Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would take its own approach to democratic reform. “We’ll do this at our own pace,” he said. Democracy can mean different things in different countries, he said. “In Russia, democracy is who shouts the loudest,” he said. “In the U.S., it’s who has the most money.”
Using the latest Chechan terror attacks as an excuse, Putin then consolidated power in The Kremlin, saying he will now assign governors to the country’s 89 regions. In his first year in office, Putin compelled the regional governors to remove themselves from the Federation Council, the upper chamber of parliament. The next year he put the TV networks under state control and after the terrorist siege of a Moscow theater 2002, he tightened news coverage. Putin has also brought criminal charges against wealthy businessmen who helped to finance opposition politicians and campaigns, and this spring cakewalked through an election that western European observers dismissed as a sham.
According to journalist Tom Teepen, through all of this, U.S. President George Bush has remained oddly unconcerned, even taking some of Putin’s power grabs as occasions to praise him anew for his democratic ways.