To Intervene or Not to Intervene


Arriving in Moscow today, President Barack Obama commented to Novaya Gazeta on the Mikhail Khodorkovsky show trial, adding his view that it is “improper for outsiders to interfere in the legal processes of Russia.”  I see nothing wrong with that statement, only a problem in assuming that there is anything legal about the process against Khodorkovsky.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Obama raised concerns about the treatment of the businessman, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, who along with his partner has been put back on trial six years after they were first arrested. Critics say the new trial seems aimed at keeping Mr. Khodorkovsky, an opponent to the government who was once Russia’s richest man, in prison.

“Without knowing the details, it does seem odd to me that these new charges, which appear to be a repackaging of the old charges, should be surfacing now, years after these two individuals have been in prison and as they become eligible for parole,” Mr. Obama said in written answers to questions posed by a Russian opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, over the weekend. “Nonetheless, I think it is improper for outsiders to interfere in the legal processes of Russia.” (…)

In the A.P. interview, Mr. Obama said Mr. Putin had “one foot in theold ways of doing business and one foot in the new.” Mr. Obama saidthat it was time to move forward and that Mr. Medvedev “understandsthat.”

The comment was seen as provocative, and some American officialsworried that Mr. Obama may have been too sharp in taking on Mr. Putinwhile others argued that it let the president come in a position ofstrength. (…)

Novaya Gazeta’s editors, Dmitri Muratov and Andrey Lipsky, asked Mr.Obama if he would ratchet back American attention to liberty issues inRussia.

“Of course not,” Mr. Obama wrote, adding: “I agree with PresidentMedvedev when he said that ‘freedom is better than the absence offreedom.’ So, I see no reason why we cannot aspire together tostrengthen democracy, human rights, and the rule of law as part of our’reset.’ “