Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Another reason to support Putin

Sometimes I get really scared when I read editorials on Russian politics in American newspapers. Ok. I know well that editorials are mostly subjective rants and ramblings but Richard S. Williamson is a former U.S. ambassador at the United Nations. This man represented the most powerful country in the world in the UN. Here’s the link.

Concerned by the spread of democracy and the contagion of color revolutions, Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, is moving to restrict Russian civil society.

This is an ugly example of logical inconsistency. “Is the king of France bald?” presupposes that France is a monarchy and it has a king although the question itself seems to address another topic. Let’s dissect the sentence. It implies that a spread of democracy = a color revolution but is simply untrue. As a president of a democratic country Putin MUST be concerned with the contagion of ANY revolution regardless its color. In 1917 Kerenskiy was couldn’t not stop the spread of the red revolution (financed by German “NGOs”) and the result was catastrophic.
What about changing “former KGB officer” to “the best friend and counselor of Anatoly Sobchak – one of the founding fathers of Russian democracy”?

The march of freedom has advanced in Georgia, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq and Kyrgyzstan.

Iraq and Afghanistan! One of the reasons we should support Putin is the fact that Russia still has nuclear weapons. Otherwise the march of democracy could happen in this country year ago.

President Putin fears the challenge from pluralism and democracy at home. Therefore, since the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, Putin has rolled back freedoms in Russia.

Look at this sentence more closely. Again he read Putin’s thoughts and made a conclusion. It doesn’t matter that I – a person who lives in Russia – didn’t notice how my freedoms were restricted. Mr. Williamson knows it better.

Putin's government has launched a broad campaign to ensure that Russia's corrupt autocracy survives. Independent national television stations have been taken over.

Delirium! What campaign exactly? What independent television stations since the orange revolution were taken over? Even if we agree that 1st Channel, RTR and NTV are controlled by Putin there are 9 other NATIONAL television stations, including Putin-bashing RenTV with its 2% rating and 78% of coverage.

Pro-western parties have been driven out of parliament

They were driven out of parliament by the PEOPLE OF RUSSIA. In this country we don’t need pro-Western parties. We need PRO-RUSSIAN parties.

Business magnates who challenged Putin are prosecuted.

Business magnates who challenged the freedom of the Russian people and the integrity of the country. Thugs who not only stole the natural resources of the country but didn’t even bother to pay taxes.

The bill would force all foreign and domestic nongovernmental organizations regardless of their funding source to re-register with the authorities, inviting greater scrutiny and possible abolition of any group deemed threatening to the Kremlin's interests.

Deemed threatening to the interests of the people of Russia. I hate an idea that foreign governments finance Russian parties, train “orange revolutionaries” and open the city gates for the “march of freedom”.

The proposed law would drive most foreign NGOs out of Russia. It would be impossible for foundations such as the National Endowment on Democracy and the International Republican Institute to operate in Russia. And all Russian civic groups deemed suspicious by the authorities for any reason could be denied registration.

Two lies one after another. Oh, sorry. NED and IRI are financing opposition parties in Russia? Do they finance Chechen terrorists? Most foreign NGO’s financing opposition? Then they had to be kicked out of this country ages ago. The registration according to the bill COULD NOT be denied. It stated very clearly – you fill the form and you are registered. Just don’t forget to state your sources of financing.

As recognized in various human rights documents and numerous international treaties to which Russia is a party, people have a right to associate with whomever they please, to organize and express their views.

Exactly. Exactly. This is actually the essence of the bill. Mr. Williamson found a non-existent scare and is fighting it as a lunatic. If Bin Laden decides to register an “International Pan-Arabic Institute” in Washington, DC Mr. Williamson without doubt would support his right to associate with whomever he pleases, to organize and express his views.

The United States must stand with the people and against Putin's latest assault on Russian freedoms. Faced with criticisms from America and Europe, Putin has said he'll relax the planned crackdown on NGOs. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to support Russia's civil society.

Thank you, Mr. Putin for saving and modernizing Russian nuclear arsenals! I hope it would make people sharing Mr. Williamson views think twice before starting bombing my country to freedom.

Russians living in freedom, in a pluralistic society, and sharing our values are our natural friends and enduring allies.

We already live in freedom. We already live in a pluralistic society. We don’t share YOUR values because we have our own values. And we are ready to fight for them.

A corrupt autocracy seeking to roll back freedom, retrench and re-establish authoritarian rule will not be able to sustain stability at home nor be a friend on whom we can depend.

What is really scaring that the very same scenario was played with Serbia. First, blew the country’s problem out of proportion. Second, with the help of the mainstream media make a bloodthirsty monster out of the head of the country. Third, bomb the country into freedom. Forth, with the help of an well trained "orange" crowds install the marionette.

6 comments:

Johan Maurer said...

Thanks for your comments. I plan to refer to them in my blog. We in the USA keep proving consistently that we have amazing double standards. Putin himself pointed out that the logic of the American attack on Iraq was actually the law of the jungle. Unfortunately, he apparently has just enough need for an anti-terrorism alliance with the current U.S. administration not to make such comments as often as he might.

