Russians can change – not condemned by ‘cultural code’


Russians are not so restricted by a“’cultural code’ of serfdom and paternalism” that the only way forward is to rely on “an enlightened ruler who bases himself on a group of elite intellectuals,” says analyst Yevgeny Gontmakher.

Such people believe that what must be done is to create “a certain autocratic Singapore, only a thousand times larger,” but “in fact,” the Moscow economist and commentator, history shows that Russians are not so constrained by their cultural code and that reformers should proceed in exactly the opposite way (HT: Paul Goble: RTWT).

On September 13, a man who cheated death twice came to Washington, notes Anastazia Clouting,* an independent editor and political analyst. Vladimir Kara-Murza, a journalist and deputy head of the nongovernmental organization Open Russia, survived a second state-sanctioned poisoning in February. He has lived to deliver a message for democratic allies in the West, she writes for the Atlantic Council:

Kara-Murza was visiting Washington for a screening of his biopic Nemtsov (above), a documentary about his slain friend and colleague Boris Nemtsov, at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) on September 14. While in the city, he met with policymakers and discussed the state of authoritarianism in Russia.

The West has more power to bolster human rights in Russia than it thinks, and it can do this with limited repercussions to its own interests. Kara-Murza recalled that Nemtsov described the US Magnitsky Act, which sanctioned Russian officials for human rights abuses, as “the most pro-Russia act ever passed in a foreign country.” Senator John McCain agreed, observing that, “The sanctions really had an effect. There’s one thing that oligarchs love to do, and that’s travel around and spend lots of money.” Carl Gershman, president of the NED [left], called the act the most important piece of human rights legislation passed in the last generation.

“It is up to Russians to change the government,” Kara-Murza said in a speech at the US Capitol. “We only ask that international governments do two things: be honest and open about the reality in Russia. And don’t actively support Putin by treating him as an equal, or by allowing [his associates] to store stolen wealth overseas.”

Here’s what democracies need in order to fight back against the authoritarian menace, analyst Clay Fuller writes for AEI:

  • A sleek, unified, and well-funded global marketing plan for democratic values — free markets, civil liberties, free press, free and fair elections, and the rule of law.
  • A campaign for stricter transparency rules in the media and especially the internet.
  • An international campaign to tear down firewalls that prevent people from exercising voice.
  • Trade transparency: crack down on trade-based money laundering (TBML) and enforce intellectual property rights (IPR).
  • Well-funded and much larger militaries under civilian control that are ready to defend and enforce democratic values.

*A 2016 Penn Kemble Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.

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