Christopher Walker of Freedom House has a very powerfully argued opinion article just published by the Wall Street Journal. No holds barred, openly strident, and given the violence against journalists this summer, totally appropriate.
After a decade of Putinism, a deep chill on free expression has set in. Self-censorship has become a matter of survival. The rule of law, though much discussed, does not exist. Corruption flourishes at all levels of society. The assault on Russia’s freedom is not just a domestic human-rights problem. Anyone seeking to do business in the country loses in a system that operates in the dark, where shady deals involving state-run companies and corrupt officials are the norm and police and regulatory agencies don’t enforce the law but the Kremlin’s agenda.
Early hopes that the new president, Dmitri Medvedev, would bring more openness and liberalization have been shattered. Even though Mr. Putin has returned to the premiership after an eight-year hiatus, it seems he–rather than his hand-picked successor–is still calling the shots.
Given the continued censorship, human-rights abuses and lawlessness in Russia, it would almost be worse for the country’s reform prospects if Mr. Medvedev really were in full control of his presidency. It would mean that Putinism is now so entrenched, it no longer needs Mr. Putin to enforce it.