After the collapse of the Soviet Union the world looked toward the new Russia as a potential leader in the fight for democracy in the world. The dream has faded due to the authoritarian nature of the Putin government which assumed power eight years ago. It inherited a Russia possessing large oil and natural gas resources which could have been used to create a society in which poverty issues were addressed and the basis of a modern democracy encouraged. However, says Freedom House, “over time, we have seen rising oil prices correlate clearly with sharply falling democracy performance, especially in Russia, Kazkakhstan and Azerbaijan.” The wealth is present, but the desire for democracy is not.
Putin placed his fellow members of the old Soviet KGB in leadership positions in government and industry and has squashed anyone who dared challenge his policies. As Freedom House notes, “independent voices of consequence have been muzzled and are unable to challenge or moderate the leadership’s whims and excesses.” One after another independent voice in the media has been silenced.
The only hope for Russia is the possibility newly elected President Medvedev will work to establish the rule of law and respect for human rights.