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A Question of Vocabulary

With President Obama visiting Russia very soon, the opposition is worried that pragmatism will be the focus, leaving the issues of rights and rule of law aside.  Some warn that U.S. officials shouldn’t fall into the trap of using the same language as Moscow is discussing these matters, which would be seen as a validation or endorsement of policy.  Most signs point to disappointment for Russia’s liberals during Obama’s first visit, but we will be given a glimpse of how the administration intends to handle the dynamic.  From VOA:

Igor Klyamkin, of the Liberal Mission Foundation in Moscow, told VOA the commission may be parroting the rhetoric of Kremlin officials, without regard for the hidden meaning of their words.

Klyamkin says what they mean is that democracy and rule of law are alien to Russia; that its values and traditions are autocratic and authoritarian rule. The activist says, by using the same words [as the Kremlin], Americans indicate agreement with that kind of Russia.


ViktorKremenyuk agrees his country must democratize, if it is to modernizeits economy. But he says outside pressure could be counterproductive.

Kremenyuksays the idea of democratization has not had much of a response inRussia; it has not gotten through to ordinary people or to those inpower. He adds that to demand observance of certain rules under suchconditions will look like fundamental interference in the internalaffairs of Russia.

A report by the U.S. Russia Commission saysMoscow’s war with Georgia and its pressure on Ukraine have beentroubling, but cautions against making the region a politicalbattlefield that could have dangerous unintended consequences.  IgorKlyamkin says an authoritarian Russia has an interest in an unstableUkraine, to demonstrate that democracy does not work.

Klyamkinsays that approach encourages preservation of an authoritarian regimein Russia, which does not correspond with the country’s nationalinterests.