The G-8 and Georgia

Fred Hiatt of The Washington Post has a very thoughtful column building off a recent report by the National Endowment of Democracy titled “The Backlash Against Democracy,” [pdf!] which highlights the vamped-up efforts of foreign governments to impede U.S. programs for democracy assistance.

Hiatt notes that when the leaders of the world’s greatest democracies meet in St. Petersburg next week for the G-8 Summit we should pay careful attention to what mention, if any, is accorded Russia’s newly-democratic neighbor, Georgia. It has been only a few year since the Rose Revolution swept away the corrupt regime of Eduard Shevardnadze. The Rose Revolution was followed in short order by the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, and in response Putin has accelerated his harassment of civil society institutions both within his borders and over his borders.

Hiatt writes:

And the rebounding dictators are learning from each other. In January Putin signed legislation regulating nongovernmental organizations that will give 30,000 bureaucrats the option of revoking the registration of any troublesome group. Now Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe are pushing similar legislation. China reportedly sent researchers to Uzbekistan and other former Soviet states to compare notes on democracy countermeasures; meanwhile, Belarus’s dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, “reportedly acquired China’s latest internet monitoring and control technology while in Beijing in December 2005,” NED reported.

The man who helped provoke all this — Georgia’s democratic president, Mikheil Saakashvili — was in Washington last week warning that Putin and his ilk may be interested in more than defense; they may want to roll back democracy in Georgia, Ukraine and beyond. Bush, who spent two hours with the Georgian, appears to understand this.

Putin is, in fact, working hard to undermine democratic Georgia, a nation of fewer than 5 million people bordering Russia on the south. He has banned imports of Georgian produce, wine and mineral water; he is manipulating secessionists inside the country. Saakashvili’s success in promoting economic growth and diminishing corruption may be too dangerous an example for Putin to abide.

The extent to which Bush makes clear to Putin that undermining neighboring democracies is unacceptable, in Putin’s hometown no less, will be as good an indication as any of how far the Bush administration is scaling back from the soaring rhetoric of his second inaugural address.

Explore posts in the same categories: Democracy Promotion

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