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Ideas for a fairer world

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Russia's turn

By Jennifer Moll. Source: International Herald Tribune, 20 April

There is little doubt that Putin's government is in an unenviable position of having to find a way to reassert the authority of the weak and corrupt Russian state.

It does not follow, however, that Europe should stand back and watch as Putin centralizes power and damages the prospects for Russia's democratic and economic development. It is precisely because Russia is the West's "strategic partner" that we must take an active interest in its fate.

In their recent comments on your pages, William Pfaff and Viktor Erofeyev have once again over-simplified the analysis of Vladimir Putin's Russia. Their basic premise is sound: The West should not senselessly turn Russia, a key strategic partner, into an enemy by rash and ill-considered outbursts at Putin's "antidemocratic" reforms. There is little doubt that Putin's government is in an unenviable position of having to find a way to reassert the authority of the weak and corrupt Russian state.

It does not follow, however, that Europe should stand back and watch as Putin centralizes power and damages the prospects for Russia's democratic and economic development. It is precisely because Russia is the West's "strategic partner" that we must take an active interest in its fate.

Europeans must now work more effectively to persuade Russia's leadership that guaranteeing the rule of law and allowing for a more open public debate will not only make for better relations with the West, but promote domestic stability and prosperity as well.

The West must avoid the traps of advocating unrealistic change and denying that anything can be done. Instead we should place the focus on progressive and attainable reforms that benefit the Kremlin as well as the Russian people.