Once More on Russia | Freedom House

Once More on Russia

The American Interest

by David J. Kramer
President, Freedom House

I’m sure some readers are growing weary of the back-and-forth on Russia over the past few months, but I hope they will indulge me in one more response to Thomas Graham’s reply to me and other critics of his original piece. Replies from several of us generated his latest, “A Response to the Critics.” Several of his most recent points warrant further consideration.

In responding to Andrew Wood’s posting of March 29, Graham writes: “The United States should not shy away from defending and promoting its values (although Wood and I might differ on the best way to do that).” Graham never explains how he would do this in the case of Russia beyond exchange programs and the like, and later in his piece, he drops his passing support for promoting our values. Instead, he reverts back to his emphasis on engaging the Putin regime in other ways. Indeed, he alleges that “[I]f our goal is to advance the cause of democracy in Russia, then we must take care that our actions do not in fact limit the space for its progress.” According to Graham, the United States bears some responsibility for Russia’s current plight through things like “triumphalism in Washington over the ‘color revolutions’” and the Magnitsky Act, both of which, Graham claims, fed into the Kremlin’s paranoia and “inclined the Kremlin to deal more harshly with the systemic opposition.” To be clear, the Magnitsky Act was passed by Congress in December 2012; Putin had already pursued many ways to crack down on civil society and the opposition in Russia before the Magnistky Act became law.

Graham goes on to argue the following:

The United States would like to see a change in essence. To that end, it should amplify the pressure for such change by, for example, drawing Russia deeper into the globalized economy, ensuring as free an international flow of information as possible, and pressing the frontiers of technological advance. We also urgently need to fix our own society to provide a model of success for emulation. But we should leave to Russians the management of the internal politics of this change. It is, after all, their country. And why shouldn't those who believe in democracy have some confidence that in the end the Russians will make the right choices, without mentoring and interference from the West?

Why should we support Russia’s membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)—since Moscow has already joined the WTO—but exempt Russia from U.S. efforts to “defend and promote” values? Why would we want to let it join another rules-based organization—and then defy its rules? It already does this in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe and ignores its commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; it is even raising concerns in the WTO. Let’s think twice before welcoming Russia into more organizations where it can undermine their integrity.

Read the rest of the piece here.

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