First Russian “president” Dima Medvedev sits down with Kremlin foe Novaya Gazeta and now the Kremlin has released Khodorkovsky attorney Svetlana Bakhmina, who will walk out of prison almost three years to the day after she was sentenced to six for fraud.
Nothing could better prove how desperate the Kremlin is becoming to deflect criticism as the Russian economy faces a relentless tsunami of bad news. Unemployment is soaring, inflation is doing the same, and Russia is caught in a merciless vortex of finanical hardship that the KGB thugs who rule Russia simply have no idea how to correct.
Russia faces a budgetary shortfall of 30% even as things now stand, meaning draconian spending cuts coupled with massive foreign borrowing — but Russia has few friends abroad and fewer still who trust Russia to repay such obligations. Moreover, going hat in hand to the West begging for cash is hardly consistent with the Putin administration’s rabid xenophobia and cold-war aggression.
Bakhmina was forced to confess, just as in Soviet times, and to beg for mercy. She was tortured for three years, and released only when she conceived and bore a child in prison. The notion that the Kremlin’s behavior towards her was in any way civilized is laughable, the notion that this action has been taken for any reason except a desperate political desire to undercut criticism is insane.
Copying Mikhail Gorbachev, the Kremlin is forced to try to release some pressure in order to undercut calls for regime change that are growing ever louder across the country. Now is the time for the West to realize Russia’s vulnerability, and the opportunity to press for democratization on wide scale, and most especially for the end of Putin’s gestapo tactics of violence against opposition forces like those Bakhmina was associated with. All such forces in Russia should now take hope from this victory, which clearly demonstrates that the neo-Soviet Kremlin can be beaten.
Anyone who believes, however, that the Kremlin will go the rest of the way on its own, without being forced to do so, is deluding himself. The Kremlin is using diversionary tactics, it has not seen the light and never will. But it is clearly indicating, just as Gorbachev’s policies did, that it is under massive internal pressure because of its sweeping failures, and this means the West has a golden opportunity to apply serious pressure and actually achieve results. It’s a golden opportunity that should not be missed.