However, I'm not at all tempted to romanticize Putin. He is a power politician. Powerful political figures everywhere have to balance a number of sometimes conflicting imperatives: the good of the country (in his view and in his advisors' views); his own ideals and values; the pressures of key allies; the pressures of key enemies; the forces tending toward chaos; etc., etc., and then there are all the natural temptations that come with power. Someday, we will be able to make a dispassionate analysis of how he balanced all these forces and temptations, but he doesn't have the luxury of time.

I'm also not overly rosy about the state of civil life in Russia. Many Americans underestimate the sheer elemental decency that prevails in Russia, that ensures that neighbors and friends do for each other what the formal economy or bureaucracy doesn't do. We also tend to forget that every possible shade of political opinion, and a full capacity to advocate that opinion, already exists in Russia and does not need to be imported. However, the level of cynicism about politicians and about the efficacy of citizen involvement seems to be somewhat higher among ordinary people in Russia than it is in the USA--where it is admittedly high, too. And, whatever we think of Putin, the level of capriciousness and lack of redress at more local and regional levels of government is serious. My impression is that Russians put up with these realities way beyond the point that a typical American would hire a lawyer! However, Americans may not realize that Russians feel very free to complain, and complain publicly.

Often I think that the differences between Russians and Americans on a whole range of comparison points are relatively minor, but pundits and conventional wisdom exaggerate those small differences for the sake of rhetorical advantage, and in the process create biases that inhibit first-hand observation and dialogue. Your specific case of American commentary on the NGO regulations is a perfect example.

By the way, it is ironic to have Americans criticizing controls on NGOs just when we are finding out that our own phones and e-mails may have been tapped. I phone my relatives and friends overseas fairly frequently (including in Russia and Iraq) and about a quarter of my e-mails are for people outside the USA. Words fail me.

As for torture, even Vladimir Bukovsky, no bleeding-heart liberal, has to teach the U.S. leadership the ABCs of moral contamination. (See this Washington Post article.) But our leaders are not known for accepting foreign wisdom. We are the very model and definition of democracy.

Thanks for your web-hospitality for these rambling thoughts.

Johan

Anonymous said...

1. Would like to hear more about YOUR values. What are they exactly? And what exactly the American values are, which you do not share.

2. So you believe the media in Russia cannot be accused of making blood-thursty monsters (or an idiot, or a criminal, etc.)out of someone who does smth the Russian establishment doesn't like? Like show on NTV how Khodorkovsky is telling the convicts that they should first take care of their families and only then think of the country? Sure, that is of course all down to the Western influence, poor Russians would never have thought of anything like that on their own.

3. You live in the free country you say..And people living in this country do not care to see on TV what Ziuganov has to say or Belykh without any sarcastic comments, right? And only in a free country a Parlament Speaker can say that a parlament is not a place for discussions without fearing to be kicked out from this position by this parliament. And its in free countries that every more or less important bueraucrat can drive 200 km per hour while the rest is stuck in a trafic jam. And of course, in a free country everyone has to be registered at some place where he/she might not even live.

Mikhail Capone said...

As a Canadian without any direct access to Russia, I have very few ways to verify what you say, but I would think that it is quite probably that the US mainstream media are almost totally wrong on Putin.

Media consolidation means that 5 mega-corporations own over 90% of all media in the US (radio, tv, newspapers, magazines, movie studios, etc), and these multi-billion $ corporations have their own interests at heart (they are very diversified and look after their profit and idealogy), so such distortions are not surprising.

Anyway, your post was an interesting read and I will bookmark this blog.

Mike

W. Shedd said...

"Media consolidation means that 5 mega-corporations own over 90% of all media in the US (radio, tv, newspapers, magazines, movie studios, etc), and these multi-billion $ corporations have their own interests at heart (they are very diversified and look after their profit and idealogy), so such distortions are not surprising."

Absolute myth. In fact, with the proliferation of the internet and news becoming world-wide, there are many more media, news, and information outlets without any tie to your so-called "Mega-corporations". Any American (or Russian, for that matter) can read Al-Jazeera, BBC, or almost any other news outlet in the world. In fact, the consolidation that you cite could only take place as a result of this changing technological landscape, and corporations quickly changing ideas and positions about what the role of TV, newspapers, and magazines actually are ... and how to keep them viable (which essentially means, make money from them).

I am inclined to agree that many Western news outlets and media pundits over-state Putin's domestic squashing of opinions ... at least to some extent. Then again, I also think that where many Americans get very pro-active and uppity where our "rights" to free-speech are concerned ... my Russian friends almost seem to take some perverse comfort in the protective father role of Putin's government.

I've many times made the case that Putin and Bush are very similar people ... they represent similar ideas to each of their nations. Is putting a squash on domestic NGOs that receive foreign money, in the name of protecting Russian free-society from outside influences ... really much different from executive orders to monitor or listen to certain international calls without a judge-approved warrant, in the name of protecting American free-society from outside 'terrorists'? In fact, the NGO restriction seems more lawful, even if both presidents actions are misguided, paranoid, and xenophobic.

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