Streetwise Professor

March 27, 2008

Is This Show in Syndication?

Filed under: Energy,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:02 am

The Russia-BP/TNK episode has all of the suspense of an old Rockford Files re-run. The familiar plot devices–the tax investigation, the national security angle, the environmental theme. Cameos by the usual heavies, such as Oleg Mitvol. No need to wake me to see the outcome. I know how it will end.

What is illuminating about this affair is that it is playing out against the background of Dmitry Medvedev’s turn at the Debutante Ball. He is making public statements, meeting world leaders (though usually it seems with his chaperone), and giving interviews in western papers. And the contrast could not be more stunning. While Medvedev says soothing things about the rule of law, freedom, yada, yada, another lawless act is playing out in plain sight.

To those swooning over Medvedev–or who are at least willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when he says seemingly liberal things–I would suggest that deeds, not words, are all that should matter. And the deeds speak volumes. The farcical voting (as Edward Lucas calls it, refusing to dignify the process with the word “election”); the continued harassment–and worse–of those who dissent; the BP shakedown; the declaration of more and more industries as “strategic.” All these things–and many more–say loud and clear that Russia is continuing to move away from a rule of law and freedom, and that it is continuing its steady march to corrupt and corrupting authoritarianism.

The contrast between Medvedev’s words and the ongoing acts of the government that he will soon head suggest either (a) he has power, and his words mean nothing because he really does not believe them or intend to put them into practice, or (b) he believes what he says, but he has no power to put them into action, in which case his words are still meaningless. Perhaps one could argue that we should wait until his inauguration and he has the chance settle into his new position before judging him on the basis of what is going on in Russia today. Perhaps. Since he is so much a part of the system that has methodically progressed to this point I am deeply skeptical that things will change once he becomes president. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope so, but I doubt it.

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