Russia’s post-Soviet political trajectory has long been understood as a U.S. national security concern. Recent survey data suggest this trajectory is still very much up for grabs. Republicans and Democrats should be devoting more attention to the internal politics of Vladimir Putin’s Russia and spending more funds in Russia in support of democracy. Instead, the opposite is happening. Ignoring this unfinished business of Russian democracy for too much longer could have especially nasty and long-term consequences.
Although many policy makers have turned their attention elsewhere, activists and journalists have not. They are increasingly drawing attention to a long list of actions by Russian authorities that undermine Russia’s frail democracy. These include the elimination of independent media outlets, tight strictures on the coverage of events as horrific as the Nord-Ost hostage crisis and as seemingly routine as the Duma elections, the use of the tax police to intimidate business leaders whom the Kremlin deems it cannot control, outright repression of individual human rights activists and organizations, deportation of foreign activists, and government complicity in the ongoing abuses of the civilian population by Russian federal forces in Chechnya. […]
Sarah E. Mendelson