It would appear that Russian President Vladimir Putin is attracting cheerleaders from amongst the chattering classes in the West, if a recent op-ed in The Washington Post is any indication.
In a Feb. 15 Washington Forum commentary, How Obama can avert a new Cold War, Stephen F. Cohen advocated “ending direct U.S. ‘democracy promotion’ in Russia, as with the National Endowment for Democracy” and added that he has been “involved with Russian democrats since the Soviet dissident movement of the 1970s.”
How, then, could he appear to be so oblivious to the Kremlin’s current crackdown on independent voices? Is Mr. Cohen not aware that these democrats have called precisely for the kind of solidarity and assistance that organizations such as ours provide? asks Jane Riley Jacobsen, director of public affairs at the National Endowment for Democracy:
Not content with celebrating Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ban on U.S. government democracy assistance through the eviction of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Mr. Cohen advocated extending such proscriptions to non-governmental organizations, which do not seek to “promote” or impose democracy but rather respond to the locally determined needs, demands and agendas of grass-roots groups and activists. Fact: Since USAID’s expulsion, demand for our assistance from Russian non-governmental organizations has doubled.
Mr. Cohen not only presumed to know what is best for Russia’s beleaguered democrats, he also invoked the arguments once heard from apologists for apartheid South Africa or for Pinochet’s Chile, that democratic solidarity amounts to illegitimate interference. We have a different view.