Statement of the Russia Working Group, Friday June 24, 2011

Russian authorities this week failed an important test of their commitment to hold free and fair elections by denying registration to a new opposition party.  This clearly political decision indicates that the Russian government does not intend elections to the Duma in December and for president in March 2012 to be openly contested; instead it reflects a desire by a small group in power to try to determine the outcome of the elections in advance.  This decision is inconsistent with Russia’s international obligations as a member of the Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to uphold democratic principles and the rule of law and needs to be reversed.  Through its membership in the OSCE, Russia has agreed specifically to "respect the right of individuals and groups to establish, in full freedom, their own political parties or other political organizations and provide such political parties and organizations with the necessary legal guarantees to enable them to compete with each other on a basis of equal treatment before the law and by the authorities."  In addition, Russia agreed that the conduct of its elections is a matter of “direct and legitimate concern” to other OSCE members, and committed itself to allow monitoring by domestic and international monitors.

The rejection of the application by the Party of People’s Freedom, led by a group of prominent opposition leaders is unfortunately part of a trend.  The Obama administration is on record that democracy and human rights are important to U.S.-Russia relations.  If so, the administration, and the U.S. Congress, should respond vigorously with measures designed to support democratic rights and freedoms.  President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin may believe that by denying opposition parties the ability to compete, they can remove democratic elections from the agenda.  They should be proved wrong. 

Russia Working Group
June 24, 2011

Leon Aron Robert Kagan Tom Malinowski

American Enterprise Institute Brookings Institution Human Rights Watch

Ellen Bork Craig Kennedy Stephen Sestanovich

Foreign Policy Initiative German Marshall Fund Council on Foreign Relations

Jeff Gedmin David Kramer

Legatum Institute Freedom House  



About the Russia Working Group

The Russia Working Group is an independent initiative chaired by Robert Kagan, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and David Kramer, Executive Director of Freedom House, and a former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Other members include foreign policy experts, staffers, and democracy and human rights advocates.

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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