- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2003

For those who had their hopes pinned on Vladimir Putin, the returns are in: Your hopes were in vain and were misplaced. The scary results of Russia’s recent elections can be directly attributed to Mr. Putin’s crackdown on the free media, and on the decapitation and de-funding of Russia’s Western-leaning, pro-democracy political parties — and his jailing, investigating and exiling of the strongest members of Russia’s budding private sector.

The first-place winner in an election fought with state-controlled media on its side was, not surprisingly, the Unite Russia Party. Many in the West have inaccurately translated this party name to United Russia, but the nuances are in fact more along the lines of “bound-into-one” Russia. The party is built around Mr. Putin himself, and the notion of Mother Russia.

Second place in the voting was the ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic, Vladimir Zhirinovsky-led LDPR party, which doubled its vote total. The Communist Party took third place, and in fourth place was the 3-month-old Motherland Party, generally believed to be a Kremlin creation.Its members refer to themselves as “national patriots,” who promise “no more big capitalists” and ladled out general doses of anti-Semitic campaign rhetoric.

And what of the pro-Western democratic Russian political entities, one of whom had their headquarters raided by masked gunmen, their staff intimidated, computers confiscated and funding shut off by the arrest or intimidation of private sector leaders? They will be lucky to have won enough seats to even return to the new Duma, Russia’s parliament.

With a hard-line coalition marching in lock step, Mr. Putin now has 10 more seats in the Duma than he needs to amend Russia’s constitution.

The West now finds itself facing “the powerful ones” or, as they are known in Russia, the siloviki, who are members of the former Soviet military/security/intelligence complex.According to the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Sociology, the “siloviki” occupy 2,000 of the 8,000 key leadership positions in Russia, which exceeds the intelligence rule of thumb that 10 percent penetration of any entity gives them 10 percent effective control.

Further, it is clear now that the initial act of the siloviki was to fund its operations through the vanishing of $4.8 billion in International Monetary Fund aid in 1998. At the time, Sergey Kirienko was prime minister and was intimately involved in negotiations for $4.8 billion in aid.

As was then reported in the New York Times, then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin delicately stated to Congress that he “suspects” that much of $4.8 billion in loans sent to Russia last summer by IMF “may have been siphoned off improperly.” In fact, the $4.8 billion is still missing (probably long spent), and no Russian official has ever been prosecuted for this crime.

Once in office, Mr. Putin put case No. 18/221050-98 on “hold” for four years, which was the investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation into the “improper use” of the missing $4.8 billion IMF money. Mr. Putin appointed Mr. Kirienko to be one of the super governors of one of the most important regions of Russia.

Mr. Putin’s new emphasis on rebuilding the Russian military, instituting military training in Russian schools, exerting Kremlin control over the media and his harassment — or arrest — of key leaders of Russia’s private sector (who happened to be the main funding mechanism of the pro-Western, pro-free enterprise political parties) has largely gone ignored.

The new election results should be a wake-up call to President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Shortly after the elections, Mr. Putin announced his intent to create “united defense complexes,” which include the entire territory of the former Soviet Union. This may explain Russian foot-dragging on dismantling its military bases in the Republic of Georgia.

The United States must re-evaluate its relationship with Russia. Specifically, the policy not to require from Russia the same standards we require from ourselves must change.

Failing to do so only degrades our own principles and, as we have seen, allows undemocratic forces to reorganize and remake themselves in their new image — with their hands on the throat of freedom.

Dan Perrin is the president of the American Defense Council.


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