Russia’s Self-Defeating “But”
Russian leaders harbor grand ambitions of nurturing innovation, luring great scientists back to the country, and catching up with the developed countries. The problem is that the best and brightest Russians have little reason to return – and many good reasons to leave.
MOSCOW – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin insists that “Without normal democratic development Russia will have no future.” We Russians are pleased to hear these enlightened words, yet Putin adds a “but” to his argument, which weakens it considerably. In fact, Putin’s “but” renders his points senseless.
We have hated this “but,” this coordinating conjunction, ever since the dawn of the Soviet era. Then we were told that freedom is good, but that one can’t live in an individualist society without common concern for the communist state. Democracy is great, but only in the interests of the working class.
Now Russia’s prime minister tells us that democracy is indeed great, but that public protests cannot take place in public places, say, around hospitals and the like. Never mind that the Russian constitution does not list hospitals among places forbidden for public assembly, or that sick people need democracy, too.