Thursday, May 19, 2005

Not a Good Sign for Russian Democracy

I am stealing the free lead-in from a Jane's article. Those of you that want to pay for the whole shindig can.
Russia launches war against 'spies'

For months, JID's well-informed Russian sources have been warning that a range of charges - including allegations of espionage - are set to be brought against leading NGOs and their local staff in a bid to neutralise criticism of human rights abuses, weapons proliferation and environmental pollution, as well as cut off support for Russian opposition groups. The issue was first raised publicly by President Vladimir Putin in his May 2004 State of the Nation address, but Patrushev's recent speech before the Russian State Duma (parliament) suggests that the next phase in the crackdown against the NGO sector is about to begin.

Patrushev's blatant attack against NGOs was significant because he outlined what are likely to be the key charges against both entire organisations and individuals. According to the FSB chief, weak legislation and lack of "state oversight" have created "a fertile ground for conducting intelligence operations under the guise of charity and other activities". He promised deputies that new legislation will soon be submitted to "regulate" the activities of NGOs in Russia. In particular, registration for foreign organisations is to be tightened.

However, what this campaign against 'spionen' portends is simply...bad news. Democracy in Russia is something fragile and tenuous right now. Yetlsin wasn't the best leader for Russia after the fall of teh Soviet Union. He was certainly no George Washington. The one thing that he did do though was the peaceful transition of power from one President to the next via the electoral process. That's no small thing...even if he didn't do anything else for the country save extract it from the Soviet Union.

Putin is coming across as John Adams' evil twin though. I had high hopes for him in the beginning. By brining in a former member of th KGB as a lead politico it pulled those individuals that had been largely ostricized from the government after the fall of the Soviet Union back into the fold. Those individuals had often ended up being the heart and soul of the Russian Mafia etc because they could no longer participate in the government. This might help Russia veer away from its impending doom by saying that these individuals, often brilliant and strong, were useful to society as participants in legimate government.

Or so I hoped. Now I'd have to say that my hopes were...misplaced.

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