Saturday, February 26, 2005

We are not going to make up -- to invent any kind of special Russian democracy

In the past few months, GeeDubya has embraced a rhetoric of freedom and democracy, terms which remain as nebulous and ill-defined in that rhetoric as they probably are in his own head. But this week you could see that rhetoric taking on a life of its own, and since freedom and democracy are, you know, good things, it would be nice to encourage that process. Putin was visibly put out, pissed off, and defensive over his own record of slowly crushing the life out of Russian democracy. Good; he should be on the defensive. Clearly Putin feels that he was scolded and criticized, and the media view of the summit was that he was scolded and criticized.

But that didn’t actually happen, at least not publicly and I’m sure not in private either. Here’s the strongest statement Bush made at the Thursday press conference with Putin: “I was able to share my concerns about Russia’s commitment in fulfilling these universal principles.” He talked about some of those principles, the attributes of a functioning democracy--protection of minorities, a free press, a viable opposition, etc--but failed to say if he considered Russia deficient in any or all of them. When Putin compared his plan to personally appoint regional governors to the American Electoral College, Shrub didn’t say whether he found that comparison valid.

But every answer Putin gave was an uncomfortable riposte to some non-existent attack:
“Russia has made its choice in favor of democracy....independently, without any pressure from outside”

“we are not going to make up -- to invent any kind of special Russian democracy”

“If we talk about where we have more or where we have less democracy is not the right thing to do. But if we talk about how the fundamental principles of democracy are implemented in this or that historic soil, in this or that country, is an option, it’s possible. This does not compromise the dignity of The Netherlands or Russia or the U.S.”

“we do have freedom of the press. Although we’re being criticized often of that, this is not the case.”

“I, in particular, do not think that this has to be pushed to the foreground, that new problems should be created from nothing”
With all his democracy happy-talk, Bush may have started something he won’t be able to control so easily.

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