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Cheaters Aren’t Winners

When I was growing up in the Bronx, when somebody cheated during one of our many street games, they were in no way declared a legitimate winner. This apparently is not the case in the majority of the English-language media’s coverage of the Russian election, which has declared Putin’s “landslide” victory with the gullibility of a swindled rube. The real news about the kleptocratic feud going on in Moscow appears to have missed the newsroom deadline. The contrast is further underscored by the openly hostile headlines we saw all week leading up to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s referendum, who, while facing intense opposition and free media, today was dealt a narrow defeat. Putin could learn a lot from Chavez about how to participate in a real democratic process. We do no favor to Russia by allowing Putin to engage in this special brand of self-glorification, promoting the view that might is right. We are once again looking at Russia through a looking glass, and granting the Kremlin a dangerous presumption of regularity in this process. It seems to me that the disconnect between reality and fiction in Russia today is as high as it was in Soviet times – and that’s not good for anybody.