Russia's slide into authoritarianism must be challenged

Share
Related Topics

The most difficult meeting of George Bush's four-day fence-mending mission to Europe promises to be in Bratislava tomorrow, when the American and Russian presidents sit down for a two-hour mini-summit.

The most difficult meeting of George Bush's four-day fence-mending mission to Europe promises to be in Bratislava tomorrow, when the American and Russian presidents sit down for a two-hour mini-summit.

Messrs Bush and Putin have until now enjoyed a warm personal connection, reinforced by common ground in the "war on terror". But the US President foreshadowed an unexpectedly frank encounter in Slovakia when, in a speech on Monday, he used his toughest language yet to warn Moscow to renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law.

It will be disappointing if Mr Bush does not follow up these words by challenging Mr Putin face to face, to halt Russia's slide into authoritarianism. From a Kremlin now staffed by former KGB associates, Mr Putin has overseen an alarming assault on Russia's democratic and political freedoms. He has jailed his opponents or forced them into exile. He has orchestrated an ominous clampdown on the media to silence dissent, while ending the direct election of regional governors to choose his own puppet appointees. Mr Putin's backing of the original winner of the discredited Ukrainian election is further cause for disquiet.

If Mr Bush's sweeping inaugural promise to spread freedom and democracy around the world is not a sham, then he must surely apply it to Russia. In effect, tomorrow's meeting will the first test of the new Bush doctrine of ending "tyranny" and confronting every ruler about internal repression.

Of course, criticising Russia's democratic retreat dovetails conveniently with current US priorities. Moscow has set itself squarely against the White House on Iran, and is irking Washington with its arms sales to Syria. And Mr Bush is under mounting pressure from Congress over the threat to business interests posed by Russia's seizure of privatised energy companies.

But none of this invalidates his criticisms. Nor does it excuse those EU leaders, including Tony Blair, who have been shamefully silent on Russia's rollback of democratic reforms. They should not need Mr Bush to tell them that they must place the rule of law at the heart of any dialogue with Mr Putin.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Reconciliation Analyst

£200 - £250 per day: Orgtel: Reconciliation Analyst Gloucestershire

Soutions Architect TOGAF - Reading

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Excellent Corporate Benefits: Progressive Recruitm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
David Cameron and Theresa Mayspeak to Immigration Enforcement officers at a property where six immigrants were arrested on July 29, 2014 in Slough, England.  

Does David Cameron actually believe his tough new immigration stance?

Matthew Norman
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on