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An Open Letter to the Heads of State and Government

Source: The Moscow Times, 30 September 2004

As citizens of the Euro-Atlantic community of democracies, we wish to express our sympathy and solidarity with the people of the Russian Federation in their struggle against terrorism. The mass murderers who seized School No. 1 in Beslan committed a heinous act of terrorism for which there can be no rationale or excuse. While other mass murderers have killed children and unarmed civilians, the calculated targeting of so many innocent children at school is an unprecedented act of barbarism that violates the values and norms of our community and which all civilized nations must condemn.

At the same time, we are deeply concerned that these tragic events are being used to further undermine democracy in Russia.

Russia's democratic institutions have always been weak and fragile. Since becoming President in January 2000, Vladimir Putin has made them even weaker. He has systematically undercut the freedom and independence of the press, destroyed the checks and balances in the Russian federal system, arbitrarily imprisoned both real and imagined political rivals, removed legitimate candidates from electoral ballots, harassed and arrested NGO leaders, and weakened Russia's political parties. In the wake of the horrific crime in Beslan, President Putin has announced plans to further centralize power and to push through measures that will take Russia a step closer to authoritarian regime.

We are also worried about the deteriorating conduct of Russia in its foreign relations. President Putin's foreign policy is increasingly marked by a threatening attitude towards Russia's neighbors and Europe's energy security, the return of rhetoric of militarism and empire, and by a refusal to comply with Russia's international treaty obligations. In all aspects of Russian political life, the instruments of state power appear to be being rebuilt and the dominance of the security services to grow. We believe that this conduct cannot be accepted as the foundation of a true partnership between Russia and the democracies of NATO and the European Union.

These moves are only the latest evidence that the present Russian leadership is breaking away from the core democratic values of the Euro-Atlantic community. All too often in the past, the West has remained silent and restrained its criticism in the belief that President Putin's steps in the wrong direction were temporary and the hope that Russia would soon return to a democratic and pro-Western path. Western leaders continue to embrace President Putin in the face of growing evidence that the country is moving in the wrong direction and that his strategy for fighting terrorism is producing less and less freedom. We firmly believe dictatorship will not and cannot be the answer to Russia's problems and the very real threats it faces.

The leaders of the West must recognize that our current strategy towards Russia is failing. Our policies have failed to contribute to the democratic Russia we wished for and the people of this great country deserve after all the suffering they have endured. It is time for us to rethink how and to what extent we engage with Putin's Russia and to put ourselves unambiguously on the side of democratic forces in Russia. At this critical time in history when the West is pushing for democratic change around the world, including in the broader Middle East, it is imperative that we do not look the other way in assessing Moscow's behaviour or create a double standard for democracy in the countries which lie to Europe's East. We must speak the truth about what is happening in Russia. We owe it to the victims of Beslan and the tens of thousands of Russian democrats who are still fighting to preserve democracy and human freedom in their country.

(Names listed below are for identification purposes only. The signatories have signed this letter in their individual capacities.)

Mr. Mark Leonard, The Foreign Policy Center, United Kingdom

Mr. Urban Ahlin, Member of Parliament, Sweden

The Honorable Giuliano Amato, Former Prime Minister, Italy

Dr. Uzi Arad, Institute for Policy and Strategy, Israel

Dr. Timothy Garton Ash, St. Antony's College, Oxford, United Kingdom

Dr. Anders Aslund, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, United States

Dr. Ronald D. Asmus, The German Marshall Fund of the United States, United States

Mr. Rafael L. Bardaji, Strategic Studies Group, Spain

Prof. Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, Former Foreign Minister, Poland

Dr. Arnold Beichman, Hoover Institution, United States

Dr. Jeff Bergner, Former Staff Director, U.S. Senate, United States

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Senator, United States

Mr. Carl Bildt, Former Prime Minister, Sweden

Mr. Max Boot, The Council on Foreign Relations, United States

Ms. Ellen Bork, Project for the New American Century, United States

Mr. Pascal Bruckner, Writer, France

Mr. Mark Brzezinski, McGuire Woods LLP, United States

Mr. Reinhard Buetikofer, Chairman, Green Party, Germany

Dr. Janusz Bugajski, Center for Strategic and International Studies, United States

Sir Michael Butler, Former Permanent Representative to the European Community,

United Kingdom

The Honorable Martin Butora, Former Ambassador, Slovakia

Mr. Daniele Capezzone, Italy

The Honorable Per Carlsen, Institute of International Affairs, Denmark

Ms. Gunilla Carlsson, Member of Parliament, Sweden

Dr. Ivo Daalder, Brookings Institution, United States

The Honorable Massimo D'Alema, Former Prime Minister, Italy

Mr. Pavol Demes, Former Foreign Minister, Slovakia

Dr. Larry Diamond, United States

His Excellency Philip Dimitrov, Former Prime Minister, Bulgaria

Mr. Thomas Donnelly, American Enterprise Institute, United States

Mr. Nicholas Eberstadt, American Enterprise Institute, United States Mr. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Former Foreign Minister, Denmark

Ms. Helga Flores Trejo, Heinrich Böll Foundation of North America, United States

Dr. Francis Fukuyama, United States

Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin, Aspen Institute Berlin, Germany

