Will Putin Pull the Plug?

by Mike on April 22, 2007

in Politics,Russia

It has often been said that a new democracy’s first true test occurs when its second leader is in power. A democracy’s first leader is usually more of a consensus figure genuinely committed to the ideals of the new system. This dynamic now appears to be playing out in Russia, and it doesn’t seem to be going too well.

According to the New York Slimes:

At their first meeting with journalists since taking over Russia’s largest independent radio news network, the managers had startling news of their own: from now on, they said, at least 50 percent of the reports about Russia must be “positive.”

In addition, opposition leaders could not be mentioned on the air and the United States was to be portrayed as an enemy, journalists employed by the network, Russian News Service, say they were told by the new managers, who are allies of the Kremlin.

As a general rule, I don’t take the Slimes at face value; however, The Washington Times also ran this story so it’s probably legit.

Despite this latest in a long line of troubling signs, our own experiences show that all is not lost in Russia. John Adams pushed similar restrictions against political dissent but nevertheless passed the second leader test by peacefully relinquishing power when it was time to do so. Despite all of the flaws with Russian democracy, and there are many, Vladimir Putin has repeatedly promised to step down when his term expires. If Putin keeps his word, he would pass the second leader test, just as President Adams did 207 years ago.

Assuming Putin keeps his word, the process of electing a third Russian President will probably be tainted by Putin’s media restrictions. This major flaw notwithstanding, the winner of that election will have the opportunity and the moment of truth to revive the right to dissent. If that happens, the U.S. would have a democracy to deal with, lessening the possibility of a new Cold War.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ryan April 22, 2007 at 1:44 pm

I hate to bring this idea into the discussion, but this reminds me of Episode III a little bit. The Chancellor was supposed to step down, but a series of crisis kept popping up to prevent him from leaving “for the good of the Republic.” He ended up becoming the evil Emperor. Lucas did get his ideas for Ep3 from all parts of history. I just hope he does leave when his time’s up. Adams did do some damage (Alien and Sedition Acts, Quasi-war, etc.) but Jefferson did well to reverse those trends. If the next Russian president is of another political party and NOT Putin, I’d feel better about their future as a democracy.


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