Hogan's Alley

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Comrade Putin Tightens The Noose

Photo Credit: Vladimir Suvorov/Izvestia, via Associated Press

Gary Kasparov, the former Russian world chess champion, has been arrested in Moscow. Lest anyone, except our President, believe that Putin's Russia is anything but a repreressive state, Ilya Somin at Volkh Conspiracy lays out the former KGB man's recent steps to all but evicerate any semblance of democracy from the former heart of the Soviet Union.

Key quote:

Back in 2001 - at a time when George W. Bush was still assuring us that Putin was a "good man" because he had "see[n] into his soul," Kasparov sounded an early warning about the ex-KGB President, noting that "Putin's KGB roots have informed a style of governance that is neither reformist nor particularly democratic" and that Russia's government was sliding towards authoritarianism by suppressing opposition media and playing on nationalistic fears. Since then, Putin has suppressed nearly all opposition electronic media, and probably connived in the murder of print journalists who had criticized the regime.

Kasparov's arrest is not only an outrage in its own right, it is significant as an indicator of Putin's willingness to further tighten his authoritarianism. If Putin is able to get away with arresting even a world-famous opposition leader, less exalted opponents of the government can expect even harsher treatment. Hopefully, there will be enough of an international outcry to persuade Putin to desist and force him to tread more cautiously in the future. But it is hard to be optimistic about Russia's immediate political future after the experience of the last several years. As Kasparov put it in 2005, Putin has "abolished the nature of democratic institutions [and] he will go further." The mere fact that the current president of Russia is an authoritarian former high-ranking KGB official is a strong indication that things have gone badly wrong 15 years after the fall of communism. It is as if the Chancellor of West Germany in 1960 had been a former high-ranking Gestapo or SS leader.

Labels: , ,