Prof. Bronislaw Geremek, Former Foreign Affairs Minister and Member of European

Parliament, Poland

Dr. Carl Gershman, National Endowment for Democracy, United States

The Honorable Marc Ginsberg, United States

Mr. Andre Glucksmann, Writer, France

Dr. Phil Gordon, Brookings Institution, United States

The Honorable Karl-Theodor von und zu Guttenberg, Member of Parliament, Germany

The Honorable Istvan Gyarmati, Institute for Euro-Atlanticism and Democracy, Hungary

Mr. Pierre Hassner, Center for International Studies and Research, France

His Excellency Vaclav Havel, Former President, Czech Republic

The Honorable Richard C. Holbrooke, Former Ambassador to the United Nations, United


The Honorable Toomas Ilves, Former Foreign Minister and Member of European Parliament,


Mr. Bruce Jackson, Project on Transitional Democracies, United States

Dr. Donald Kagan, Yale University, United States

Mr. Robert Kagan, United States

Mr. Jerzy Kozminski, Former Ambassador to the United States, Poland

Mr. Craig Kennedy, The German Marshall Fund of the United States, United States

Ms. Glenys Kinnock, Member of European Parliament, United Kingdom

Dr. Bernard Kouchner, Former UN Special Envoy to Kosovo, France

Dr. Ivan Krastev, Center for Liberal Strategies, Bulgaria

Mr. William Kristol, Project for the New American Century, United States

The Honorable Girts Valdis Kristovskis, Former Minister of Defense, Latvia

Prof. Dr. Ludger Kuehnhardt, University of Bonn, Germany

The Honorable Mart Laar, Former Prime Minister, Estonia

The Honorable Vytautas Landsbergis, former President and Member of European Parliament,


Dr. Stephen Larrabee, RAND Corporation, United States

The Honorable Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, Member of European Parliament,


Mr. Tod Lindberg, Policy Review, United States

Mr. Tom Malinowski, Human Rights Watch, United States

Mr. Will Marshall, Progressive Policy Institute, United States

Prof. Dr. Margarita Mathiopoulos, University of Potsdam, Germany

Mr. Clifford May, United States

The Honorable John McCain, Senator, United States

Dr. Michael McFaul, United States

Mr. Matteo Mecacci, Italy

Mr. Mark Medish, Former Senior Director of the National Security Council, United States

Prof. Dr. Thomas O. Melia, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, United States

Dr. Sarah E. Mendelson, United States

Mr. Michael Mertes, Dimap Consult, Germany

The Honorable Ilir Meta, Former Prime Minister, Albania

Mr. Adam Michnik, Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland

The Honorable Richard Morningstar, Former Ambassador to the EU, United States

Dr. Joshua Muravchik, American Enterprise Institute, United States

Gen. Klaus Naumann (ret.), Former Chairman NATO Military Committee, Germany

The Honorable Dietmar Nietan, Member of Parliament, Germany

Mr. James O'Brien, Former Presidential Envoy to the Balkans, United States

The Honorable Janusz Onyszkiewicz, Member of European Parliament, Poland

The Honorable Cem Ozdemir, Member of European Parliament, Germany

Dr. Can Paker, Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, Turkey

Ambassador Mark Palmer, Capital Development Company, LLC, United States

Mr. Martin Peretz, United States

The Honorable Dr. Friedbert Pflueger, Member of Parliament, Germany

Ms. Danielle Pletka, American Enterprise Institute, United States

Mr. Florentino Portero, Strategic Studies Group, Spain

Ms. Samantha Ravich, Phd, Long Term Strategy Project, United States

The Honorable Janusz Reiter, Center for International Relations, Poland

The Honorable Alex Rondos, Former Ambassador, Greece

The Honorable Jim Rosapepe, Former Ambassador to Romania, United States

Dr. Jacques Rupnik, Center for International Studies and Research, France

Prof. Dr. Eberhard Sandschneider, German Council on Foreign Relations, Germany

Mr. Randy Scheunemann, Project for the New American Century, United States

Dr. Gary Schmitt, Project for the New American Century, United States

Dr. Simon Serfaty, Center for Strategic and International Studies, United States

The Honorable Stephen Sestanovich, United States

Mr. Radek Sikorski, American Enterprise Institute, United States

Mr. Stefano Silvestri, Institute for International Affairs, Italy

Mr. Martin Simecka, Editor, Slovakia

Dr. Gary Smith, American Academy in Berlin, Germany

Dr. Abraham Sofaer, Hoover Institution, United States

Mr. James Steinberg, The Brookings Institution, United States

Mr. Gary Titley, Member of European Parliament, United Kingdom

Mr. Ivan Vejvoda, Fund for Open Society, Serbia

The Honorable Sasha Vondra, Former Deputy Foreign Minister, Czech Republic

Dr. Celeste Wallander, Center for Strategic and International Studies, United States

Prof. Ruth Wedgwood, United States

Dr. Richard Weitz, Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, United States

Mr. Kenneth Weinstein, Hudson Institute, United States

Ms. Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House, United States

Mr. R. James Woolsey, United States