Stop the Finger Wagging and Help Russia

Two Canadian academics have a polemic op/ed in today’s Toronto Star, which calls upon the West to stop the finger-wagging over Russia’s democracy and human rights record, while asking world leaders to … well, it’s not quite clear what they are asking we should do. But they do compare Russia to a drowning person which the West has callously refused to help (which seems odd given how much we hear about strength and resurgence), and trot out all the typical victim narratives and myths about Vladimir Putin the savior, rescuing Russia from chaos without once mentioning state corruption and seizure of economy, +$100 oil, or the take over of the media. (read the Economist for a refutation of the Russia myth). Despite the kindly naive revisions and omissions of the Putin era, when it comes to talking about what Russia needs help working on, the authors do become more coherent:

There are many areas that are disturbing, such as health, the environment, public safety. But the biggest impediment to well-functioning civil institutions in Russia right now is corruption, at all levels of government and in business. This is a historical issue that truly exploded in the chaos of the 1990s, which enabled many local governmental administrators and local criminal groups to buy politicians and bureaucrats and to seize control of resources for their own ends.A stronger judiciary and better laws are essential in weeding out corruption. For instance, in the latest budget, the government increased salaries for judges to decrease the appeal of bribes. But clearly more action is needed.Another factor in dealing with corruption is the need to simplify and reduce the bureaucracy. The greater the bureaucracy, the more opportunities there are to encounter corrupt officials.Steps are being taken to do this, such as the implementation of more e-government capabilities, and the streamlining of bureaucratic processes.Though foreign investment is growing dramatically in Russia, it would grow faster if there was greater transparency and stronger governance. This is an area where Canada can help.