Taking the Opposition

In today’s New York Times, former chess champion Garry Kasparov, who has forsaken competitive chess for pro-democratic political activism, challenges the Western democracies to take “a tougher stand” against the increasing trend toward authoritarianism in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Garik writes:

Opposition activists and journalists are routinely arrested and interrogated. The Kremlin, in complete control of the judiciary, loots private businesses and then uses state-controlled companies to launder the money abroad.

Mr. Bush and Europe’s leaders apparently believe it is best to disregard such unpleasantness for the sake of receiving Russia’s cooperation on security and energy. This cynical and morally repugnant stance has also proven ineffective. Just as in the old days, Moscow has become an ally for troublemakers and anti-democratic rulers around the world. Nuclear aid to Iran, missile technology to North Korea, military aircraft to Sudan, Myanmar and Venezuela, and a budding friendship with Hamas: these are the West’s rewards for keeping its mouth shut about human rights in Russia.

Read the entire essay here.

Meanwhile, my old friend Jess Kaplan, a frequent visitor to Moscow, has been following with close attention the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the self-made Muscovite entrepreneur who built, under the Yeltsin privatization programs of the 1990s, one of the world’s largest personal fortunes. Khodorkovsky parlayed his riches into a major stake in the energy company YUKOS, and was sitting on top of the world until the company was charged with tax evasion in 2003 by the Russian government, its assets frozen, and Mr. Khodorkovsky sent off to prison. Some say this was politically motivated by his support of opposition groups, others that the charges were fair, and stemmed from abuses by Khodorkovsky of the privatization process. Jess has sent me a link to a recent document by Khodorkovsky [PDF format] in which he argues that what is needed in Russia is for Mr. Putin to step down, “in accordance with the Constitution”, and for the system of government to swing back to the left (an interesting position for an oligarch to take). Learn more about all of this here.

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  1. MikeZ says

    This hardly comes as a big surprise given Mr Putin’s background. I was not entirely comfortable with him since “day 1”.

    – M

    Posted July 11, 2006 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    He has always seemed downright reptilian to me. And of course there’s that warm-and-fuzzy KGB background of his, as you say…

    Posted July 12, 2006 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  3. George Beke says

    Let’s not forget that the USA today is governed not by a democracy, but by an oil-based oligarchy.

    Until people wake up to this fact… What the fuck…! Do we really think they’ll wake up?


    Posted July 30, 2006 at 12:48 am | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Hi George,

    While I agree that oil interests wield considerable influence here in the USA, I don’t think I would characterize things the way you do. Certainly there is no comparison between the level of transparency, freedom, and lawfulness here in America compared with conditions in Russia. In fact, just leaving a comment such as yours might have been rather a risky move over there!

    Posted July 30, 2006 at 11:44 am | Permalink