Skip to comments.Saying Nyet to Freedom
Posted on 06/13/2006 11:36:07 AM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
Leaders of the worlds freest countries will flock to an increasingly unfree nation next month. Thats when the annual Group of 8, or G-8, meeting will draw the leaders of Britain, Italy, France, Germany, Canada, Japan and the United States to Russia.
The first seven have plenty in common, including a commitment to democracy, liberty and the rule of law. Its no surprise that in the post-World War II era these countries have built the strongest economies in the world.
The odd man out of that gang is the host country Russia.
It was invited to attend meetings of the then-G-7 in the early 1990s. The idea was to prop up the flailing Boris Yeltsin by making Russia look like a member of the club, even though it didnt actually qualify based on income or economic growth. Eventually, though, this Russia photo-op turned into a full membership.
But the Russian economy falls woefully short of first world standards. Recently, in fact, its regressed. It claims to support free markets and the rule of law, but under President Vladimir Putin (a former KGB official elected in 2000) Russia increasingly serves as a haven for corrupt government officials and uneven law enforcement.
Ask William Browder, an American businessman who works extensively in Russia. At least he used to, until six months ago when Moscow denied him a visa to return to the country.
Browder, the foreigner with the most money invested in Russia, recently told Newsweek International that dealing with the Russian government is like trying to fight the shadows. Youll never know who your opponent is.
Browder points out that many Russian companies arent merely linked to the Kremlin -- often theyre partially owned by the government. That includes energy giant Gazprom, which is 51 percent state-owned.
That socialist approach breeds corruption. In 2000, we discovered that the management of Gazprom had stolen 9.6 percent of the reserves for their own economic benefit, Browder said. Still, it took eight months for Putin to fire Gazproms CEO.
Because the government is so involved with the economy, businessmen such as Browder often find themselves dealing with the Russian secret police. Thats a particular problem, Browder says, because they are accountable to nobody; they dont ever justify their actions.
Businessmen arent alone in struggling against the Russian government. Non-profits are being targeted as well. With a recent law, the Kremlin gave itself the power to regulate some half a million NGOs, including 148,000 public policy organizations. Last month Putin signed executive orders that gave the Russian bureaucracy broad control of these non-governmental organizations.
The Heritage Foundations Yevgeny Volk, a Moscow-based analyst subject to the new law, says the regulations spring from the Russian governments concern about the famed color revolutions such as those in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. Foreign NGOs supported those revolts, which replaced autocratic, Soviet-style rulers with democratically elected governments.
Putins obviously concerned the same thing could happen to his government, so hes making it clear he wont allow foreigners to finance political activities in Russia. His government will hassle NGOs and tie them up in so much red tape they wont be able to function effectively. For example, NGOs now must explain how much they spend for office supplies. Putin wants to highlight that his governments sword is mightier than an NGOs box of pens.
The worlds freest economies arent doing the Russian people any favors by pretending that Putins government belongs in the G-8.
Its time for the democratic leaders to drop the charade and insist that Russia prove its dedicated to open markets and the rule of law. When it does, it can earn its place in the international community and make life better for its citizens.
Russia remains a corrupt totalitarian state, as it was under the Tsars and the bolcheviks. Things haven't changed much since the emancipation of the serfs.
I have to chuckle. Some Russian FReepers have periodically shown up here to complain that the US did nothing to help them democratize or shake off their capitalist roots. They have also scoffed when I informed them that Putin was slowly taking Russia back to the bad old days of the USSR. Perhaps, today, they see the light.
When the USSR fell, Russians who wanted out from under the communist system could do and did something else. Many, as a result, have become quite wealthy. The rest of Russia spent their time complaining that capitalism was bad and lamenting the Soviet system.
Well, they're getting it back, thanks to Pootie-Poot, and the rest of us are being dragged back into another Cold War. Russia had their shot and blew it. Expect no tears from me.
There is the "reversion to the norm [or mean]" law - it is a somewhat indirect corollary of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Here is a certain type of society, with its own way of life, as it has historically formed over the centuries. And this way of life has its own "historical norm", to which such a society would tend to revert after any perturbations.
Russia is not the only country "increasingly unfree". Putting aside PC/smoking issue, see how the high-rise window washer in Massachusetts is facing long prison term for killing a gull, in self defense!
Apples and oranges. One is talking about the political freedom here, freedom against the powers that be.
I see. So in Russia you cannot organize a political party? Or you are not free to voice your views? Or not free to travel? Or run for the office? What political freedoms Russians are lacking? Curious minds want to know.
Gerhard Shroeder is paid for being Putin's bitch. Are you?
Try to voice above the threshold of becoming meaningful - and see what happens to you. Recent NGO story is a good example. Freedom of bowel movement is not a political freedom.
Do you think that US laws regulating activity of NGO's financed from foreign sources are wrong?
As for the NGO's - all kinds of fly by night NGO's came into Russia and tried to undermine the steady and progresive rise of freedom after the end of Communism. A good example is the Soros machine which set up all kinds of little outfits...in his attempt to influence matters.
Russian people are more than capable of setting up their own NGO's...and left wing influences are not welcome.
The requirements are for them to register with the State Department [if acting as agents of a foreign government], if memory serves, and with IRS for tax exempt purposes. Are there any other requirements? How much red tape is involved in such a registration? How frequently is the registration denied? The degree of control involved in the US is qualitatively different.
Planned Parenthood and other NGOs seeking to interfere in Russian society do Russians NO GOOD and they are aware of it thankfully. We too should be more aware.
Well, I always believed that you properly belong in the Russian paradise. I see it as an intrisically suboptimal society, with any attempt of improvement [even a Soros would be a vast improvement there] necessarily be [and be seen as] an interference with its very nature.
"...attempt of improvement [even a Soros would be a vast improvement there] necessarily be [and be seen as] an interference with its very nature."
Moving on as there is nothing of substance in your response.
I didn't know the technical term for it, but I knew that what is going on in Russia wasn't unique.
It's too bad they couldn't break away from nearly 100 years of a failed political structure that creates an elite political class and relegates the rest of the population to second class status.
700+ years, not 100.
The same "reversion to the norm" law has pretty gloomy implication in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, BTW.
That same "human will and human passion" surely have not been absent from there over last 4000 years, have they? Here is what Huntington was calling "civilizations" - cultural entities with sufficient homogeneity within themselves and sufficiently distinct from one another to consider them as entities, and pretty stable on 1000 years time scale. "Reverting to the mean" is merely a technical description of the mechanism providing such stability.
Russia will be allowed in because China was.
Putin is a communist with an image team and a makeover.
The same movement is happening in Russia (Many are calling for a return to a hardline USSR like Stalin) and is evident even in the PR China (Many are calling for a return of Mao-style communism).
It is also evident in places south of the border, such as Nicaragua where Daniel Ortega has a good chance of winning an election there.