Prepared on December 12, 2011
Just two days ago, my country of Russia saw the largest public protests since the fall of the Soviet Union twenty years ago. Well over a hundred thousand Russians took to the streets, over 40,000 in Moscow alone. The fraudulent parliamentary elections of the previous week were the spark for the protesters’ outrage, but the fuel of the fire is the increasingly dictatorial regime of Vladimir Putin and his puppet, Dmitri Medvedev. So far, their regime’s response to the overwhelming rejection of their corruption and oppression has been to ignore it. Putin plans to return as president in March, 2012, in what will surely be another fraudulent election, with the term of office now having been extended to six years.
A strong and free Russia would be an ally of the West and of the United States. The Russian people do not want our country to be turned into a failing petro-state, as is our current trajectory under Putin and his oligarchs. We have a rich cultural and intellectual heritage that is disintegrating as our best and brightest leave the country for the opportunity to develop their talents and to raise their families in freedom. The people of Russia are not your enemies – our rulers are.
Senate 1039, the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011, expresses that reality by punishing Putin’s willing executioners. The billionaire oligarchs, the puppet judiciary, and the countless functionaries of the corrupt KGB power structure all believe they are protected by Putin wherever they go. They believe they are free to dismantle our constitution, to spit on the international agreements Russia has signed, to jail and even kill their opponents and corruption fighters like Sergei Magnitsky, and to still enjoy the privileges of traveling freely in the West and hiding their assets abroad as well. If this belief is destroyed, if they see there are consequences for their actions, that the United States will stand up for the rule of law, then the entire structure on which Vladimir Putin’s power is built will shake at the foundation. As Jackson-Vanik was crucial for liberating thousands from Soviet tyranny, Senate 1039 could become a key in turning Russia back toward democracy.
Now, with the footprints of thousands of protestors still fresh in the first snows outside the Kremlin, now is the moment to take this strong stand against a dictator and for the people of Russia. It is the time to be on the side of democracy and on the right side of history. Ronald Reagan did not abandon the Soviet people and today tens of millions of people are free thanks to his courage. Unfortunately, after a brief taste of real democracy, Russians are no longer counted among them. We are not asking for your help to restore our nation; that is a job for Russians. We are asking that you stop helping a dictator.
Time is of the essence. If this nascent movement to bring real democracy to Russia is crushed, the next movement against Putin will not be long in coming and it will not be such a peaceful one. It will be led by extremists, nationalists, and others who will find an easy way to power by demonizing the West and shutting Russia off from the free world. This is a turning point in history that could be as critical as 1991 and you must act with speed and courage to support the cause of justice.
Statement by United Civil Front Chairman Garry Kasparov