The question as to whether or not Russia ” truly belongs in the prestigious Group of Eight (G-8) advanced liberal democratic market economies”, and even more to the point, whether it is in a fitting condition to take the helm in that organisation is a question which was asked by Taras Kuzio (Visiting Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University) in yesterday’s issue of Eurasia daily monitor, – a publication which is rapidly becoming a ‘must read’ for those of us who want to follow what is happening along the EU’s eastern frontier.
Kuzio’s justification for his objection is the recent downgrading of Russia’s status from “partly free” to “unfree” by the New York-based human rights group Freedom House . Kuzio does not mince his words:
The Russian-Ukrainian gas dispute is therefore no longer a conflict between two former Soviet republics but a conflict between an autocratic, non-democratic regime headed by “Putin’s Mafia Politics” (Wall Street Journal Europe, January 3) and a democratizing regime headed by Viktor Yushchenko. As the Daily Telegraph (January 3) pointed out, “The methods of gangsterism and blackmail now being used by [Russian gas giant] Gazprom are reminiscent of the Soviet era.”
As Kuzio points out this ‘downgrade’ puts Russia in the same camp as Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan unsurprisingly has gone up a notch to “partly free” as a result of to its “Tulip Revolution” in March 2005.
Over at Freedom House, Christopher Walker’s “Governing on Empty: The West is relying on energy-rich, democracy-poor states at its peril” is certainly worth the read, and makes the following, perfectly valid, point:
These energy-rich countries are among the world’s poorest performers in governance and democratic process. A Freedom House analysis reveals a troubling correlation: States possessing the largest crude-oil and natural-gas reserves very often display poor governance fundamentals, particularly a weak rule of law. Given the profound lack of accountability and transparency associated with these states, the West should be prepared for less energy security in the coming years.
Jerome, at European Tribune, has another informative piece, and he too is still trying to work out the answer to the “So why did Putin do it?” question. If I have any reservations about what he is saying it would be in the “why there is no need to worry” approach. I do think that underlying what is happening there are some awfully big deals going off (and not just in the crude financial sense): Walker and Kuzio raise just two of them.