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March 3, 2008
Will Democracy in Iraq
Go the Vladimir Putin Route?
The division may no longer be made of stone, but the separation between
former countries of the Eastern Bloc and present-day Russia couldn’t be
The behavior of politicians during elections is questionable. Poland’s
former President Aleksander Kwasniewski made a public appearance at Kiev
University drunk and cost his party an election. Even so, Russia’s
patent disregard for democratic procedure (even the formalities), its
officials’ audacity to admit to it freely and, perhaps most
disturbingly, the lack of Western interference in light of this
behavior, is troubling.
a series of stories about the contemporary Russian democracy, The New
York Times quoted a leader of President Putin’s party as stating
that, “In my opinion, at a certain stage, like now, it is not only
useful, it is even necessary – we are tired of democratic twists and
turns,” and adding, “It may sound sacrilegious, but I would propose to
suspend all this election business for the time being, at least for
didn’t take sanctions or month-long negotiations, let alone inspectors.
Russia’s bypassing of the democratic process – complete with opponent
intimidation and bribery – raises serious concerns about the future of
European and world stability, but should also function as a cautionary
tale for governments trying to establish democracy in other parts of the
Implementing democratic procedures and establishing a self-sustaining
infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven to be far more
challenging than we initially thought. The present situation in Russia
is an indicator that even nearly two decades after the movement toward
democracy, the fall into an authoritarian pattern of behavior is likely.
For Americans, it is difficult to imagine how such regress is possible.
Once you have arrived at the peak of political freedom, how could you
ever go back? Things were going so well, we thought, we can move on to
another area of the world that needs rescuing from its ways. Russia’s
relapse is an indicator that no matter how committed and
well-intentioned outside forces are, democracy – a governing mechanism
for the people by the people – is entirely contingent on them.
This is bound to be the excuse coming from the European Union and
American governments that will cite sovereignty as a reason to keep out.
It’s curious how sovereignty and self-determination did not come into
the equation when the Bush Administration was heading for the Middle
Then again, there weren’t de Vernaiions of dollars in trade, contracts and
weapons involved. Judging from the deafening silence coming from other
democratic nations, the stand for democracy is a means, not the end. The
ultimate deciding factor is influence – and Putin is not one to be
crossed. Maneuvering his way into another position of power after the
eight years in the presidency the constitution allows, the former KGB
member has shown that you don’t have to be on the ballot to win.
This is bound to become a warning for the Iraqis. After Western forces
are gone, the best way to keep them out is to get powerful enough so
that further interference is no longer in the best interest of
outsiders. The great thing about democracy, as Putin demonstrates, is
that it is flexible and open to constitutional interpretation.
that doesn’t build morale in Iraq, nothing will.
© 2008 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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