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Boehner Rips Russia’s Soviet-Style Behavior

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Oct. 25, 2011: House Speaker John Boehner meets with reporters following a Republican strategy session on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP2011)

Two and a half years after the Obama administration “reset” relations with Russia, House Speaker John Boehner says he’s troubled that the country seems to be slipping back into its Soviet-era ways.

Boehner pointed Tuesday to the recent news that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin plans to return to the presidency after years as prime minister following his hand-picking successor Dmitri Medvedev.

“Within Russia, control is the order of the day, with key industries nationalized, the independent media repressed, and the loyal opposition beaten and jailed. Russia uses natural resources as a political weapon. And it plays ball with unstable and dangerous regimes,” Boehner said at the Heritage Foundation.

“In Russia’s use of old tools and old thinking, we see nothing short of an attempt to restore Soviet-style power and influence,” he said.

Boehner also cited Russia’s exertion of authority over former Soviet satellites like Georgia, and he called for Moscow to stop watering down attempts by the U.S. and other allies to hold Iran accountable at the U.N. Security Council.

“We should do more to compel the Kremlin to curtail its relationship with Iran, particularly related to its nuclear program and missile technology,” Boehner said.

White House National Security spokesman Tommy Vietor defended the administration's Russia policy, saying it has "succeeded in supplying our troops in Afghanistan, sanctioning the Iranian regime, achieving the landmark new START Treaty, and securing nuclear materials from terrorists, while we have remained unwavering in our commitment to democratic principle and our support for European security."

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland says Russia has been helpful with Iran

“We've had progress together in tightening sanctions on Iran and this continues to be a subject in our bilateral dialogue… what we can do together, what we can each do to tighten the economic noose on Iran,” Nuland told reporters.

Experts like Graham Allison of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government say years after the Cold War, Russia is still quite relevant – for energy and other strategic regions.

“Russia is the largest producer of oil and gas in the world today - almost nobody knows that, but if you take oil and gas combined, Russia is the largest producer,” Allison told Fox News.

In terms of getting equipment and vital necessities to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “Half of those supplies daily now go through the Northern route, which is basically Russia and states that are beholden to Russia,” Allison said.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., said Russia is exerting influence in the global supply and demand of energy to gain leverage over America’s European allies.

“If Russia wants to be viewed as powerful, relevant, and influential, it must develop a proper respect for the rule of law,” he told the Heritage Foundation. “This would require a stark change in behavior – including ending their leveraging of energy. Then, and only then, can we view Russia as a strategic partner.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson suggested complaints by Boehner or others about the president’s handling of policy should stop at the water’s end.

“(Boehner), of course, can say anything that he'd like and I won't conjecture on speaking ill of the country or having foreign policy and -- or disagreements end at our shore line. That has been the tradition of the country.

But Boehner said the administration needs to do more than find areas of cooperation on trade or arms control. It must not only demonstrate stronger moral authority when it comes to Russia, but lead with a respect for the traditions that allowed the U.S. to prevail over its old foe.

“International cooperation can only be transactional to a point. We cannot sacrifice values, or get away with walling off our interests from our moral imperatives. … When America leads, it gives optimism and hope. When America looks away, it causes confusion and uncertainty,” Boehner said.

“Instead of downplaying Russia’s disregard for democratic values and human rights, we should call them on it. … The United States should insist Russia ‘reset’ its own policies. If those appeals require teeth, the House stands ready to provide them,” he said.

Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.