Saturday, February 23, 2008



This piece shows a lack of understanding about the way democracy and economies develop historically.

No modern democracy leapt from autocratic rule to full-blown democracy in a few years. It always took long periods with many adjustments along the way. Modern South Korea is experiencing this right now.

Putin is not anti-democratic, but he very much recognizes the need for the Russian economy to become stronger in order to support a healthy democracy.

He makes mistakes, and what leader doesn't, but he does keep his eyes focused on the ultimate goal of Russian economic strength.

Once Russia is strong economically, healthy democracy will flourish. It comes naturally with a large and thriving middle class. That is the story of economic development everywhere.

America did not become a democratic state for a very long time, a small elite controlled politics and government, just as one did in Britain. Only gradually, step by step, did reforms create a modern society as the size of the middle class grew.

Mr Yeltsin's death reminds us that the West, and particularly America, badly failed
Russia's coming out of communism. Much more assistance could have been offered. America preferred crowing about Cold War victory. Let's not continue that mistake now.

On the issue of missile defense, Putin couldn't be more right. The US is acting very cavalierly, disregarding the views of much of the world.

But isn't that exactly what it did in Iraq?

The anti-missile system doesn't even work yet. It has failed in more tests than it has succeeded. So what is the rush?

I am sure there is an element in this related to American behavior in the Gulf during the Iran/Iraq War when it stupidly had its warships threatening commercial air traffic just to make a point.

Its navy was a flop at protecting tankers, its ostensible mission, generally following them rather than leading for fear of mines damaging the warships, but it managed to scare the hell out of commercial aviation and shoot down a civilian airliner full of people, an act which triggered a reprisal later.

We don't need a new arms race, and the one to address on that is Bush, not Putin.