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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Kasparov Blasts Russia Again

Writing in the Wall Street Journal on August 2nd, Russian presidential contender Gary Kasparov has delivered another scalding attack on the corporatist Kremlin:

Hugo Chávez was in Russia to seal an arms deal with the Kremlin. The bombastic Mr. Chávez and the stealthy Vladimir Putin share a fondness for autocracy and for leveraging their natural resources as political weapons. The arms Mr. Chávez is buying are destined to be used against his own people and by terrorist guerillas in Colombia tacitly supported by Venezuela. Mr. Putin isn't the only one who understands that instability leads to higher oil prices.

I am horrified as I watch my country turn into an oil-and-gas empire. From struggling workers in Vladivostok to top-notch lawyers in Moscow, we are a people proud of our intellectual traditions. Russia is a country of great literature and scientific accomplishments. It should not be our destiny to become another Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, to quite literally fuel the achievements of other nations while we lose ground.

The G-8 summit in St. Petersburg is over. It will be remembered more for what the microphones caught by accident than for what was spoken into them on purpose. (Coincidentally, the guilty microphone was left on by none other than Mr. Putin.) With the war in the Middle East dominating headlines, St. Petersburg was little reported in the West. Here in Russia we were treated to hours of Mr. Putin on TV smiling next to the leaders of the free world. The state-controlled media used such pictures as proof of Russia's membership of the league of industrialized democracies, a membership that is otherwise inexplicable. Russia may not have much industry or democracy left, but we do have massive amounts of oil and gas plus other natural resources. When combined with our nuclear weapons, these resources are sufficient to buy entry into the G-8 despite Mr. Putin's transformation of Russia back into a one-party dictatorship. This newfound international sway is also having serious repercussions inside my country.

With every PR success on the international front the Putin administration's rhetoric becomes increasingly militant on the national level. They still watch their tongues on the outside but hardly bother to disguise their dictatorial designs here. You can't find a better definition of "oligarchy" than what we have today in the Kremlin.

Top Putin officials run some of the largest corporations in the country. Imagine your secretary of defense working simultaneously as chairman of the board of Exxon, say, and you might wonder if there's a Russian term for "conflict of interest." First Putin's bunch took the law into their own hands, and then they put the state coffers into their pockets.

There is more to the article but unfortunately it appears to be locked behind the WSJ database. If anyone knows where
La Russophobe can get the rest of it, please let her know.

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