Russia’s Cynicism toward Law

Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times gives a week in review take on the UK-Russia extradition drama.

Russian Blog

Art by Paul Rogers


In Mr. Putin’s seven years as president, a Soviet-style cynicism about the law has returned, one in which justice, like diplomacy, is simply a series of political calculations laced with ulterior motives, as opposed to a dispassionate search for truth, fairness and accountability. The cynicism has been a hallmark of Mr. Putin’s presidency, allowing him to consolidate power by using the law to weaken the media, marginalize opposition parties and imprison political enemies. It is now being used to paint Britain as wielding its judicial system in Mr. Litvinenko’s murder in the same way Russia often wields its own — manipulating the law for political ends. On Thursday, Mr. Putin suggested that criticism of Russia’s record on democracy and human rights was just an effort by the West to make Russia give ground on a host of international disputes, from Iran to missile defenses to independence for Kosovo. “One of the aims is to make Russia more pliable on issues that have nothing to do with democracy or human rights,” he told reporters while visiting Luxembourg. This is at the heart of what bothers many in the West about Mr. Putin’s Russia. Rather than embracing the common legal values that united Europe after the totalitarianism of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Mr. Putin shuns them as weapons intended to weaken Russia.