Democracy, Russian Style
Lord only knows where the Western world’s understanding of Russia would be without the brilliant reporting of the Jamestown Foundation’s tireless Russia analyst Vladimir Socor. This knight in academic armor labors thanklessly on a daily basis to document the atrocities occurring in neo-Soviet Russia, and we cannot praise him highly enough. History will record his proper place among Russia journalists.
One of his most recent reports dealt with Russia’s truly obscene behavior before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (“PACE”), where “a motion is pending to ‘reconsider the Russian delegation’s credentials, on grounds of serious violations of the basic principles of the Council of Europe.'” In other words, they are thinking of booting Russia out, or sanctioning it in some other manner for its barbaric aggression against tiny Georgia.
Russia’s response? It’s “diplomats” say that if PACE dares to vote any negative measure against Russia regarding Georgia, it will simply withdraw from the organization and take its $30 million per year annual funding with it. It’s also threatening to launch retaliatory attack on Georgia’s credentials and drag the whole council into a bureaucratic standstill.
In other words, Russia is saying: “You can’t fire me, I quit. Well, I quit if you fire me. And if you don’t fire me then you have to let me be the boss, or I’ll quit. So there!”
And it’s also saying that the principles of democracy, to which it ascribed when it joined PACE, mean nothing to Russia. It is saying it will use any means at its disposal to force the member states of PACE to do its bidding, and it will only be a member of the group so long as it does. In other words, Russia thinks it has the right to subjugate the organization.
Do you dare to imagine what profanity-laden tirade Russia’s foreign minister might issue if PACE was in the process of voting to censor Georgia for aggression against Ossetia and the Britain, just for instance, declared that if PACE dared to do so then it would quit the body, and set about seeking to stongarm other members, who had already publicly declared their support for Russia, into changing their votes?
PACE had for many years tolerated the use of force against Georgia and other CE member states. Russia’s military occupation in varying degrees of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria, as well as the Armenian seizure of Azerbaijani territories, with mass-scale ethnic cleansing of Georgians and Azeris, were practically ignored by PACE since the 1990s. Russia’s breach of commitments to the Council of Europe found its counterpart in the CE’s abdication of its own mandate and mission in those cases.
The motion now pending does, however, offer PACE a chance to regain some degree of credibility. If adopted, the motion could lead to suspension of the Russian delegation’s right to vote and other rights of representation. It could also result in a recommendation to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to suspend Russia’s membership in the CE.
Twenty-four members of PACE from 14 member countries are co-sponsors of the motion. They include 13 Liberals (the motion originated in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe—ALDE group), seven Christian-Democrats, and four others. Fifteen of the co-sponsors are from Central and East European countries.
The Council of Europe must clearly understand that if it wishes to avoid forcing NATO to intervene and act unilaterally to contain Russia in Europe’s own backyard, then it must take steps to stand up for its own core principles when they are trampled upon by Russian barbarians. If it cannot do so, then it will quit properly be written off as a meaningless institution which is now obsolete.