I would like to thank the National Endowment for Democracy and the Foreign Policy Association for inviting me to speak here today. I would also like to thank the president of the NED, Carl Gershman, who is not able to be here today but has been working tirelessly to support our cause. It is essential to have voices around the world committed to the understanding that human freedom is the most important of society’s values. I hope that together we can bring that message to every corner of Russia and the world. What is left of Russian democracy is on the endangered list and this crisis has implications for the world, not just for Russians and our neighbors. It matters because of the harm a dictatorial or chaotic Russia can cause. It matters because of the benefits a free and democratic Russia could provide as a true member of the free world. It matters because “justice” and “freedom” are not mere words. History teaches us they are ideas worth fighting for and worth dying for. History also teaches us that injustice and oppression rarely obey borders, especially where Russia is concerned. Instead they spread like a cancer. The current Kremlin regime under Vladimir Putin is in some ways a new and difficult cancer to diagnose and treat. But it is not completely resistant yet and I hope we may yet force it into remission, or cut it out entirely, without killing the patient. It will take strength and courage to achieve this. As Dwight Eisenhower said in his 1953 inaugural speech, “History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.” … The many investors rushing to make a quick buck in Russia will not escape their share of responsibility either. You need only look at what happened to Yukos and Mikhail Khodorkovsky to see how the game is played. Foreign companies and investors are not immune, as Shell found out when the Kremlin pushed them out of the Sakhalin 2 gas fields at the end of last year. If you want to invest in “KBG Incorporated” you must remember that they are very, very active shareholders. [laughter] Also remember that when a new government comes in, a liberal one or a new mafia boss, all the old deals are going to be opened up. That quick buck could, if you are lucky, end up costing you slow years in litigation, or in prison. One thing is certain: If Western leaders continue to ignore the signs and to enable the Putin crackdown, they will be complicit in the crimes to come. If you do anything to reward Putin’s regime during this period you share the responsibility when they use brutal force to preserve their power. Putin only respects action and action from the top man. Not from the State Department. As long as Bush remains silent, Putin will understand that he can always get his way. We are going to fight regardless, no matter what Bush and Blair say, or don’t say. We do not ask too much. If the West wants to live up to its rhetoric, it must be made clear to Russia, and from the very top, that the free ride is over. Send a message to Putin and those who would succeed him, that the world is watching. Stop pretending there is a dialogue with Putin when in reality there is no common language with this Kremlin regime. Let Mr. Bush defend the words of the founder of his party, Abraham Lincoln, who was born on this very date, when he said, “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.” Mr. Putin, you do not have our consent.
Read the complete speech here.