This posting is in English, because I want my American friends to read it directly, and get the message.
Time and time again, during discussions on the political situation in the modern-day Russia, I have been asked the same question by my American and Western colleagues: what can the West do to help bring about democratic change in Russia?
My answer is always very simple: I strongly warn against direct interference in Russian domestic political affairs. We, the Russian opposition, had enough of being labeled “American spies”, which we are obviously not – we’re firm patriots of Russia, and it is our job, and nobody else’s, to move Russia towards true democratic changes, away from authoritarianism. Every time a Republican or Democratic U.S. administration makes a statement on political situation in Russia, that basically brings the responsible Russian opposition politicians lots of headache, as once again Putin’s propaganda receives a powerful reason to draw a false link between Russian domestic political opposition activities and American interests.
However, there’s clearly one issue where the West had been indeed very helpful during the past years: support of the remains of Russian independent media, somehow surviving despite Putin’s brutal onslaught of the recent decade.
One of the examples of such independent media definitely was the Moscow bureau of Radio Liberty. Built for over 20 years of joint work, and equipped with outstanding professionals like Mikhail Sokolov, Anna Kachkaeva and others, who without doubt can be named one of the truly best Russian journalists, Radio Liberty Russian team for years had served as one of the few remaining media sources which had provided exceptionally fair coverage of Russian political life, always offering objective coverage and commentary, and providing politicians from different camps with equal opportunities to speak out their ideas and debate. By this, Radio Liberty had proved exceptional even by the Russian independent media standards – their competitors, like the famous Ekho Moskvy radio station, in my personal opinion, can not qualify as similarly objective and unbiased in their coverage of the Russian politics as Radio Liberty was.
A lot of Russian politicians representing different political forces may confirm that Radio Liberty Moscow bureau did an extraordinarily great job in keeping the flame of Russian independent political journalism alive.
However, this was all completely destroyed in one week. Now that the exceptionally professional Moscow bureau of Radio Liberty is virtually fully dissolved, best professionals had left the radio station. All this have happened without any direct interference by Putin’s regime – American bureaucrats from Radio Liberty central headquarters, along with the newly appointed director of Radio Liberty Russia, Masha Gessen, did the job for Putin. Now, there’s virtually nothing left of what just a few weeks ago was one of the best and most professional among the few remaining independent media teams in Russia.
I do not want to discuss in detail what exactly have caused this, and who’s guilty.
There’s only one thing which is fully clear: whoever have caused this situation to occur with his deliberate or unconscious actions, is an absolute, hopeless moron. Or morons, plural.
The dissolution and destruction of the now former Radio Liberty Moscow team will cause tremendous harm to the political media freedom in Russia, the extent of which is yet difficult to evaluate.
I totally exclude that the new Radio Liberty Russia director, Masha Gessen, will have the ability to rebuild something even remotely reminiscent of the recently brutally dissolved and destroyed Radio Liberty Moscow bureau, even in years. Ms. Gessen, in my opinion, completely lacks the necessary professional skill and qualities required for that task, and 20+ years of a brilliant journalist team build-up can not be repeated easily.
It’s all too sad.
And here’s to my American friends who possibly intend to continue asking me questions about “what can they do” to help Russia’s democratic transition: stop asking. I’ve told you for years and years: Support Radio Liberty. Support Radio Liberty. Support Radio Liberty. Don’t hang about much with your costly and questionably effective “human rights support programs”. Do just that. Support Radio Liberty. That’s very simple, easy, and really worth the effort.
You’ve completely ignored and disregarded the wise piece of advice.
So don’t ask anymore. You’ve seemingly done all you could so far, demonstrating instead a stunning example of desperate political idiocy. Thanks for making Putin’s life easier, and ours much harder.