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An Open Letter to the Heads of State and Government

Article by Foreign Policy Centre

September 15, 2006

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

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