Ellen Bork, writing at the Foreign Policy Initiative:
The assassination of Boris Nemtsov just steps away from the Kremlin was shocking but, sadly, not entirely surprising. Mr. Nemtsov, 55, a former deputy prime minister and member of the Duma, had become a leader of the democratic opposition to the authoritarian rule of Vladimir Putin. Now he is the most recent and most prominent of Putin’s murdered critics.
Nemtsov was killed two days before he planned to take part in a march against the war in Ukraine and for democracy in Russia. He and his fellow democrats have been clear that the two are connected. Putin, they argue, is not motivated by an innate drive to restore Russian greatness or respond to NATO’s expansion in the 1990s. Rather, he seeks to distract attention from his authoritarian rule, corruption, and dismal economic record by mobilizing the Russian people against an external enemy, in this case Ukraine, lest it become a model for Russians of a successful, Europe-oriented democracy right next door.
Regrettably, the Obama administration refuses to accept this reality. To do so would require a fundamental change in its policy toward Russia, which ignores the relationship between the nature of the Putin regime and its behavior abroad. Instead, the White House and its European partners prefer to treat Putin’s aggression in Ukraine as a discrete matter, just one of many issues about which the West seeks to engage with Putin. This stubborn belief has persisted even after Putin has flagrantly violated yet another ceasefire in Ukraine.
Not even Nemtsov’s murder seems to have shaken the flawed assumptions about Putin’s Russia that guide U.S. policy. President Obama must know that the “prompt, impartial, and transparent” investigation he called for is impossible. Nemtsov and fellow opposition leaders, journalists, and others are vilified by Putin as a fifth column and enemies of the state. Putin has placed himself in charge of the investigation and delegated it to the state body that leads the persecution of his critics.
Whole thing here.