You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours

Fed up with excessive and often imprecise criticism of Russia on democracy and human rights, President Vladimir Putin announced that he is setting up an NGO in the heart of Europe to monitor them on rights and civil society issues.

Sergei Markov told the Moscow Times that this institute would be dedicated toward raising awareness of the discrimination faced by ethnic Russians in former Soviet countries like Estonia and Latvia. (This is a legitimate problem, by the way.) Markov said “The European Union sadly closes its eyes on this.”

If the Russians were looking to call a bluff, it didn’t work. The Europeans reacted quite warmly to the idea. The best twist of this article:

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-president of the Greens in the European Parliament, said he welcomed a Russian human rights office in Brussels, if only an office with similar powers could be set up in Russia. “Let them both have totally free access to prisons and let us set up annual joint meetings to discuss the situation,” he said in a telephone interview Sunday, referring to the fact that human rights organizations have been denied access to see former Yukos executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky in his Siberian labor camp.

Will Russia go for the mutual back-scratch and set up two human rights monitoring groups – one in Brussels and one in Moscow? Let’s hope so.