Grigory Pasko: Will the West Help?

ostap011920.jpgThe book and film starring Ostap Bender, the fictional adventurer of the 1920s conceived by the writers Ilf and Petrov, remains popular in Russia to this day. In one of the chapters of the book, Bender exclaims “The West will help us!” That phrase, like many from this book, has become a part of the language. If we take a look at history, we can see a few examples in which the West has indeed helped Russia in hard times. And this history does not consist only of the fact of deliveries via lend-lease during World War II. Если Вы хотите прочитать оригинал данной статьи на русском языке, нажмите сюда. Russia is going through hard times today: the Putin regime is leading the country in the opposite direction from democracy. There are no independent courts, decreasing freedom of speech, no free and fair elections, no political competition, and deficient freedom of entrepreneurship in the country… Everybody knows about this, everybody sees this… And nobody, besides a numerically small opposition, is reacting to this in any way.

Many opposition politicians argue that no one should be helping Russia by the Russian people themselves. That’s understandable, and of course, fair – but it entails certain assumptions about the sovereignty of the leadership vs. the sovereignty of the people. But, in my view, the frightful disease by the name of Putin has already given cancerous metastases in Russian society. This disease will sooner or later become a big problem (if it has not done so already) for the whole civilized world. For now this disease is being welcomed only by the odious regimes of such dictators as Putin himself: those of Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Byelorussia…And what about the West? How is it reacting to the lawlessness? Let us take as an example of such a reaction the verdict for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev.The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper comments on the policy of the German authorities in connection with the events in Russia:

Just what can the government of the FRG do to punish for the grossest violations of human rights – and the show-trial against Khodorkovsky is nothing if not this, after all! Berlin is not going to achieve anything in particular all by itself. Only jointly with other states of the Eurounion must the powers of the FRG demand of Russia observance at the very least of the simplest principles of law-based statehood. As is known, Putin wants to adjust tighter economic relations with Europe. And such a possibility he may get – but only in the event that the policy of arbitrariness being conducted by him is done away with.European politicians are constantly harping that a community assumes something bigger than an economic union, and specifically – a commonality of values. If such an arrangement corresponds to the truth, then it must extend to relations with Moscow as well».

This – the opinion of journalists. It seems, my western colleagues understand that something needs to be done. But what about the politicians? Here are some opinions.Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany:

«I am disappointed with the sentence for Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the harshness of his punishment. The impression is left that political motives played a role in this trial. This contradicts the intentions constantly being expressed by Russia to go along the path of rule of law».

Jerzy Buzek , chairman of the Europarliament:

«I am very disappointed. The trial against Mikhail Khodorkovsky has become a litmus paper, showing in what state the legal system in today’s Russia is found. Khodorkovsky has been transformed into a symbol of the systemic problems of the Russian judicial power».

William Hague, minister of foreign affairs of Great Britain:

«I am deeply concerned by how this trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky will reflect on the practice of the application of the law in Russia. Great Britain is calling upon Russia to respect and observe the principles of justice and rule of law. Until this happens, Great Britain and other countries are going to consider the given trial a sign of the degradation of the country».

Catherine Ashton, high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy:

«Declarations were made of violations in the course of the judicial proceedings, and this arouses serious concern and disappointment for us…»

…One can continue to cite different opinions, but nowhere will we see the main thing: what to do with Putin and his kleptocratic regime? And is there anybody at all in the whole world who is proposing concrete and real steps in this direction?…For some reason it seems to me that Russia is already not going to be able to get well without the West’s help.