Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Outrage of the Day: Putin's TotalitarianismAs detailed in this Kim Zigfeld article for American Thinker, Vladimir Putin's Russia continues to get worse.
Zigfeld writing about a Russian court in Siberia issuing a $1.7 billion judgment against a Norwegian telecom firm reminds me of something I wrote back in 2002:
In the past few years, bureaucrats inside the Russian government have demonstrated a troubling tendency to use Soviet-style tactics when dealing with private companies. A situation exemplifying this growing problem has occurred in the case of world famous Stolichnaya Vodka.I regret that my worries in 2002 don't appear to have been overblown.
Vodka production is Russia's second biggest industry. After the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1991 the government sold the assets of the Russian vodka industry to private industry. SPI International, now based in the Netherlands, bought the rights to Stoli Vodka and has run the company successfully for over a decade. Over one and a half million cases of Stoli Vodka are imported into the U.S. each year.
But last October, the Russian state trademark industry turned SPI's vodka trademarks over to the Russian Ministry of Agriculture, which subsequently declared the trademarks void. A Russian court intervened on behalf of SPI but, to the chagrin of independent observers, the Russian government is ignoring the court's findings and orders. In fact, the government seized the company's assets and trademarks for its own purposes.
If this worrisome situation had occurred only to one company in one industry, it would be troublesome, but perhaps an aberration. Alas, SPI is not alone. Other private enterprises in Russia are suffering similar, all but catastrophic, fates.
If we imagine the havoc that would occur in the United States if our Securities and Exchange Commission (which regulates Wall Street), was corrupt, and officials of the President's cabinet felt empowered to seize the assets of industries as large as, say, our automotive industry - even if ordered not to do so by U.S. courts - then we have an approximate picture of the chaos into which Russia economy may be sliding.
This bureaucratic rot imperils Russia's democratic reforms. For Russia's sake, as well as our own, Congress and the President should press this point to Mr. Putin, who is the one man currently in a position to effectively reverse these dangerous trends in Russia. If necessary, normal trade relations and WTO membership should be withheld.
An impartial legal system that guards property rights is the irreplaceable cornerstone of democratic capitalism. No less than the future of an economically secure and democratically stable Russia is at stake.
I've discussed Putin's Russia many times (for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), and news keeps getting worse.
I am reminded of a Putin quote I posted in this blog in 2005:
First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.P.S. I think we can suppose Putin still defends the Hitler-Stalin Pact.
-Russian President Vladimir Putin
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:43 PM