Human rights and democracy abuses have worsened in Russia. Despite a smoother relationship from the diplomatic 'reset' between Washington and Moscow, the US should more forcefully pressure Russia for progress on rights, especially as elections loom.
One of the most prominent opposition leaders in Russia – former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov – visited Washington this week to plead for outspoken American criticism of Russian human rights abuses. He especially urged international pressure for free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for next year and 2012.
But Mr. Kasyanov, who was the first prime minister under then-President Vladimir Putin, didn’t ask for a meeting with any officials in the Obama administration – although he met with the French foreign minister in Paris earlier this month.
Kasyanov didn’t want to put the administration in an “awkward situation,” he explained to a group of Russia watchers and journalists at the US German Marshall Fund on Tuesday. After all, these same officials are trying to “reset” strained US-Russian relations.
His dilemma is understandable. Smoother US-Russian ties have produced substantive benefits for both countries, benefits that Kasyanov supports. They include cooperation on sanctions against Iran, on the war in Afghanistan, and on nuclear disarmament.