Annals of Appeasement
None too soon, U.S. Senator John McCain has renewed his call to eject Russia from the G-8 group, replacing it with Brazil and/or India. Events in Russia indicate that American leadership is essential to prevent Europe from sliding down the road to appeasement it has followed so many times before, with such horrific consequences.
On domestic issues, Mr. Medvedev acknowledged that Russians have a habit of violating the law, from ordinary people bribing police officers and buying pirated intellectual property to government officials who interfere in the decisions of court judges. He notes that President Putin's decision to step aside is unprecedented for a Russian leader, but consistent with the constitution. Mr. Medvedev says Mr. Putin's move means that Russia is at last developing a tradition of respecting all constitutional and other legal procedures.In an editorial, the FT stated he had expressed "serious ambitions for domestic policy reform that deserve the west's attention" and stated:
Mr Medvedev's singled out his commitment to embedding the rule of law in Russia. The goal is worthy of support. It may not address western concerns about the lack of democratic rights in Russia. But the term "democrat" became a dirty word in Russia during the chaos of the 1990s when Boris Yeltsin led a dash to the market economy. Mr Medvedev emphasises instead the need to create a functioning legal system, with an independent judiciary and courts. If this could be achieved - and it is a mammoth task - it would have huge implications. It would strengthen Russia's economic culture, eliminating bribery and corruption. It would also be the seed-bed from which democracy could thrive, giving opposition parties an opportunity to defend themselves against the Kremlin's attack.The problem here is clear: The Financial Times doesn't speak Russian. If it did, it would understand that when Medvedev talks about "enforcing the rule of law" and "lawbreakers" he is referring not to "criminals" as we understand them in the West but to anyone in Russia who disagrees with the polices of his administration. As hero journalist Grigori Pasko points out on Robert Amsterdam's blog, such people are "crazy" or "evil" and must be destroyed by proper "enforcement" of the law. What Medvedev is doing is setting the stage for an even more barbaric crackdown on civil society in Russia, of which the recent attack on British Petroleum, about which we report today, can be seen as an early sign.
Many, of course, will doubt whether Mr Medvedev can succeed. Mr Putin started out as president with a similar promise to establish a "dictatorship of laws", ending up with more of the former than the latter. Russia's looming economic problems also present a challenge. The slowdown in global growth may reduce energy prices with a knock-on effect for Russian oil revenues. Mr Medvedev's time may therefore be consumed dealing with economic problems. Still, Mr Medvedev faces a choice. If he sticks to his plan to embed the rule of law - facing down those who want the Kremlin to keep a mono-poly on power - his election may herald a bold new start for Russia. But if he falters, his presidency will be a wasted opportunity, one whose sole legacy is to consolidate Mr Putin's rampant authoritarianism
The Telegraph has reported:
Medvedev's training has been so effective that Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak told Putin: "An hour ago I met Medvedev and even joked that there's not much difference between you. You even look the same. When I went to meet Medvedev I saw you on television at the same time and hesitated, wondering who was who."
At 5ft 7in, Mr Putin is a diminutive man. Mr Medvedev, however, is a politician of even smaller stature. At a little below 5ft 4in, he will be one of the world's shortest leaders when he assumes office on May 7. The size-gap has been a concern for Kremlin officials, who have ordered state television to film Mr Medvedev from below when he is with Mr Putin so as to make them appear the same height. Mr Medvedev has also had voice and behaviour coaching so that he imitates his mentor's speech patterns, mannerisms and slightly clenched gait.
Speaking to the Russian newspaper Izvetia on Monday, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said "I say openly and clearly: I am a supporter of" the proposal to lengthen Russia's presidential term." Reuters notes: "A change in the constitution to extend the presidential term could be used as a pretext to call an early election, allowing Putin to return before 2012, when Medvedev's first term is due to end. vanov, a powerful Kremlin hawk who was in the past seen as a potential next president, has not spoken out publicly on the idea before." The ink is not even dry on the presidential "election" before plans are being hatched to further obliterate civil society in Russia once and for all.
As Masha Lipman notes below, in the Washington Post, the idea that Medevev could be a "reformer" and yet participate in a sham election where all his rivals have been liquidated, spurning debates or serious interviews, is one that could be accepted only be an utter imbecile. If we allow ourselves to be hypnotized by this malignant little parasite, we will deserve richly the harsh consequences that will result.