Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson
#26 - JRL 9290 - JRL Home
From: Ronald Hamilton <ronald.hamilton@us.army.mil>
Date: Wed, 09 Nov 2005 05:29:04 -0500
Subject: re JRL 9289 Nathan Arnold

Recently, 1LT Nate Arnold wrote that the prosecution of Khodorkovsky in Russia is not about crime, but politics. This could also be said about the Tom Delay case in Texas, which most likely is politically motivated in my opinion, but it doesnt mean America is less democratic like many try to say about Russia.

He further makes the Sharansky argument that because some are breaking the law and havent yet been caught or prosecuted that it is somehow sinister. Again, unpunished illegal behavior cant be used to excuse the illegal behavior of those caught and prosecuted. There are examples of injustices and crimes that go unpunished in all countries not just Russia. Why is the bar so much higher for Russian courts?

The trial was indeed about right and wrong and also about maintaining control of the political process. Prior to Putin, crime syndicates and Oligarchs controlled the process. Any nation would prefer that control remain with the elected government.

In Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, and France among others, many consider the US system of justice barbaric. I think that France will not even extradite fugitives to the USA in capital case because of the death penalty. This doesnt mean the system is a joke just because others dont like it or because theirs is different. Taking a US centric point of view and finding the Russians lacking in their ability to mete out justice is similar to what the French do to the US.

All people, not just the Russians, trade some freedom for economic stability and security. Things were so bad in Russia and so absolutely difficult to endure that some discipline and a more controlled advance had to be instituted. It was just indescribably hard to survive and endure the mental anguish and physical hardship that the Washington Consensus-Laissez Faire approach put the Russians through. Americans have traded some freedoms in the form of the Patriot Act in response to a threat and to head off insecurity and instability in our own country. It is what people do during tough times. We imprisoned the Japanese-Americans during WWII to ensure security. Security and stability are the primary responsibility and role of government. That is why we have various levels of freedom to respond to certain conditions. For example, the US President could declare martial law during a grave national threat and some of our constitutional freedoms would be curtailed during such a period. Just because we are using common sense and have adopted the Patriot Act, which curtails some of our freedoms, doesnt mean we are bad or insensible or backsliding or regressing nor does it mean the Russian people are responding inappropriately by selecting a leader and supporting his initiatives to help ensure stability and security.

The idea that the rising Russian economy hasnt trickled down to all Russians is unfair. Were only talking about the period from 2000-2005 - 4 years here. Putin has been dealing with an economic crash that occurred in 1998 that was more severe than the US Great Depression. Our leaders dealt with our crash from 1929 to 1940 and only successfully pulled us out of it with the war economy. It takes time to move an entire nation of 170 million people up economically. The point is that it is being done and fairly successfully to boot. Give it a little more time before using it as a point that the people arent enjoying a rising Russian economy. Many average Russian citizens have gone from unemployed or earning wages of 100-200 per month to 400-600 per month in various regions and industries in Russia. Also look at the reasons for the crash. A big part can be laid at the feet of the Washington Consensus plan and the selfish oligarchy. Putin is just cleaning up the mess.

The idea that chaos is freedom is a stretch and the statement that Putin has put a stop to freedom of the press, speech, and elections is false. This is a question of perspective. The press was controlled by the oligarchy before. If that is what is considered a free press then Nate and I are just different. As for the election of governors, it was in response to regional governors not being responsive to the central government. Many of the governors were from the most powerful family and crime clans and not the free and fair choice of the electorate. It was a situation very much similar to how Hughie Long ran Louisiana. The USA fought a four-year civil war to avoid the country becoming a loose confederation of states and to preserve a Federal Republic. During reconstruction there was a congressional bias against allowing the confederate states to have free and fair elections of their own governors, and military officers were appointed to oversee the elected officials. The Russians are trying to ensure that they have a federal republic with a strong central government just like the USA and just like Hamilton argued for in the Federalist Papers. If you were to place Russia on the US historical timeline, rather than judging her from our current modern day perspective, she is roughly where the USA was circa 1900 during the T. Roosevelt presidency. Russia has advanced from zero democracy in 1991 to roughly where we were in 1900. It took us 124 years to advance as much as Russia has in 14 years. Many countries appoint regional governors. Tiny Georgia has been appointing them since independence and we dont consider her unfair or trading freedom for political control. It is just a phase all of these countries are in and is just a response to the culture. It doesnt mean they arent free.

The argument that government is first and foremost about order, stability, security and economic growth is true and has always been true. The entire purpose for people uniting is to increase the chance of survival. Political repression in Russia is a relative term. Repressed compared to what? The USA and the Native American population or our two party system, China, Israel and the Palestinians, Switzerland, France?

The first reason for government is security and stability and this is best provided through freedom and democracy. Russia has both and just because it doesnt look like American democracy and justice overnight doesnt mean it isnt going to get there. Again, comparing Russian democracy and her current place on the developmental timeline to the USA is comparing apples to oranges. Most every Westerner who thinks Russia isnt advancing is using the Khodorkovsky trial and Putin appointing regional governors similar to what other developing democratic countries like Georgia are doing. Actually, Putin nominates a candidate and the regional locally elected assemblies vote yes or no. Saakashvili in Georgia just appoints governors by decree. The USA doesnt see this as bad or undemocratic and continues to support Georgia as a developing democracy. After Israel, it receives the most US aid.

What it really comes down to is that the Russians have selected a slower development path than the West is comfortable with. The vast majority of western and anti-Russia pundits and philosophers are using the Khodorkovsky trial and the 2004 (legally conducted) amendment to Russian law that allows Putin to nominate regional governors as evidence of regression and backsliding on the democracy front. Those who are ill informed are simply piling on and repeating what they have heard. This is classic information warfare operations. Follow the money and trace to the source of these two generally accepted beliefs and propaganda tidbits and the truth will come out. They began about two years ago and one year respectively. Do a search on the initial articles and look at who wrote them and do a link analysis of reporters and owners and oligarchs-in-exile since these articles' genesis.

Best Regards,

Ronald G. Hamilton Major (Ret)
U.S. Army Military Intelligence.