Letter to Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin
President, Russian Federation
Moscow, Russia

Dear President Putin:

I have read that last Saturday U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice made the following comments to reporters in Moscow after having met with persons described by the Associated Press as “human rights activists.”

In any country, if you don’t have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development. I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin. I have told the Russians that. Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the Duma.

I don’t think many Americans pay close attention to political developments in your country, viewing them as Russia’s own internal affairs and none of our business. But I think many of us read these remarks by Rice and burst out laughing at their blatant hypocrisy — the kind Condi delivers so well in that holier-than-thou voice and that theatrical glare — struck by how aptly they apply to our own country in these troubling times.

So I appeal to you, Mr. President, to respond in kind. Meet with U.S. human rights leaders in Washington D.C. In your careful, steely-eyed manner, you might state something like this to Reporters afterwards:

“This imperial presidency of yours seems to be killing those American democratic traditions you’ve always boasted to the world about. I think there’s too much power concentrated in the White House. There seem to be no effective countervailing institutions. Your Supreme Court is stacked with far-right Republican appointees who boosted your president to power in 2000 after an electoral process as flawed as any he’s criticized in the Ukraine or Belarus. That court recently refused to even hear the case of a German national illegally kidnapped in Macedonia, transported to a torture Chamber in Afghanistan and finally released on an Albanian mountain road after U.S. officials realized they’d made a mistake. Not that they’ve officially acknowledged it.

“Your former Attorney General refused to answer Congress’ questions about the dismissal of federal attorneys on what appear to be political grounds. Your Bill of Rights has been all but suspended by the so-called Patriot Act, while the torture and rendition scandals raise more questions about the integrity of your judiciary. There are certainly questions about the independence of your media, controlled by five corporations all of which circulate disinformation justifying and preparing for more wars. And Congress has caved into the administration by passing its military budget and vilifying Iran. This raises real questions about the strength of your Duma.”

You might add:

“I understand Secretary Rice was reported in the U.S. press as being ‘worried’ about my ‘broad powers.’ I advise her to reread the Sermon on the Mount, especially the part where Jesus says, ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?’ I’d suggest she become more concerned about the powers amassed by her own boss and by Dick Cheney, by far the most powerful vice president in your history and widely suspected to be the most powerful figure in the administration. The whole world worries about him and his neocon circle, about what they’ll do next.

“I worry about NATO’s relentless expansion on Russia’s borders, interference in our ‘near abroad,’ and crazy talk about an attack on Iran. I urge the American people to get worried too, and to stop the craziness.”


Gary Leupp
American citizen

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu. Read other articles by Gary.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. gerald spezio said on October 16th, 2007 at 9:58am #

    Bravo Gary, as always.

    What seems to be unfolding is spookily similar to the Soviet Missiles in Cuba, the so-called Cuban Crisis in 1962.

    Very spooky.

  2. Daniel said on October 17th, 2007 at 3:04am #

    This is a great article! Shame its irony will be lost upon most Americans.

    We in the rest of the world just sit and wait to see whether Bushco and his Forty Thieves will end our world this week, or next week, or the one after…

    What has to happen before the people rise up and rid themselves of this conservative cancer?

  3. Michael Kenny said on October 17th, 2007 at 8:43am #

    One of the amusing sidelights on this is that when Russia changed its electoral system to allign itself on Western Europe, it was accused of “rolling back democracy”. The system it abandoned was the one the US imposed for the Palestinian elections and which gave Hamas a huge majority with only 54% of the vote. The system it adopted, list PR, is the one used in … Israel!

  4. Tanya said on November 8th, 2007 at 11:26am #

    Very nice Sir, I am fascinated by your courage and sincerity, congratulations for your sens of justice and objectiveness