Western leaders should voice their support for the Russians who dare to criticize dictator
Putin´s crackdown on democracy
Russian dictator Putin´s crackdown on dissent, human rights, civil society and democracy in Russia continues. Western media are full of reports about what is going on in this eastern mafia state. But western leaders - from Obama to Merkel - remain silent. This silence, which also applies to China´s authoritarian regime, is nothing but shameful. Leaders, who do not dare to speak out and condemn the brutal crackdown on democracy and human rights, are weaklings, who should be punished by voters in coming elections:
The decision to halt USAID work in Russia is just the latest in what has been an especially bad year for human rights in that country, though you wouldn’t know it from the virtual silence of Western leaders. Since Vladimir Putin’s formal return to the Russian presidency in May, there has been an across-the-board crackdown on civil society and the opposition. Beyond the show trial of members of the punk rock band Pussy Riot, authorities have raided the homes of government critics and their family members, conducted criminal investigations and prosecutions of opposition figures and their spouses, and used brutal force against protesters.
Meanwhile, aside from spokesmen’s statements of concern, President Obama and most of his European colleagues have said next to nothing. A clear condemnation of Putin’s actions is necessary out of principle and to show support to those brave Russians who are fed up with authorities’ rampant corruption, abuses and heavy-handed tactics. Tens of thousands of Russians turned out at anti-Putin demonstrations last December, this spring and again on Saturday, despite the threat of arrest and beatings. Western governments should show unwavering solidarity with them.
Instead of pushing back and forcing Putin to publicly kick out USAID — a scenario from which he might have backed down — the Obama administration has capitulated peremptorily, without even an expression of regret, betraying and demoralizing Russian civil society and setting a dangerous precedent under which repressive regimes elsewhere that don’t like our support for civil society and human rights can ask us to leave.
U.S. officials say they are figuring out ways to quietly convey messages to Putin. But private missives simply won’t work. Putin is not going to be persuaded that his path is wrong; his interest is in staying in power at any cost. An August report detailing Putin’s luxurious lifestyle — 20 residences, 50 planes and helicopters, four yachts — underscores what is at stake if he were to relinquish power and lose his immunity. Only pressure from within and outside Russia is likely to force a change in his regime’s behavior. Accordingly, Western leaders, not spokesmen, need to speak out in a clear voice against Putin’s crackdown.
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