Simon Tisdall writes in the Guardian today,,
The jailing of several leading opposition figures, including former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, has hammered another large nail into the coffin of free expression in Russia, human rights activists and foreign observers say.Many Western media outlets only seem to be interested in human rights when that means the human rights of those such as Nemtsov who as Mayor of Nizhinii Novgorod and fanatical supporter of Chubais "shock therapy" plunged millions of Russians into starvation and appalling poverty whilst looting the economy.
These oligarchs are no less ruthless that Putin's new Russian state. The reason their cause is supported by those such as Edward Lucas ( "The New Cold War" ) and Simon Tisdall is that the wrong oligarchs are in power in Russia. Tisdall writes,
Anxious perhaps to dispel any impression he was abashed by the Khodorkovsky uproar, Putin sent in the heavies. Nemtsov was arrested and jailed for 15 days for "disobeying police". Three other opposition leaders – Eduard Limonov, Konstantin Kosyakin and Ilya Yashin – were also incarcerated.There is no mention, of course, that Limonov is explicitly a Fascist who has run a movement named "The National Bolsheviks" that uses explicit Nazi and Soviet insignia and Fascist policies and threatening mob demonstrations.
There is a difference between the idea that people ought to have freedom of assembly and protest and the notion that those complaining about being restricted in their protests by having to get permission from the Kremlin are necessarily virtuous martyrs for democracy.
It is about time serious consideration was given to the way monied oligarchs and those able to project media power are able to use human rights cynically as a way of gaining influence and possibly power by exploiting the shortcomings of the current regime.
To support Nemstov and Limanov is about as much of an "ethical foreign policy" as the West supporting somebody such as Pinochet had Allende's government resorted to the repression of opponents to secure power and Pinochet had then cited human rights as a reason he should gain power.
The opposition is funded by US NGO's in a way that simply would not be tolerated in Washington on the scale it is in Russia. Russians both the new emerging middle class and the workers and peasants are not going to be lectured by Washington think tanks, "The Other Russia" or Garry Kasparov.
To promote liberal democracy in Russia means neither supporting Putin nor the opposition which is full of those ruthless ideologues who were discredited by being part of a regime under Yeltsin that forcibly closed down the Duma in 1993, shelled the building and used military force to kill demonstrators.
Western liberals need to understand how and why Putin has been able to secure power and why he is popular compared to those like Nemtsov whose Union of Rightist Forces are detested. Citing anti-semitism ( Khodorkovsky and Nemtsov are Jewish) is an evasion and does not provide the deeper reason.
For the fact is that Putin's managed democracy, whatever people think about it in the West, has delivered better living standards and has not dispersed protesters with guns, tanks and helicopters. Nemstov has been put in prison for 15 days for leading that protest, something that will make Putin popular.
The "liberal" opposition in Russia was anything but when shock therapists such as Gaidar and Chumais and Nemtsov ruled Russia. Neoliberal policies led to a collapse in living standards whilst billions enriched the oligarchs who siphoned off wealth no less than Western businesses.
The hypocrisy of those such as Lucas and Tisdall is gliding over the sordidness of the "transition" remains an obstacle to convincing many in Russia that a strong state that will protect the country from Western energy and banking corporations and mafia style oligarchs controlling it again.
The reason the energy hungry West continually supports those such as Yabloko, the Union of Rightist Forces and neoliberal shock therapy fanatics as it would ideally aim at breaking up Gazprom, to gain a stake in Russia's vast oil and gas reserves and destroy Russia as a global player.
There is no possible way that Russia would ever allow that to happen again and so the support for those as Limanov and Nemstov is not only unethical as a foreign policy but also completely unrealistic. Putin would not care less if David Cameron snubbed him or lectured him about human rights or the war with Georgia in 2008 ( which Georgia initiated ).
More broadly, there is however something increasingly ominous about how in East and West democracy is becoming controlled by the money and media power of corporations, plutocrats and oligarchs. In that sense, it seems Russia, EU states and the USA are increasingly learning from one another.
Supporting freedom of conscience and assembly is right as both are essential human rights. For that Putin has been rightly criticised. Yet it should not follow that Western figures should see the repression of certain oppositionists as proof that the oppositionists are thus rightful democracy lovers.
That would be as absurd as pretending that the Bolsheviks just because they were against the Tsar, were necessarily better due the repressive nature of Tsarism and the Okhrana. The same should apply to neoliberal Market Bolsheviks.
Increasingly oppositionists in less developed nations in post-Soviet nations are becoming only "the best democracy that money can buy" and where the considerations of ordinary people are passed over in greedy and rapacious elite struggles.