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Russian Democracy Has Taken a Step Backward, says US Spy Chief

Yesterday the media reported on comments made by US Navy Admiral and current Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell before the Senate Armed Services Committee, who said “The march to democracy has taken a back step. Now there are more arrangements to control the process and the populace and the parties and so on, to the point of picking the next leader of Russia.” We post here a PDF of his prepared statement.

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Mike McConnell testifed on Capitol Hill yesterday

RUSSIA – SUCCESSION MANEUVERING As Russia moves toward a presidential election in March 2008, succession maneuvering has intensified and increasingly dominates Russian domestic and foreign policy. Against that backdrop, the last year has seen expanded Kremlin efforts to stifle political opposition and widen state control over strategic sectors of the economy. Those trends are likely to deepen as the succession draws closer. Meanwhile, high energy prices and abundant oil and gas reserves continue to fan Kremlin aspirations for Russia to become an energy super-power. A flush economy and perceived policy successes at home and abroad have bolstered Russian confidence, enabled increased defense spending, and emboldened the Kremlin to pursue foreign policy goals that are not always consistent with those of Western institutions. Indeed, Russia is attempting to exploit the leverage that high energy prices has afforded it, increasingly using strong-arm tactics against neighboring countries. RELATIONSHIP WITH US AND THE WORLD Russian assertiveness will continue to inject elements of rivalry and antagonism into US dealings with Moscow, particularly our interactions in the former Soviet Union, and will dampen our ability to cooperate with Russia on issues ranging from counterterrorism and nonproliferation to energy and democracy promotion in the Middle East. As the Litvinenko murder demonstrates, the steady accumulation of problems and irritants threatens to harm Russia’s relations with the West more broadly.