In Russia, democracy advocates are taking to the streets, according to this report: “A day after claiming an overwhelming victory in Russia’s presidential elections, Vladimir V. Putin on Monday faced a range of challenges to his legitimacy, including charges of fraud from international observers and a defiant opposition that vowed to keep him from serving his full six-year term.” The iron fist came down hard:
In Moscow, thousands of antigovernment protesters gathered in a city square to blast it as illegitimate, chanting “Russia without Putin,” and “Putin is a thief; we are the government!” When riot police demanded that the crowd disperse after a couple of hours, dozens of demonstrators encircled the blogger Aleksei Navalny, the most charismatic figure to emerge in this wave of activism, trying to prevent his arrest. But officers detained him anyway, pushing him into a police van along with most of the movement’s other prominent leaders. The police said 150 people were detained.
Another 300 people were detained after a similar event in St. Petersburg.
Rick Santorum’s reaction to the JFK speech may mirror your reaction to our State Department’s repulsive fawning over the elections. An excerpt from a written statement: “We are encouraged to see so many Russian citizens voting, monitoring voting in their local precincts, exercising their constitutional right to free assembly, and expressing their views peacefully about the political and electoral processes. The number of Russian election observers who monitored this vote is unprecedented and a sign that Russian society seeks to participate in the improvement of Russia’s democratic institutions. We also recognize the government’s efforts to reform the political system, including the reintroduction of direct elections for governors, the simplification of party registration procedures, and the reduction in the numbers of signatures needed to register presidential candidates.” Good grief.
No condemnation. No rejection of the results as invalid. No protest over the arrest of an opposition leader. This sort of mealy-mouthed suggestion is all we get: “We urge the Russian Government to conduct an independent, credible investigation of all reported electoral violations. As underscored in the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] report, we also note the new steps that the Central Election Commission took to increase transparency of the voting process since the parliamentary elections last December. We urge Russian authorities to build on these steps to ensure that the procedures for future elections will be more transparent.”
Mitt Romney issued a statement that could not be more different:
“What the world witnessed in Russia yesterday was a mockery of the democratic process. Instead of stating that it ‘congratulates the Russian people on the completion of the Presidential elections,’ as the Obama Administration has done, it should have condemned the flagrant manipulation and media restrictions that marred this election. With the dimming of democracy in Russia, a better label for President Obama’s Russia policy is ‘set back’ rather than ‘reset.’ ”
There you have it. One 2012 presidential candidate is unwilling to dissemble and to ignore not only a gross violation of human rights, but also a slap in the face of the U.S. administration that has dispensed one benefit after another (e.g., removing missile site from Eastern Europe, letting Russia into the World Trade Organization) with the lame promise that Russia would reform. The president is living in a fantasy world in which his sole objective is to avoid confrontation in an election year.
In the meantime, both our foes and repressed people around the world see our lack of support for democracy, our unwillingness to stand up to bullies and our determination to double-talk in order to avoid tangling with aggressive regimes. No doubt the despots in China, Iran, North Korea and the rest are breathing easier; they don’t even have to come up with their own propaganda anymore. Obama will do it for them.