mr. Nemtsov enjoyed a successful political career. But he emerged as a particularly vocal critic of Mr. Putin as the former KGB agent has gradually consolidated power after coming to office in 2000. In Moscow in February 2015, Mr. Nemtsov was shot in the back four times while walking home after dining in a restaurant.”
Nemtsov is the man who the D.C. Council voted to recognize. Last month Nemtsov’s daughter Zhanna appeared in Washington to plead for the change.
“The current Russian political regime wants to eradicate the memory of my father since it believes — correctly — that symbols are important and that they can potentially facilitate and inspire change,” she said.
Relations between the U.S. and Russia are frigid. The left’s insistence that President Trump is working closely with Moscow seems laughable given how much tension still exists between the two countries.
“No amount of electioneering will win over the super-rich powerbrokers. What will make them happy, however, is an end to US sanctions… So while Putin is dressing his election stage with the usual props ahead of what may be his last round of campaigning, he appears also to be artfully performing two acts in parallel: One at home and one for a US audience,” writes Nic Robertson, CNN’s International Diplomatic Editor.
President Trump and Putin’s interactions with each other have been closely monitored. President Trump has been accused of being both too accommodating and too hostile. Are he and Putin best friends? Sworn enemies? The mainstream media can’t tell.
“Certain forces use the Russian-American ties to solve internal political problems in the U.S.,” Putin said at a forum in Moscow.
“We are patiently waiting until this process in the internal political life in America will end… We have many friends in America who want to develop ties with us… We support ties with them irrespective of the current political situation.”
President Trump, meanwhile, has been playing the same balancing act. He’s shown an open-mind and a willingness to cooperate without demonstrating weakness. He recently gave a rousing speech on national security.
“We will stand up for ourselves, we will stand up for our country like we have never stood up before,” President Trump said. “We know that American success is not a foregone conclusion. It must be earned and it must be won. Our rivals are tough, tenacious and committed to the long-term, but so are we.”
Renaming the road outside the Russian embassy may not seem like a very important move, but it shows that the current administration won’t be cowed. The D.C. Council voted to recognize a popular democracy activist, and they did nothing wrong by doing so.
According to the average liberal, however, President Trump has been far too soft.
“Without leadership from the President, any attempt to marshal such a response will be inherently weakened at the outset,” reads a report compiled by Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.
“President Trump has been negligent in acknowledging and responding to the threat to US national security posed by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s meddling.”
The Trump administration never skipped a beat.
“We are happy that Congress agrees with our Intelligence Community’s assessment regarding the Russian threat,” the National Security Council said in a statement.
“This Administration has no higher priority than protecting the national security and public safety of the United States. Some of our efforts will be seen and some will not, but there will most certainly be consequences… We look forward to Congress’s participation while continuing the Administration’s steadfast efforts to counter Russian malign activities.”