Russia is like George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where the pigs set the rules, writes independent journalist Dmitry Sidorov, former bureau chief for Kommersant Publishing in Washington, D.C., in Forbes.
Since Putin became Russia’s undisputed leader, he has rapidly eliminated critique and dissent. The Kremlin has tens, or hundreds, of thousands of sheep capable of endlessly bleating “Putin and Medvedev are good, the opposition is bad.” For hundreds of years Russia has known no other rules, making every resident mimic the pattern of elite behavior no matter how much money he had or didn’t have. Together they stole, and stole big, throughout the history of the country.If the Kremlin is willing to “nationalize” oil companies or pass licensed gas fields to state-owned Gazprom, provincial governors have the right to hit up the owner of a mid-size firm on their territory and threaten immediate consequences if their personal conditions are not met. Down the chain, the mayor of a small town can attempt to extort a few kopecks from the owner of a local ice cream parlor or car mechanic if the latter is not already under criminal or police protection. The police are so corrupt and brutal that they are barely distinguishable from criminals. The cops use the same methods as crooks and in many cases work with them hand in hand to squeeze as much as they can from the very victims who turn to them for protection. Cases of torture and death in police precincts are so common that hardly anyone pays attention. The cops and the criminals work the streets, while their comrades from the FSB (the former KGB) stalk the corridors of power. Their occupation is a wonderful combination of the Animal Farm dogs who protect the leader, and the 1984 thought police, while at the same time they run protection rackets for big businesses with a silent nod from the top. Modern Russia is not a free country. Freedom came only once in Russia’s entire history — for nine years, from 1991 to 2000. The West may choose to ignore the obvious, hiding behind phrases like “emerging democracy” or a “country in transition,” but the cruel features of dictatorship are there whether we choose to acknowledge them or not. Some in the West issue absurd calls to avoid interfering in Russia’s internal affairs, lacking the basic understanding that the very absence of action makes the leadership in the Kremlin even more aggressive on external affairs. What the West, or the US alone, needs is a clear policy toward Russia, where the Kremlin’s actions entail consequences. Otherwise, the West will be complicit in the creation of another Animal Farm that will not fade into history in the near future.