An unwelcome host

Despite how tempting it is, now is not the right time for the West to deliver a slap to Vladimir Putin about Russia’s backsliding on democracy. Russia’s veto at the Security Council means that it must be kept sweet if the Iran and, to a lesser extent, North Korea crises are to be dealt with ...

607916_Putin6.jpg
607916_Putin6.jpg

Despite how tempting it is, now is not the right time for the West to deliver a slap to Vladimir Putin about Russia's backsliding on democracy. Russia's veto at the Security Council means that it must be kept sweet if the Iran and, to a lesser extent, North Korea crises are to be dealt with successfully. (Indeed, all those people who sing paeans of praise to the moral legitimacy of the United Nations might want to consider how it empowers a dictatorship and a so-called "managed democracy.") So, all talk of boycotting the G8 or hosting a separate "democracies meeting" of the G7 beforehand has been quietly shelved. But Russia's behavior in the lead-up to the summit is demonstrating just how far Putin's Russia is from being a proper liberal democracy.

Yesterday, pro-Putin youth groups disrupted a conference on the state of Russian democracy organized by those who take issue with Putin's governing style and attended by foreign diplomats. Today's Daily Telegraph contains a report about how a St. Petersburg opposition leader was threatened with anal rape unless he signed a form promising that his supporters wouldn't protest during the summit. This man is a member of a thoroughly unpleasant party and so his allegations must be treated with suspicion. But perhaps the clearest indication of how far Russia is from being an appropriate host for a meeting of liberal democracies is that one can't dismiss the report out of hand.

Despite how tempting it is, now is not the right time for the West to deliver a slap to Vladimir Putin about Russia’s backsliding on democracy. Russia’s veto at the Security Council means that it must be kept sweet if the Iran and, to a lesser extent, North Korea crises are to be dealt with successfully. (Indeed, all those people who sing paeans of praise to the moral legitimacy of the United Nations might want to consider how it empowers a dictatorship and a so-called “managed democracy.”) So, all talk of boycotting the G8 or hosting a separate “democracies meeting” of the G7 beforehand has been quietly shelved. But Russia’s behavior in the lead-up to the summit is demonstrating just how far Putin’s Russia is from being a proper liberal democracy.

Yesterday, pro-Putin youth groups disrupted a conference on the state of Russian democracy organized by those who take issue with Putin’s governing style and attended by foreign diplomats. Today’s Daily Telegraph contains a report about how a St. Petersburg opposition leader was threatened with anal rape unless he signed a form promising that his supporters wouldn’t protest during the summit. This man is a member of a thoroughly unpleasant party and so his allegations must be treated with suspicion. But perhaps the clearest indication of how far Russia is from being an appropriate host for a meeting of liberal democracies is that one can’t dismiss the report out of hand.

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

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