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Keeping up with Jewish officeholders

Lieberman pushes for exclusion of
'anti-democratic' Russia from G8, March 1, 2005

Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn) co-introduced a resolution on Monday (Feb. 28) calling on the United States and other industrialized democracies to exclude Russia from the G8 until it reverts to "compliance with basic standards of democracy and rule of law."

In a Senate floor speech, Lieberman told of his concern for what he said were "anti-democratic developments in Russia" under the administration of President Vladimir Putin—a concern that was not alleviated by the meeting between Putin and President George W. Bushy last week in Bratislava,  Slovakia.

Lieberman listed the particulars as follows:

•"The Putin administration has limited freedom of expression in Russia by seizing independent media organizations and suppressing the activities of independent journalists, religious organizations, and nongovernmental organizations that are all integral components of a healthy civil society. 

•"The Russian government's dismantling of Yukos and the arrest of its founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky 16 months ago raised serious doubts about Russia's commitment to free market principles and rule of law as well as respect for property and shareholder rights. 

•"The Federal Security Services, FSB, play a strong role in Russia's power structures in a manner reminiscent of the KGB in the old regime. 

•"President Putin's support for the first fraudulent results in the Ukrainian presidential elections last year exhibited disregard for basic democratic principles. Fortunately, a democratic outcome prevailed in a new vote and Yushchenko's victory--a very positive development for Ukraine's and Russia's democrats."

•"...President Putin abolished the popular election of regional governors in favor of presidential appointees. These changes to the Russian political system enhance the power of the executive branch, while reducing the checks and balances that make democracies work."

Lieberman noted that Putin made the latter change after terrorists took 1,200 people hostage at a school in Beslan last September and systematically murdered students and faculty. Lieberman denounced the terrorism which took thye lives of 336 people, including 156 children, but said, "the tragedy of the Beslan school should not be used by President Putin to retreat from democratic reforms."

The one-time Democratic vice presidential nominee said that "allowing Russia to continue its involvement in the G8 and to host the 2006 G8 Summit while continuing to undermine democracy makes mockery of the very principles that bind the G8 countries together. 

"This resolution is not anti-Russian; it is a strong show of support for Russia's democrats who have long urged the United States to not turn a blind eye to undemocratic developments in Russia," Lieberman continued. 

"Sharing a deeply personal moment from his time in Soviet Gulag, Natan Sharansky recently told a group of Senators how deeply supported he felt when President Reagan gave his famous 'evil empire' speech that honestly addressed the oppression of the Soviet system. Since then Russia has come a long way, but we must speak openly in the face of the backsliding we are seeing. 

"As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently said, `'The real deepening of our relations can only take place on the basis of common values.' To do otherwise would be to shirk our responsibilities as a leader of the democratic world. And as President Bush said so eloquently in his inaugural and State of the Union addresses, America's security is advanced by the advancement of freedom. This resolution puts those sentiments into concrete action and I urge my fellow Senators to support it. —Donald H. Harrison