Dark muttering from the Left

Reuters reports that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice kicked ass and took names (at least metaphorically) during her meeting with Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Rice has put Russia on guard that the United States will not ignore any retreat by Moscow from democratic reforms.

During a visit that sent a chill through relations Rice declared that Putin had too much power and she spoke out over the absence of independent television channels.

“Rice showed her teeth during talks in Moscow,” read a caption in a Russian daily newspaper Thursday, beneath a photograph of a beaming Rice meeting President Vladimir Putin.

With plain speaking that left Russia’s establishment aghast, she warned Wednesday that Washington was watching closely the fraud trial of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

A verdict in the case, seen as a test of Moscow’s commitment to the rule of law, is expected on April 27.

The former Soviet specialist balanced her tough remarks by saying the U.S. wanted only a stable, prosperous and democratic Russia and paid tribute to progress by Moscow so far.

But commentators said Rice, on her first trip to Moscow since being confirmed as President Bush’s foreign minister, suggested Washington was not ready to give Putin the benefit of the doubt indefinitely on a commitment to democracy.

In another move sure to get on Putin’s nerves, Rice met in Lithuania with members of Belarus’s political opposition and called Belarus “the last remaining true dictatorship in the heart of Europe.”

So one of the top US officials stands up for democracy, even at the risk of sending “a chill” through relations with one of the world’s most powerful countries. This is a good thing, right? The Left should be applauding and shouting “You go, girl!” (or something like that), right? If leftists object to anything, it should be that she and the rest of the Bush administration are not pushing hard enough to promote democratic change among friends and foes alike, right?

Don’t bet on it. Instead expect more somber warnings about “playing with fire” and threats to stability and interference in internal affairs and, yes, US imperialism. Dark muttering seems to be what many on the Left do best these days.