No more Western hugs for Russia’s rulers

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, June 27, 2010.

From the Washington Post:  Contrary to the wishful thinking many in Russia and abroad expressed when [Russian President Dmitry] Medvedev took office – by de facto appointment – in 2008, his presidency has demonstrated no signs that his pro-democracy rhetoric might turn into real action. In fact, the opposite is true. This period was marked by increasingly restricted and falsified elections; war against Georgia; eased constraints on the use of armed forces abroad; the torture and death in custody of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for the police-raided investment fund Hermitage Capital; police lawlessness and corruption; and continued oppression of political opponents and dissent. European energy consumers have experienced supply cutoffs, just one form of Russia’s open pressure on its neighbors. Blatant hooliganism of pro-Kremlin youth organizations is promoted. …

What can be done? We urge Western leaders to discontinue their kisses-and-hugs "Realpolitik," which has failed, and to stop flirting with Russian rulers – behavior that has not brought any benefits to the West and produces in Russia an impression that Putin’s system is a decent one, like any other in the democratic world.

This is not just about choosing better keynote speakers for major international events. It means Western leaders must stop closing their eyes to Russian leaders’ clear noncompliance with international obligations, especially concerning free and fair elections and basic human rights. It means the West should cease greeting Russian rulers as equals, providing them with legitimacy they clearly do not merit. It means the West should start exposing corrupt practices by the Russian establishment, whose ability to find havens for stolen funds and leave Russia for comfortable lives in Western nations is one of the regime’s pillars of stability. It means Western nations should introduce targeted sanctions against the officials directly abusing the rights of their compatriots. …

As leaders of the united Russian democratic opposition, we urge the West to stop undermining our cause and compromising the very principles Western society is based upon. We are sure that we can achieve our goals through freedom and normal democratic process – provided we get these restored in our country.

By Mikhail Kasyanov, Vladimir Milov, Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Ryzhkov, co-chairs of the People’s Freedom Party in Russia. (photo: AP)

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