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  Tuesday, September 17, 2019
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Traditionally, speeches made by national leaders on long trips are addressed mostly to the hosts and partially to the rest of the world
George Bush's speech in Brussels was an exception. The first part was certainly addressed to Old Europe, which the US has to respect, especially after the experienced Europe has proved right in its criticism of the US policy in Iraq. The second part of Mr. Bush's address was devoted to one person - Vladimir Putin, probably because Mr. Bush and Condoleezza Rice, when making their statements about Russia, hope above all that the Kremlin incumbent will hear them. Moreover, during his visit to Brussels, Mr. Bush told Mr. Putin nearly everything he wanted to say during their forthcoming meeting in Bratislava. In other words, in Slovakia they will discuss only details, though important ones. The Chief Executive put forth his main ideas about Russia ahead of schedule because he wanted to calm down the irreconcilable who are waiting for a Russia-US scandal. What does "friend George" want from his "friend Vladimir"? He wants Russia to progress as a European country. The Russian government should resume commitment to democracy and rule of law, the American president said in Brussels. We admit that reforms cannot be carried out overnight, yet we must keep telling Russia that our alliance is for a free press, an effective opposition, and for the division of powers and domination of law. This is why the USA and all European countries should make the issue of democratic reforms the core of their dialogue with Russia, Mr. Bush said. Some people hurried to interpret these words as a harsh demand to Moscow to swear on the Bible that the Yukos saga will never be repeated, that Liberals will return to the parliament, and the television hosts fired by their bosses will get their jobs back. This cannot be. First, Russia has not detoured from the democratic path; it is only looking, probably mistakenly, for its own model of democracy - just as the many formally democratic countries, which are still looking for their models. If those who have found their ideal want to help Russia, they are welcome to do so. But they cannot demand that Russia become a carbon copy of the USA or Japan, if only because this may offend Germany or Sweden. In other words, a Russian democracy will be different, and the world will have to accept this. As for all other issues, the Yukos saga can be repeated, under a different name, and not by an evil design. The thing is that all branches of power, including the judicial one, are not perfect in Russia yet, and Russian business is not a heavenly army where everyone is pure-white and innocent. Liberals will regain their seats in the parliament only when they, first, come to agreement between themselves, and second, when they convince the Russian voters that they need them. So far, Mr. Putin is doing the most he can for the Russian Liberals, which is keeping them in key posts in his government and carrying out liberal economic reforms despite public protests and a falling personal rating. These actions speak louder about Mr. Putin's commitment to liberalism than swearing on the Bible. And lastly, the fired "stars" of the Russian television will regain their jobs only when and if their employers want it. This is a market economy, gentlemen. As for self-imposed censorship, we need not an order from the Kremlin but patience to have it. As Mr. Bush said wisely, democratic reforms cannot be carried out overnight. So, we better wait till morning, or the morning of the next day.
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