So long to a few of the remaining vestiges of democracy in Russia:
He said he would propose legislation abolishing the election of local governors by popular vote. Instead, they would be nominated by the president and confirmed by local legislatures — a move that would undo the remaining vestiges of the local autonomy already chipped away by Putin during his first term in office.
Although it’s fair to say that the course of events in Russia is not yet fully played out, I suspect that in a couple of years we’ll be able to add “stood by while Russia made its decisive turn back toward authoritarianism” to the litany of wrongs perpetrated by this administration.
What could have been done differently? Russia is a large country, still powerful in many ways, and it is unlikely that the US could have forced Putin into a more democratic path. However, there are gentler methods of persuasion that the administration could have tried but didn’t. Aside from an editorial in a Russian newspaper by Colin Powell, the administration has been careful not to talk overmuch about Putin’s efforts to consolidate his position. For some reason, Bush and his crew see Putin as a reliable ally in the War on Terror, even though Russia deserves at least as much credit/blame for the Security Council debacle as France. The administration has eschewed all of the methods of influence on Russia that conservatives claim ended the Cold War, including support for dissidents, vocal attacks on authoritarian politics, and an uncooperative military stance.
I don’t think that the administration has ever actively decided to support Putin’s authoritarian turn. Instead, they’re afraid of alienating a potentially powerful ally, and they’re not inclined to overly worry about what he’s doing at home. This has been the MO of the administration regarding a number of former Soviet republics, so why not add Russia to the list? More importantly, the “War on Terror” as a whole has given Putin, among others, the intellectual tools that he needs to carry out this slow developing coup. Russia is no longer fighting a war to destroy separatist ambitions in a province that has been trying to break away for a hundred years; it’s fighting a war against international Islamic terrorism, with the support and good will of the United States. This war requires the employment of all necessary means, including the elimination of irritating democratic institutions.
Waiting now to see if Instapundit and Bird Dog ignore this, or try to blame it on Clinto. . .